Theses on Feuerbach

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LBird
Marx, theory and practice

Link wrote:
LBird wrote:
If we follow position 3, ie. Marx's method (which I subscribe to), then we can see that, initially, "'thoughts and ideas can be generated without any relation to 'material conditions' or 'reality'", because those ideas, if useless, will be weeded out by the second step of 'practice'.

Frankly at this point I don’t think this is Marx’s view at all but where does this argument come from? If you havent got any backup...

Here's some 'backup', Link. BTW, have a nice time in Berlin.

Marx, Capital, wrote:
Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement. He not only effects a change of form in the material on which he works, but he also realises a purpose of his own that gives the law to his modus operandi, and to which he must subordinate his will. And this subordination is no mere momentary act. Besides the exertion of the bodily organs, the process demands that, during the whole operation, the workman’s will be steadily in consonance with his purpose.
[my bold]

https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htm

Humans are the origin of creative thought.

If the architect, having 'raised the structure in imagination', can't get it 'erected in reality', it is, in my words, 'weeded out in practice'.

Our method is 'theory and practice'.

Link
Lbird, I am not sure if this

Lbird, I am not sure if this thread is dead yet or not but I did go away and read your quote which you presented and I wanted to respond.  All that quote has done is convince me that you misread and lmisunderstand what marx had to say.

I am certainly not an expert on M&E nor on the latter day philosophy that you bring in, but I think Historical Materialism and its consequential understanding of the ascendancy and decadence of class based societies are the key contributions that M&E made to understanding history and society.  They are extremely important for us to understanding capitalism and what the working class can do.  It’s the groundwork for everything else communists/socialists interpret of society today

Your provided me with a quote from Capital,  which therefore I presume you see as important to your view of  Marx’s view of the world.  But I can only say you have misread this. You need to put the quote in context because Marx is here contrasting how people function within society with the incapacity of animals to operate similarly  - and not explaining how society works!  Read the rest and its clear that the point being made about ideas conceptualized in that work process are themselves based on the mode of production that exists at that point in time.

The quote is clearly insufficient and I would stress the need always to place how Marx says and discusses the capacity of people to create their own history and, as above, to conceptualise what they want to do, in the context it always needs, ie not in conditions of their own choosing

You say you agree with this: ”… Marx's proper views, of 'theory and practice', or 'men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing', etc. That is, the 'human' is the creative element (theory), and the 'conditions' are limiting or enabling factors (practice). So, 'idealism-materialism', with no 'primacy', just necessary interaction”

But your conclusion here is false.  Its not about primacy or equality, its about what is possible in reality.  It is an interaction but it means history is providing the framework for (ie determining) what is possible for the theory and the subsequent practice.  In other words in the material conditions people face limit and enable the creative element.   Marx did not mean material conditions to mean ‘rocks’

You state that ideas are testing by practice, fair enough, but that does not mean that you can start with the ‘Idea’.  However you play with that notion it remains a concept that says that “history is always under the sway of ideas” and you end up confusing bourgeois materialism with historical materialism.

“Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life”.   Reality is not determined by thought but thought by reality.  Marx did not exist because he was a good idea but because the materials and social conditions were right for him to develop those ideas

“… slavery cannot be abolished without the steam engine and the mule and the spinning jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture …. Liberation is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions”  (Quotes taken from The German Ideology)

LBird
Tired

Link wrote:
All that quote has done is convince me that you misread and lmisunderstand what marx had to say.

Well, there you go, Link.

If Marx's actual words don't cause you to pause for thought, then mine certainly won't!

MH
the benefits of a break

Link, hi. I think the thread was just resting… but I personally think your post is an excellent summary of the main arguments why Marxism is materialist and why we must reject idealist conceptions of history. Nothing to add.

(I did enjoy your previous post titled ‘time for a break’ – at first I took it to be a punning reference to the need for a philosophical break from bourgeois idealism and materialism – but no, demonstrating the eminently ‘this-sidedness’ of your thinking, you just meant, ‘I’m going to Berlin to drink beer…’

I hope you enjoyed your trip. have you seen the Rosa Luxemburg monument by the canal? I found Berlin absolutely fascinating but I’ve never been anywhere that felt so haunted at every street turn by its past…)

Link
Thanks MH, yes i did enjoy

Thanks MH, yes i did enjoy Berlin.  I tried a gegrillte Haxe rather than the Eisbein as well as various types of pils and a schnapps too which was all very pleasant.

Actually i have never seen that monument you mention for some reason despite it being fairly central i think.  What i did find this time is a big plaque in the centre of old east berlin which denoted where Liebknecht apparently declared a soviet republic in Nov 1918 - its even mentioned on the tourist bus tours!!  What was very interesting in the Germany History Museum were copies of posters Soldiers and Workers Councils in Berlin, Bavaria, Stuttgart and Braunschweig, from 1918  with various demands and reports of abdications and so forth.  I took photos thinking i must show these to the SPGB.  There were also pictures of the 1953 uprising in the Checkpoint Charlie museum which is quite an amazing museum anyway. 

So, i think you are right about Berlin. The impact of history on present day which is quite something.  I was there when the wall was up which was quite an experience but now the museums, the rebuilding ensure the constant reassessment of East and West is still 'in your face' as they say.

As for lbird's arguments, i have genuinely been looking for some source to what he believes but all i can see is that he is taking sections out of context like the recent quote.  He keeps asserting that everybody else is ignoring what Marx said but then provides no evidence of anything to support his position.  Same with regard to his statements about Engels.  The only point of agreement i found is Pannekoeks critique of Lenin which is in fact saying things in much the same way about Lenin as Lbird says about M&E, so i do wonder if this is his point of origin for the views.  

LBird
End of the road?

Link wrote:
As for lbird's arguments, i have genuinely been looking for some source to what he believes but all i can see is that he is taking sections out of context like the recent quote.  He keeps asserting that everybody else is ignoring what Marx said but then provides no evidence of anything to support his position.  Same with regard to his statements about Engels.  The only point of agreement i found is Pannekoeks critique of Lenin which is in fact saying things in much the same way about Lenin as Lbird says about M&E, so i do wonder if this is his point of origin for the views.  

Over several threads on this site, Link (and over several others on other sites like SPGB and LibCom), I've provided quotes (both agreeing and disagreeing with my position), from activists like Marx, Engels, Dietzgen, Untermann, Lenin, Korsch, Pannekoek, Gramsci, commentators like Hook, Lichtheim, Kolakowski, Avineri, Rotenstreich, Ball, Farr, Thomas, Carver, Rubinstein, Schmidt, Callinicos, Ollman (and I've read several others which I'll provide details of, if any comrades want), but I keep getting the same responses. We have never yet got to the point of discussing philosophers of science like Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos and Feyerabend, especially realists like Bhaskar, Archer, Collier, and others, or working academics like Rovelli or Marks.

I'm trying to save comrades the years' long toil of reading all these sources, by trying to sum up and make it easier for them to understand. But, I've clearly failed.

I'm afraid any comrades who still don't think that there is something to what I'm arguing, and that Engels' version of 'materialism' and 'Marxism' is correct, will have to either do the longterm critical reading, or just settle for their current beliefs.

I've tried to provide a simple way before, and failed, but I'll try once more. Here goes.

If we assume that there are three perspectives, that of a) Idealism; b) Materialism; and c) my Idealism-Materialism (ie. theory and practice), let's see how they explain this simple scenario.

Someone claims "I am a giraffe".

a) would respond, if you think you're a giraffe, you are. Ideas are the source of knowledge.

b) would respond, you can't think you're a giraffe, because reality determines your thinking, so you can't even imagine that you're a giraffe. Material conditions are the source of knowledge.

c) would respond, you think you're a giraffe, so let's compare you with what we call a giraffe. The theory 'I'm a giraffe' is used in practice, which shows us that you are not a giraffe. Theory and practice is the source of knowledge.

The key point here is that humans create ideas, not material conditions. Ideas can be 'wrong' or just 'temporarily right', as well as 'right' in practice. Even being right in practice doesn't mean they are eternally true. Both theory and practice are social, thus historical, so 'knowledge' is never eternal, as the positivists claimed.

I know I'm going to fail with this analogy, comrades, but I've tried my best to use sources and quotes, and point out inconsistencies in the sources, and I've tried simple analogies, which rely on imagination for understanding.

None seem to work, and I feel compelled to draw the conclusion that I'm dealing with a religion, rather than critical thought. It seems to me that my arguments are like those that supporters of evolution provide to creationists. They can always be 'disproved' by appeal to scriptural authority, or made up excuses like "fossils were made by god 4,000 years to appear older!".

I should make this my last contribution, because I am tiring, but I'm always a sucker for giving help.

I won't respond to those who continue to disagree with me, I'll let them have the last word, and let others decide for themselves. But if any comrades think that there might be something to 'theory and practice', and want further clarification to help them understand better, I'll try to continue to help.

LoneLondoner
Does the world exist?

Lbird wrote:

The key point here is that humans create ideas, not material conditions. Ideas can be 'wrong' or just 'temporarily right', as well as 'right' in practice. Even being right in practice doesn't mean they are eternally true. Both theory and practice are social, thus historical, so 'knowledge' is never eternal, as the positivists claimed.

Knowledge is never eternal. Indeed yes. However, I think that one of the problems with Lbird's ideas is that - despite all his comments and quotes, which in most threads I have tried to read and follow closely, there are some pretty basic points which remain unclear to me:

  1. Does Lbird believe that a real physical world exists which is independent of any theories we might have about it?
  2. Granted that all scientific or philosophical theory is incomplete and only an approximation at best, is it nonetheless possible to say that certain theories come closer to describing reality than others?

A simple yes or no would be preferred.

LBird
At a loss

LoneLondoner wrote:
A simple yes or no would be preferred.

Yes.

This is final confirmation to me that I'm completely failing.

I've agreed with those points already dozens of times, but that agreement gets us no further, in itself, than any bright child could get to.

I'm still not sure why comrades can't see that answering 'yes' to those points doesn't get us very far.

Fred
question

But what is it LBird  that you think you are completely failing at?

LBird
LBird is an idealist - everyone happy?

Fred wrote:
But what is it LBird that you think you are completely failing at?

Well, it's laughable that comrades are still asking if I think that there is no world outside of thought!

If I agree that there is a world outside of our thinking about it, but then ask in return, 'Is our knowledge of that real world the same as the real world?', comrades don't discuss that issue, but return to asking 'LBird, do you think there is a world outside of our thinking?'.

I answer 'yes', and then ask 'But, is our thinking about that world a reflection, a 'mirror image' of that real world?', and comrades ignore that further question, and reiterate their central worry, and ask, 'LBird, don't you agree that there is a real world outside of ideas?'...

I'm not sure, I'm a bit slow on the uptake, but there seems to be a pattern emerging....

LBird
'LBird, you are an idealist...'. A religious chant?

As a further example of my exasperation with LoneLondoner's question, here is what I wrote at the start of this very thread.

LBird, post #3, wrote:
Humans are creative (and produce ideas) but must employ these ideas within material nature, of which we are a part, by their collective practice.

Given that, I just can't fathom why LL would ask:

LoneLondoner, post #78, wrote:
Does Lbird believe that a real physical world exists which is independent of any theories we might have about it?

This has stopped being a discussion, and has merely become a mantra, endlessly repeated, of:

'LBird, you are an idealist; LBird, you are an idealist; LBird, you are an idealist; LBird, you are an idealist...'

 

LoneLondoner
Some solid ground (back to basics)

Well I'm sorry if Lbird is exasperated, but the reason for my apparently idiotically simple questions is that these discussions tend to go round and round in circles and one of the reasons for this (IMHO) is that we have failed to establish some basic common ground. So I'm just trying to get the rock bottom basics sorted out.

So having determined that Lbird does think that an objective material world exists, and that we are not lost forever in a relativist mist where any theory is as good as any other, here goes for my next questions.

  1. Has there been any progress in the scientific description of the world? In particular, can we say that Newtonian physics represents a step towards greater knowledge (of the objectively existing world) over Ptolemy, and that General Relativity represents a step forward over Newtonian physics, and that quantum mechanics poses a problem for General Relativity which has not yet been satisfactorily solved?
  2. If these different theoretical approaches are steps forward, then what is it that allows us to say that? What is it that allows us to decide whether one theory is better than another as a description of material reality?
LBird
Basics? Or just basic exasperation?

LoneLondoner wrote:
Well I'm sorry if Lbird is exasperated, but the reason for my apparently idiotically simple questions...

Hey! Less of the 'apparently'!

LoneLondoner wrote:
...that these discussions tend to go round and round in circles and one of the reasons for this (IMHO) is that we have failed to establish some basic common ground. So I'm just trying to get the rock bottom basics sorted out.

I'm all for that!

So, let's get 'rock bottom basics sorted out'.

Now that we all agree that reality exists outside of our 'knowledge of' it, which 'theory of knowledge' do you employ, LL? The 'reflection theory' of Lenin, or a more complex one based upon the notion of 'socially-created knowledge'? That is, are you a naive realist (like Lenin and, at some points at least, Engels), the basis of 19th century science? I've provided ample evidence that Marx wasn't a 'reflectionist', and that Lenin was, so I won't repeat myself, yet again.

LL wrote:
So having determined that Lbird does think that an objective material world exists, and that we are not lost forever in a relativist mist where any theory is as good as any other, here goes for my next questions.
[my bold]

Why you and others keep bangin' on about me arguing that 'any theory being as good as another', I just can't fathom, LL. Straw man, or what? Perhaps you didn't understand (or read?) my analogy about the giraffe? Y'know, the one that showed that the 'theory' about 'being a giraffe' was disproved, thus showing that I don't argue for any theory being as good as another. In fact, as you'd know if you read what I keep actually saying, 'theory and practice' are an indissolvable couplet. By that fact alone, it is totally clear that 'any theory' can't 'be as good as another', because, if it was, then, logically, we wouldn't have to have a 'practice' phase, would we? The point of 'practice', comrades, is to weed out 'theory' which is 'not as good'. Do I need to use capitals with spaces between them to spell this out? Well, since I've tried every other method, I might as well try that one, too.

LBird D O E S N 'T  T H I N K  T H A T  A N Y  T H E O R Y  I S  A S  G O O D  A S  A N O T H E R.

LL wrote:
Has there been any progress in the scientific description of the world?

Whoa! I thought we were sticking to basics? To answer that question, we have to know what 'science' is!

That's what we're trying to do: decide what science and its method is, so we can try to estimate whether there has been any 'progress' (another troublesome concept).

So, LL, and any other comrades who wish to discuss 'science', what 'theory of knowledge' do you employ? Then, we can compare various 'theories of knowledge' used by scientists, including Marx, and try to establish what 'science' is.

Which is what I've been trying to do for months, but...

This time, if I don't get an answer about which theory of knowledge my antagonists are using, I'll assume that they don't really wish to discuss 'science', and that my time is being wasted even further. These discussions are 'going round in circles' because no-one will answer this vital question.

It's as if comrades don't think that they employ a theory of knowledge! And that 'common sense' is enough to discuss these issues, and that further reading is not required!

BTW, if comrades don't like the 'tone' of this contribution, it's the theory of 'exasperation' in practice.

LoneLondoner
Try again

Well, as I have made perfectly clear already I think it is completely false to describe Engels as a "naive realist" - but before we get on to theories of science (which is where we have gone around in circles up to now), please answer the specific part of my first question (is Einstein an advance over Newton etc), then the second question ("practice" being a bit woolly IMHO).

Thanks!

LBird
Let's just skip the theory, eh, and deal with the real world

LoneLondoner wrote:
...but before we get on to theories of science...

But, if we don't know what 'science' is, how can we answer your (reasonable) question?

And since Marx's method is 'theory and practice', how can we 'do' anything prior to 'theorising' it?

Of course, there's always the conservative method of saying "Bollocks to theory; let's just deal with the 'real world'!".

Y'know, the one that uses 'common sense', and proclaims itself 'theory-less'.

The one of 'individuals' and their own 'experiences', and detestation of those 'Commies' and their wild 'theories' about 'value'!

Yeah, who needs to read Capital and understand Marx? It's all so obvious. A pound is a pound. There's no theory in that, is there?

Naive realism is the human belief that one doesn't need to theorise prior to observation. So, when I ask you what theory you use to understand rocks, can you tell me?

If you use your sight and touch (and proclaim you don't employ a theory), then you're a naive realist. You think that your 'knowledge of' a rock is the same as a 'rock'. If you then think that this is the basis of science, then you don't understand Einstein, who argued that 'One's theory determines what one observes'.

So, you can't understand why I would claim that Einstein is an advance over Newton.

Einstein was an 'idealist-materialist', like Marx (and me), and unlike Engels and those current supporters of 19th century 'materialism', who think that 'rocks' tell us what they are, and that we don't require a theory to understand rocks.

Why I'm bothering again, god only knows.

LoneLondoner
A saint and martyr among us

I never cease to admire your saint-like patience. You really are a martyr to the obtuse stupidity of everybody else on this forum and your persistence can only force our respect... 

You ask me to say what "theory of knowledge" I am using. How am I supposed to answer that? I would say "Marxist", but that would not get us much further because you would then tell me that what I think is Marxism is actually "Engelsism" (though if you read Engels you would know that he was anything but a naive realist, and if you read what I have previously posted here you would know that I am not a naive realist either - but let's not go down that road for the moment).

Back to the questions: apparently you think that Einstein's General Relativity is an advance over Newton (that's good, so do I!), I presume that would probably hold true for Darwin's theory of evolution over Lamarck (for example) - but if it doesn't please let's stick to what we agree on for the moment. Please now can you tell me on what basis you think this is the case.

LBird
Once more

LoneLondoner wrote:
Please now can you tell me on what basis you think this is the case.

On the basis that Einstein supported Marx's method of 'idealism-materialism' ('theory and practice'), and rejected Engels' reflection theory of knowledge and 'materialism'.

Theories tell us what rocks are.

Rocks do not provide us with theories.

I've said all this dozens of times: I'm not sure why you want me to keep on repeating it.

Fred
like a scratched CD.

Rocks don't provide us with theories, but If the rock wasn't there in the first place you couldn't have a theory  about it.

Nobody wants you to go on repeating yourself like a scratched CD so why not stop?  

LBird
More obtuseness

Fred wrote:

Rocks don't provide us with theories, but If the rock wasn't there in the first place you couldn't have a theory  about it.

Of course we could. Humans have theories about all sorts of things that either they can't see or don't exist, or that they go on to create. That's why 'practice' is an essential part of the couplet of 'theory and practice'.

Your inability to understand this is the root of the problem. You argue for 'practice and theory'. You are not employing Marx's method of 'theory and practice'.

You really have been brainwashed by bourgeois science into believing their positivist nonsense, haven't you?

How can you have a 'theory of Communism', if it doesn't exist? By your logic (I use the word loosely), Communism must exist before we can theorise it.

Fred wrote:

Nobody wants you to go on repeating yourself like a scratched CD so why not stop?  

Yet more insults from posters who apparently don't have any imagination whatsoever.

The real problem is not 'my repeating myself like a scratched CD', but the stone deaf insisting 'scratching' doesn't exist.

Humans create knowledge. The 'material' does not reveal itself to passive humans. Humans are the creative element in science.

That creative activity of humans is why we can change the existing world and build Communism.

You wait for the rocks to tell you 'how and when', Fred, and it'll never happen.

LBird
On the method of science

In the method of science, in physics, theories are formed, and then they are tested in practice.

There is no particle floating around with a label tied to it, with "higgs boson" written upon it.

Humans theorised its existence.

At that point, they did not know if it existed, but gave it a name, just in case.

Humans are still at the stage of 'practice' (which is not a one-off 'act', which immediately tells us the 'truth' (or falsity) of the theory, but a (sometimes very long) process), in attempting to show that the theory has merit. Apparently, it has some, but much more has to be both theorised and practised, to give us more confidence in the 'truth' of the theory.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson

However, we know from the history of science that, even when a theory is proved 'true', it can later turn out to be false, when a different theory is applied to nature.

Knowledge is not a mirror of nature. Truth is social.

LoneLondoner
And the theory comes from?...

Theory comes before practice (and knowledge). Where does theory come from?

Lbird wrote:

However, we know from the history of science that, even when a theory is proved 'true', it can later turn out to be false, when a different theory is applied to nature.

Would it not be truer to say that a theory turns out to be false when a different theory gives demonstrably better results and a demonstrably better fit for what is currently known (or thought to be known) about the world? If it was just a matter of "applying a different theory" then how would you know that the new theory was better?

LBird
Knowledge, truth and 'better'

LoneLondoner wrote:
Theory comes before practice (and knowledge). Where does theory come from?

Humans. I have said this before, once or twice.

Humans are creative.

LL wrote:
Would it not be truer to say that a theory turns out to be false when a different theory gives demonstrably better results and a demonstrably better fit for what is currently known (or thought to be known) about the world?

Who or what determines 'demonstrably better', in your ideology?

If you say 'nature', then you must be using a reflectionist theory of knowledge.

I think 'humans' determine 'demonstrably better' by their practice, which is always theoretical, social and historical practice.

LL wrote:
If it was just a matter of "applying a different theory" then how would you know that the new theory was better?

If one is a bourgeois elitist, using a correspondence theory of truth (which matches a reflection theory of knowledge), one would say 'scientists' should be the judges.

If one is a Communist, IMO, using a democratic theory of truth (consensus gentium, the 'agreement of the people'), one would say, that since truth is social, 'by a vote', because our society should be the judge.

'Better' is a human judgement, not an attribute of the 'object'.

Hope this helps, LL.

LoneLondoner
I lost the thread

I was trying to keep it simple so that poor souls like me could keep up with the argument. But I've lost the thread here.

Lbird wrote:

In the method of science, in physics, theories are formed, and then they are tested in practice.

 Yup, sounds good to me. Higgs and his colleagues developed the theory and the CERN invested €40 billion to build the LHC to try it out to see if worked in practice. It did. It's a good theory (not necessarily either complete or even true, but good enough for the moment) 
Lbird wrote:
[We can know a theory is better], If one is a Communist (...) using a democratic theory of truth (...) 'by a vote', because our society should be the judge
 Now I may be wrong, but I strongly suspect that the number of people on this planet who could even understand what they were being asked to vote about is limited to the hundreds (I'm certainly not one of them). So how do we decide whether a theory is a good theory? By experiment, or by voting? 
Fred
Humans are creative but we

Humans are creative but we don't live in a void. We live on a planet, in a universe, in an environment,  which is what we respond too as we create and invent theories and ideas.  If there was no planet, no social life, no rich environment for us to explore and change,  and relate to in a living dialectic, we wouldn't have any ideas or theories at all.  Or are we supposed to think that the planet, the universe and everything sprang ready-made out of our own heads and are in fact the products of our own theorizing?  Just as we ourselves could be regarded psychotically as the products of our own theorizing rather than god's.  As in the word was made flesh! 

There wasn't a particle floating around labelled Higgs Boson till it got named by humans.  It was just floating around namelessly!  But science was only able to name it because it was in fact already there waiting to be discovered by somebody smart enough to deduce   that it might well be there  given the other evidence available.  Rather like 18th century explorers always suspected (theorized) that Australia ought to be there before they knew exactly where it was or if it truly existed.

 

How can theory possibly be understood as coming before practice?  It is our practice as living human beings that allows us to produce theories.  If we had no practice that would mean we weren't here. And if we weren't here, along  with all the other matter that constitutes the universe, our environment and our human existence - and we're all part of each other aren't we? - then we would hardly be capable of producing any theory at all would we? 

Fred
theory is practice

Perhaps we shouldn't talk about theory and practice but practice and theory.  Or perhaps its wrong to separate the two.  Maybe practice is theory and theory is practice. Doesn't all practice have some underpinning theory holding it up even if the theory is  untheorized? And doesn't new theory emerge out of older practices ie. older theories which have been proved mistaken or wrong.  The new theory will inform new practice which  will allow the production of a newer theory  and a changed practice etc. 

 

isn't it a bit like production and consumption?  They sound different but really they are the same, or at least joined together inseparably.  Marx pointed out that production is consumption and consumption is production.  (Like theory and practice?). A train consumes both electricity and the railway track (which both consumed human labour power in their production) and through its consumption produces movement and travel. A traveller consumes the train, the track, the electricity and tea from the cafeteria which produces the  travelers journey  from  A to F. 

 

Einstein consumed Newton's scientific theories, found them wanting and produced newer and improved theories as a result.  I don't know whether that makes him "creative", perhaps imaginative is a better word? 

LBird
'Good' theory: who decides 'good', and for whom is it good?

LoneLondoner wrote:
So how do we decide whether a theory is a good theory? By experiment, or by voting?

If one's ideology states that an 'experiment' successfully conducted by an elite produces the 'Truth', then the answer to your question would be 'by experiment'.

If one's ideology holds that 'truth' is a social judgement, and is produced by creative, active humans, and the society being spoken of is already aware that much science can't simply rely on 'experiment', then the answer to your question would be 'by voting'.

Successful experiment based on a social theory can produce 'truth' which is later shown to be 'untrue' by a different social theory.

Remember the Rovelli (a physicist) quote, recommended as reading by the ICC, about the entirety of 'Newtonian science'?

It is an outdated ideological position to argue that mere 'experiment' decides the 'goodness' of 'a theory'. It is the ideology of 'scientism', of positivism and empiricism, an ideology which was the product of the bourgeoisie in its ascendency, which held that an elite can know a truth denied to others. It is essentially a class perspective, rather than a neutral method.

IMO, this issue about 'science, knowledge, theory, experiment, truth' is also a class issue.

The view of regarding 'experiment' as better than 'voting' is related to a reflection theory of knowledge, that the world reveals itself as it is. The view regarding 'voting' as better than 'experiment' (that is, a 'voting' based upon social theory and practice) is one aware that 'knowledge' is a social product.

LBird
On Reflection...

Fred wrote:
Perhaps we shouldn't talk about theory and practice but practice and theory.
[my bold]

This would be a dangerous step for Communists, Fred, because 'practice and theory' is essentially a conservative method.

It takes 'what is' as its basis.

We must criticise 'what is', to produce a 'break' in continuity, revolution in thinking and practice.

The ideological belief that 'what is' is fixed by nature is based upon a reflection theory of knowledge. That is, that 'knowledge of what is' is the same as 'what is'.

But for Communists, who argue that 'knowledge is a social product', then what we humans regard as 'what is' is actually 'our knowledge of what is'.

We can change 'our knowledge of what is'. We are creative, and thus Communism is possible.

If one believes 'what is' is simply reflected in our knowledge, then we already 'know what is', and the bourgeoisie have already provided this knowledge.

On the contrary, we wish to build a new world. This requires 'theory and practice'.

Fred
LBird. Why didn't you read

LBird. Why didn't you read the rest of my post? 

LBird
Neither experiment nor economy, but party! SWP science

Fred wrote:

LBird. Why didn't you read the rest of my post? 

Posts, Fred, posts.

95 and 96 are contradictory.

In 96 you're moving in the right direction, so I wanted to give you a gentle push of encouragement by once again highlighting the incorrectness of the ideology of 'practice and theory'.

Leave that ideology behind, and we'll start getting somewhere.

If you now accept that 'theory and practice' is the 'better' method (itself a social judgement), that's great! We can ditch all the 19th century guff, erroneously supported by Engels, at points; his confusion is clear, because, at others, his views echo Marx's 1840s views. It is unfortunate that many 'Marxists' have taken on board the 'positivist' scientism of Engels, rather than his later warnings of the 1890s. Once Marx was dead, Engels seemed to sense the mistakes he and Marx had made in their emphases upon the 'material', at the expense of the 'ideal', and which were leading in a political direction of which neither Marx nor Engels were happy.

But once Engels was dead, his works could be plundered for those passages which supported 'science' and authority (and clearly implied that there was no need for 'democratic controls' of science!), which suited certain ideologists who argued that the proletariat could not develop a revolutionary consciousness.

I mean, who'd leave workers in control of an experiment, never mind a factory or even the entire world system of social production! The very idea!

LBird
Tamitruth?

Perhaps the current problem with 'tamiflu' (its 'truth' or otherwise, and who by and how that 'truth' was produced) is relevent to our discussion.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-26954482

Quote:
"Does a drug work?" should be an easy question to answer. Yet after hundreds of millions of pounds, either down the drain or saving lives depending on your stance, this question is being asked of Tamiflu.

Science is much more problematic than 'scientists' would have us believe.

Demogorgon
Who is it who published the

Who is it who published the study demolishing Tamiflu's effectiveness? Those elitist scientists again. In addition, the idea that truth is democratically decided seems no less problematic. After all, billions of people around globe believe in supernatural entities and some even believe in capitalism.

Having said that, there is a sense in which science is inherently democratic in that the whole point of experimental verification is that it has to be repeatable. This is a bit difficult in capitalist society where only a few people have access to education and multi-billion-pound laboratory equipment - hence the practice of science is elitist. Communism would be a different story ...

LBird
Round in circles...

Demogorgon wrote:
Communism would be a different story ...

Ah... yes... transition period...

So, we have to do 'elitist' science now, but after the transition (during which workers are brought to the same consciousness as those wonderful cadre, who'll teach the thick workers, who can't hope to develop themselves), in some unexplained way, 'a different story' will emerge, and then (and only then), production and science will be handed over to the 'workers' by their benefactors, the Party.

Some of us have faith in workers... Marx, for example... Some of us want democratic control of production...

...but not Demogorgon. A worshipper of 'elite science'. Only now, of course. Demogorgon will have a Pauline conversion about 'science', and hand over control after the transition period.

Philosophy of science seems to be a closed book to those who have belief in 'science'.

LBird
Have faith in the elite! They know 'what', just not 'when'.

Demogorgon wrote:
Who is it who published the study demolishing Tamiflu's effectiveness? Those elitist scientists again.

I'm beginning to think that assuming some posters actually understand what they're posting (never mind what I'm posting) is a big mistake, so I'll spell it out.

'Elite' scientists publish a study establishing 'Tamiflu's effectiveness'.

'Elite' scientists publish a study demolishing 'Tamiflu's effectiveness'.

Am I really the only one who can see the contradiction in the stance of 'elite' scientists?

Demogorgon can't apparently.

What's next, for your heroes, Demogorgon?

'Elite' scientists publish a study re-establishing 'Tamiflu's effectiveness'.

And then?

'Elite' scientists publish a study re-demolishing 'Tamiflu's effectiveness'.

Demogorgon, the elite scientist worshipper, can't tell us when we should regard 'elite' scientists as telling the 'Truth'.

Demogorgon doesn't recognise history, but only the latest pronouncements of the 'elite'. A true believer.

Fred
reply to 100, 103 and 104

The false bourgeois division between theory and practice is one which you appear to revere LBird.  The result of this false dichotomy, the product of bourgeois thought, means that physics for example tends to become a sort of mystical pursuit, almost a religion, and the realm of a specially trained priesthood.  And this you don't like!  Do you see the contradiction? 

 

 My posts 95 and 96 are not at all  contradictory unless you misread them for your own purposes and assume that what they're saying is only concerned with whether theory precedes practice or vice versa. I am not interested in that false bourgeois question at all.  For the proletariat,  theory is practice and practice is theory.  Read Pannekoek.     Theory and theorizing is a human activity and is thus human practice.   I compared theory/practice to production/consumption.  It is much easier to grasp the close indeed inseparable relationship between consumption/production (not challengeable because Marx said it!) than it is between practice-theory and theory-practice.    But we have to try, and not just insist as a reply that everybody else is wrong. This is a  very bourgeois individualistic attitude to life, which makes us sad, and one we must transcend.  And even if everyone else posting on this site is wrong, and thick too, and  stupid, bordering on the illiterate, lacking "faith" in workers (why faith?) it is becoming counter-productive to keep saying it. Unless of course there is a belief around that being the centre of discussion, any discussion of any quality, repetitive, negative or otherwise, is better than being ignored. 

LBird
Abuse replaces argument

Fred wrote:
The false bourgeois division between theory and practice is one which you appear to revere LBird.

Since I keep emphasising the unity of the method of 'theory and practice', for example by using phrases like 'indissolvable couplet', I don't know where you've dreamt up this 'reverence', Fred. It pays to read and remember what posters are writing, rather than making it up.

Frankly, the rest of your post descends into, as usual, personal abuse.

Why not discuss your view that 'theory is practice and practice is theory'?

It doesn't take much more than a kindergarten education to see that this is similar to saying 'black is white and white is black', so I'm not surprised that you're not keen to discuss your 'methodological views'. Of course, there's always the 'dialectical' get-out...

That's the problem at the root of these discussions. Comrades at present hold to 'methodological views', but pretend that they don't. And the views being expressed are outdated. Communists should be at the cutting edge of human thinking, but, in my experience, this is often far from the case.

I suppose it explains our irrelevancy, though...

Fred
dualism

Surely the "Theses on Feuerbach", the subject of this thread,   are questioning the dualism  studied and interpreted by philosophers down the ages. This taken-for granted point of view regarding dualism assumes a separation between mind and body,  thought and being, and theory from practice.  Marx is saying it is a mistaken understanding. But where does this false understanding come from?  Clearly it stems from relations of production in which one class exploits another, and in which production is cut off from consumption by the intervention of and emphasis on exchange and distribution.  

 

 The gap or break between theory and practice, and the dualism of mind and body, will be resolved Marx tells us by the "sensuous human practice"  of the proletariat, who alone  can reconnect production to consumption, disconnect it from the fetishism of exchange  and resolve the division of theory from practice.  

 

For the bourgeoisie there's "the way you live" and "the thoughts you think". There doesnt have to be a link  between the two  because the thoughts you think don't need to be connected to the life you lead - which, in a way, for the ruling class doesn't bear thinking about anyway so exploitative and destructive has it all become. So, while screwing the working class on the one hand the bourgeoisie is prepared quite happily on the other to go on thinking that society is perfect and everyone, including those being screwed, is "free". This separation of thought from actual reality, reflecting the separation of consumption from production, and thus ideas and theories  from actual  practice, produces the false understandings by the bourgeoisie of the world they have created, which false understanding (a pack of lies, you might say) is called ideology.  You can think one thing but do something completely different. You can think peace and make war. no problem.  Thinking and being and doing don't have to be connected. Indeed the bourgeoisie may believe thoughts and action are incapable of having anything to do with each other, for theory is one thing and practice is another.  

 

The proletariat will resolve this problem by bringing production and consumption together again (after all production is consumption, and consumption is production)  and will thus reconnect theory to practice  by replacing false ideological thinking with consciousness and solidarity.  Being and doing;  living, thinking and theorizing, will all become one again as the false divisions between them, stemming from  the alienating effects of class society and its schizophrenic mode of production, are at long  last removed.  It isn't enough just to insist  on and claim now the unity of theory and practice, for in class society  this unity is fractured. The unity we envision will only be restored by the success of the revolutionary proletariat. 

 

We are not irrelevant as the future of humanity depends on replacing capitalism with the beginnings of communism, and restoring the unity of thought and action in solidarity and consciousness. 

LBird
Restoring a fractured unity?

Fred wrote:
It isn't enough just to insist on and claim now the unity of theory and practice, for in class society this unity is fractured.

But the 'unity of theory and practice' is a methodological statement, Fred.

The claim is that it is how humans understand the world around them. That is, it's a stance about how science works.

It claims all human activity is driven by social thinking, that any practice by any human that's been alive ever, employs this inescapable method of 'theory and practice'. It claims that to argue otherwise (ie. to stress untheorised 'practice' as a starting point) is a conservative claim. That is, pretended 'practice and theory' just hides the prior 'theory' which must exist prior to any practice. And that 'hidden theory' is, of course (from our point of view), the 'common sense' that underpins 'the real world' (sic), the way that 'things are now, in reality'.

'Practice and theory' is a ruling class idea that hides ruling class ideas.

So, this 'unity of theory and practice' can't be 'fractured', because the 'unity' is inescapable. It just means that the 'theory' employed is 'ruling class theory'.

For example, one of the central theoretical claims by the ruling class is that we are 'individuals'. This is so overpowering an ideology that even many Communists say "of course I'm an individual'. Any knowledge of history shows that this is a very recent way for humans to view the world, and most humans haven't thought of themselves as 'individuals'.

A better way to view the world is that we are all 'glove puppets' of society. This consciousness, in itself, begins to break down our 'puppetness'. Once we recognise that we are not 'free-thinking individuals' (TM, bourgeois productions, inc.), we begin to ask deeper questions about 'who' we are, as 'individual puppets' and as our own 'puppet masters' (ie. society).

So, once we use a theory of 'puppetness', our 'practice' is illuminated in a different light.

But, whichever 'theory' we employ, we are all employing one prior to 'practice'. That is an ideological claim which supports the Communist view of the world, natural and social, in my opinion.

"I'm an individual" produces a society suited to 'individuals'. Theory and practice. Still as a 'unity' and 'unfractured'.

LoneLondoner
Idealism & materialism, theory & practice

So far on this thread, Lbird seems to have given us three possible reasons for accepting that one theory is "stronger" than another, or that a theory can be taken as a strong theory (eg, that Einsteinian physics is a stronger theory than Newtonian physics or that the neo-darwinian synthesis is a stronger theory than lamarckism).

First reason: the happy scientist has used the Lbird-approved idealist-materialist method.

Second reason: living creative "human beings" have shown "in practice" that the theory (for example, the existence of the Higgs boson) is a strong theory (please notice, I am deliberately not using the word "truth"). But here, Lbird makes exactly the same error that Marx criticises in Feuerbach "because he still remains in the realm of theory and conceives of men not in their given social connection, not under their existing conditions of life, which have made them what they are, he never arrives at the really (wirklichexisting active men (Menschen) but stops at the abstraction “man"" (thanks to AS in post #10 for this quote from Marx). The validation of the Higgs Boson theory was not determined by abstract "humans" indulging in abstract "practice" but by real humans in a concrete situation: surprisingly enough, by precisely that scientific élite that Lbird spends so much time castigating, backed up by 40 billion very concrete euros spent to build the LHC. And the "ideas" that humans "create" are not created out of thin air: they are themselves determined by material historical circumstances of which ideas are themselves a part (this is critical: ideas are themselves material factors in history). MH in post #17 is absolutely right to say that "it is a fundamental misconception to say that Marx wishes to “reconcile” idealism with materialism".

Lbird has several times cited a quote from Rovelli, presumably in the Reading notes on science and marxism (by the way, Rovelli's excellent book is now available in English under the title "Anaximander, the first scientist" if I remember right). Which of the quotes he is referring to is not clear, however what to me is perfectly clear is that the scientific method did not just come out of nowhere, it sprang from the specific cultural basis of 6th century BCE Miletos, in other words it is materially determined. Does this mean that human creativity played no part? On the contrary, but once again, human creativity is never a feuerbachian "human creativity" in the abstract, it is the creative activity of real human beings in a concrete situation. And until Lbird comes to grips with this he will remain a feuerbachian with good intentions and not really a marxist (let me hasten to add that I by no means consider myself a benchmark for marxist clarity in this respect, we are dealing here in the relationship between social determination and human creative action which is one of the most difficult aspects of marxism to grasp, and one of the reasons that marxism is not just "idealism-materialism").

Third reason: we all take a vote, and this will determine "the truth". The first thing to say here is that Lbird does not really believe in this method himself. He accepts that science has advanced, that Einsteinian physics is a stronger theory than Newtonian and that the experiments in the LHC have raised the status of the Higgs Boson to a strong theory, yet to my knowledge nobody has ever called for a vote on the subject or indeed on any other scientific subject. Indeed, I strongly suspect that if you polled the present world population, a majority have not even heard of the Higgs Boson and an even bigger majority actually believe that the universe was created by some manifestation of God (apparently this is the case for 9/10ths of Americans).

Now, you could say that when we are "in communism" things will be different. But for a vote to be meaningful, surely it requires that those who do the voting should understand what they are voting about. Even in a communist society it seems to me inherently highly improbable (to put it mildly) that the whole of humanity will have an adequate understanding of quantum mechanics (not to mention every other branch of science since voting will not presumably be limited to physics) for a vote to be meaningful.

The only alternative is to vote without understanding, which is essentially what you have in elections today: we are called on regularly to vote for different parties to determine things over which in reality we have no control and where moreover the reality of what we are supposed to vote about is unknown (because it is determined in secret). In other words, Lbird's "democratic method" is nothing but a reductio ad absurdum... of bourgeois democracy.

LBird
Rovelli makes yet another wasted appearance, for the blind

All I can say, LL, is that you seem to have made no real attempt to understand what I'm saying, and have constructed a false summary of what I've argued both in this thread and others.

This, I think sums up the problem:

LoneLondoner wrote:
Lbird has several times cited a quote from Rovelli, presumably in the Reading notes on science and marxism (by the way, Rovelli's excellent book is now available in English under the title "Anaximander, the first scientist" if I remember right). Which of the quotes he is referring to is not clear...
[my bold]

Since I've given the quotes a number of times, including page references, the fact that you are still basing your ideological views on those that conflict with mine, but you can't be bothered to actually read my evidence, which is perfectly 'clear', and taken from an ICC-recommended text, says everything.

But, I'll give the quote, once again, though I already know that it will have no effect whatsoever on the religious.

Rovelli, The First Scientist: Anaximander and his Legacy, wrote:

This reading of scientific thinking as subversive, visionary, and evolutionary is quite different from the way science was understood by the positivist philosophers… (p. xii)

Facile nineteenth-century certainties about science— in particular the glorification of science understood as definitive knowledge of the world—have collapsed. One of the forces responsible for their dismissal has been the twentieth-century revolution in physics, which led to the discovery that Newtonian physics, despite its immense effectiveness, is actually wrong, in a precise sense. Much of the subsequent philosophy of science can be read as an attempt to come to grips with this disillusionment. What is scientific knowledge if it can be wrong even when it is extremely effective? (p. xv)

But answers given by natural science are not credible because they are definitive; they are credible because they are the best we have now, at a given moment in the history of knowledge. (p. xvi)

[my bold]

There we have it all: physics can be wrong (it doesn't have a neutral method that guarantees 'Truth'); neither does even effective, successful 'practice' guarantee 'Truth'; and 'best' is a social judgement, unless one believes that there is a body above society (scientists? priests? Communists?) who can determine 'best' for society.

But... the 'philosophy of science' and its 'disillusionments' remains a closed book to LoneLondoner (and others, it seems), even when a comrade tries to open that book for their attention.

LoneLondoner wrote:
In other words, Lbird's "democratic method" is nothing but a reductio ad absurdum... of bourgeois democracy.

Ahhh... the terrors of 'democracy' and 'idealism' still haunt 19th century thinking, I see.

And we wonder why workers prefer to turn to 'nationalism' or 'Islam', rather than 'Communism'...

At least my 'reductio ad absurdum' tells workers that they should be in control. Unlike your outdated ideology, LL.

LBird
Original thought, critical thought, human thought

Which comes first, 'theory' or 'practice'?

It is meaningless to stress that 'theory' comes after reflection on 'practice', because that is obvious. We could have a never-ending backward sourcing, going: practice now, based on theory, based on practice, based on theory, based on practice, based on theory... ad infinitum.

But... this is a never-ending loop. And it is fatalistic, because there is no human creativity if there is never a time when a 'theory' is not based upon current 'practice'.

If fact, the answer is obvious: at some point, an entirely new, original, creative 'theory' emerges, not based on existing 'practice'.

Its source is not 'practice', but criticism of that practice. Criticism doesn't come from 'practice' or is it revealed by 'material conditions', but is human, creative, thought.

This is Marx's 'active side' of 'idealism': his insight that human thought is an essential part of the process, that 'materialists' miss, with their one-sided emphasis on 'material conditions'.

Human criticism, the denial of existing practice, is the way humans break out of the fatalistic loop of 'practice, theory, practice, theory...'

Criticism is not 'produced' by 'material conditions'. 'Conditions' can exist endlessly, if no human criticism is created.

Communism is an example of human criticism. Capitalism doesn't 'produce' that criticism; humans produce criticism.

Our method must be 'theory and practice', starting with a 'theory' that is critical. That is the fracture point in the loop, a discontinuity of 'practice, theory, practice, theory...'.

LBird
Elite science, elite politics, uncomprehending mass

LoneLondoner wrote:
Now, you could say [implying that you do not say] that when we are "in communism" things will be different. But [confirming that you do not say] for a vote to be meaningful, surely it requires that those who do the voting should understand what they are voting about. Even in a communist society it seems to me inherently highly improbable (to put it mildly) that the whole of humanity will have an adequate understanding of quantum mechanics (not to mention every other branch of science since voting will not presumably be limited to physics) for a vote to be meaningful.
[my inserted comments]

What does Marx have to say about this worshipping of ‘elite scientists’? Taken from the Theses on Feuerbach, at the beginning of this very thread:

Marx wrote:

3

The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change [Selbstveränderung] can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.

LoneLondoner and his fellow ideologists ‘divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society’. There are the ‘elite scientists’, who give ‘meaning’ to science, and the ‘highly improbable’ mass, who don’t. ‘Even in a communist society…’.

No mention that Communism will provide the finest education to all, that science will be a social activity completely open to all, and that the natural human curiosity about their own social and natural world will be indulged and developed, from childhood and throughout our lives.

No, let’s read it again:

LL wrote:
Even in a communist society it seems to me inherently highly improbable (to put it mildly) that the whole of humanity will have an adequate understanding of [science]… for a vote to be meaningful.

‘Meaning’ will remain an elite concern?

Not my vision of Communism, LL, and not one likely to attract ‘the whole of humanity’.

“…the educator must himself be educated.”

Presumably, ‘educated’ in ‘elite’ schools, too, in LoneLondoner’s ‘Communism’, eh? God forbid they be tainted by ‘the whole of humanity’.

From your politics and ideology, LL, flows your views on science and society.

MH
So when

LBird wrote:

Communism is an example of human criticism. Capitalism doesn't 'produce' that criticism; humans produce criticism.

 

So when, in your view, did communism become possible? And why - what changed?

LBird
Wrong thread?

MH wrote:
So when, in your view, did communism become possible? And why - what changed?

I'm not sure what that issue, or my views of it, has to do with Marx's Theses on Feuerbach, the scientific method or human cognition of our world (social and natural).

Could you explain the link?

Link
Life is not determined by consciousness

Now that’s a very disappointing answer to MH’s question, lbird.  You are usually more subtle about avoiding direct responses

In discussing how human society works, LL asked what creates practice and you answer theory.  He then asks what creates the theory and you answer humans ('Material conditions' don't create ideas. Humans create ideas’). This is a real cop-out.  It’s a circular argument which makes no explanation of the real world at all.  Humans create human society, its true but its not an analysis of the how things work.

To the question of how humans come up with the ideas, you answer this that they achieve this simply by thinking creatively

No.  This creativity cant happen without reference to the real world and pre-existing material conditions as it can only be these conditions that stimulate ideas and thoughts.

Communism therefore cant happen because somebody wills it, that’s why the question is relevant.  Do you believe it can happen anytime people think it to be a good idea? 

Higgs Boson particles already existed when someone theorized they must exist and then went on to discover them – but that theorization cant happen until there is a body on knowledge of quantum mechanics.   It can only happen at a particular point in time.

Are you really saying that Marx could have existed at any point in time – that his contribution to theory is not a product of conditions (both physical and ideological ) that existed in the 19th century?

Are you really saying that the thoughts generated by madness has no roots either in social behaviour or in brain malfunctions?

“The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination.  They are the real individuals, their activity and the materials conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity.” 

These material conditions are Marx’s starting point for analyzing the real world 

Frankly lbird, its time to stop throwing rocks and listen to the content!!

Link
Life is not determined by consciousness

Now that’s a very disappointing answer to MH’s question, lbird.  You are usually more subtle about avoiding direct responses

In discussing how human society works, LL asked what creates practice and you answer theory.  He then asks what creates the theory and you answer humans ('Material conditions' don't create ideas. Humans create ideas’). This is a real cop-out.  It’s a circular argument which makes no explanation of the real world at all.  Humans create human society, its true but its not an analysis of the how things work.

To the question of how humans come up with the ideas, you answer this that they achieve this simply by thinking creatively

No.  This creativity cant happen without reference to the real world and pre-existing material conditions as it can only be these conditions that stimulate ideas and thoughts.

Communism therefore cant happen because somebody wills it, that’s why the question is relevant.  Do you believe it can happen anytime people think it to be a good idea? 

Higgs Boson particles already existed when someone theorized they must exist and then went on to discover them – but that theorization cant happen until there is a body on knowledge of quantum mechanics.   It can only happen at a particular point in time.

Are you really saying that Marx could have existed at any point in time – that his contribution to theory is not a product of conditions (both physical and ideological ) that existed in the 19th century?

Are you really saying that the thoughts generated by madness has no roots either in social behaviour or in brain malfunctions?

“The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination.  They are the real individuals, their activity and the materials conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity.” 

These material conditions are Marx’s starting point for analyzing the real world 

Frankly lbird, its time to stop throwing rocks and listen to the content!!

Link
.... but consciousness by life

repeated entry

LBird
No-one said 'life is determined by consciousness'

Link wrote:
These material conditions are Marx’s starting point for analyzing the real world

How do these 'material conditions' tell Marx what they are, Link?

Link wrote:
Frankly lbird, its time to stop throwing rocks and listen to the content!!
[my bold]

I know that you're having a joke here, Link, but 'listening' requires a 'reflection' theory of knowledge.

It makes the 'rocks' the active element in the process of cognition.

This method you employ is called 'naive realism'.

I've tried to help comrades uncover their own assumptions about science, cognition and Marx's so-called 'materialism', but I'm not helping anymore, am I?

Perhaps there is 'too much water under the bridge', and it requires other comrades who've read some philosophy of science, and are concerned with Rovelli's problems outlined in the quote I gave earlier, to enter the discussion.

MH
"The point is to change it..."


Not so fast! You haven't answered my question yet...

LBird wrote:

Criticism is not 'produced' by 'material conditions'. 'Conditions' can exist endlessly, if no human criticism is created.

Communism is an example of human criticism. Capitalism doesn't 'produce' that criticism; humans produce criticism.

So you explicitly reject the idea that material conditions have any role in creating the possibility of communism, the creation of a classless, moneyless society, etc. Yes?

So my question is: in your view then, when does communism become possible? Is it ‘simply’ a matter of the majority of people deciding that they want communism? If so, what is the key factor that leads people, in your term, to become ‘critical’? And, following on from this, has communism always been possible? If not, since when, and why? (Yes I know this is more than one question, but I think you catch the drift now…!).

This is hardly a trick question: surely it goes to the heart of the concern of the 'Theses'?

 

 

LBird
I can't reject what I don't know

MH wrote:
So you explicitly reject the idea that material conditions have any role in creating...

How do we know what 'material conditions' are, MH?

No-one will answer this epistemological question.

MH wrote:
This is hardly a trick question: surely it goes to the heart of the concern of the 'Theses'?

I couldn't put it better myself, comrade!

MH
And your answer is?

MH wrote:

So my question is: in your view then, when does communism become possible? Is it ‘simply’ a matter of the majority of people deciding that they want communism? If so, what is the key factor that leads people, in your term, to become ‘critical’?

 

LBird
Surely 'we', not 'I', is the correct method?

MH wrote:

MH wrote:

So my question is: in your view then, when does communism become possible? Is it ‘simply’ a matter of the majority of people deciding that they want communism? If so, what is the key factor that leads people, in your term, to become ‘critical’?

 

You're employing a bourgeois individualist theory and method, MH.

You're focussing upon what 'an individual' thinks (ie. me) rather than upon the social theories which shape (so-called) 'free-thinking individuals'.

I want to discuss the Theses on Feuerbach (the title of this thread), by social discussion between comrades, and what Marx meant when he criticised and praised both 'materialism' and 'idealism'. We are products of society, not 'individuals'.

The theoretical lesson one takes from this discussion will determine one's answer to your reasonable questions.

That is, it isn't about what 'I' or 'You' think, but which social theories we embrace.

I'm trying to uncover these 'social theories', and I've tried to outline what they might consist of, and I've tried to get comrades to tell me their 'chosen' theory. I say 'chosen' advisedly, because I don't think many comrades are even aware of the theories that they are currently embracing. For example, Link seems to believe that we just passively 'listen' to sounds, without being aware that this is a theory called 'naive realism': that is, 'reality exists' (this is the correct 'realist' bit of the theory) and understanding what that 'reality' is, is unproblematic, and we just use our biological senses (this is the incorrect 'naive' bit of the theory).

Unless we discuss the Theses on Feuerbach, we can't expose these 'hidden' and 'unexamined' theoretical starting points that comrades currently hold.

Link
Much better, much more subtle!

I am sure that nobody here would disagree that  discussion can help to uncover assumptions and increase knowledge on all sides.   I do tend to agree that you are not getting anywhere is persuading others of your world view however.  Personally I have thought for a while that you ought to use your back knowledge of philosophy and politics to put your thoughts into a more substantial form than these entries on an internet forum. Your assumption that I know everything you have said on all these forums is just unreal.   Your own website, booklet book etc would force you to develop ideas into a whole whereas these back and forth forums tends to make you confrontational style rather unconstructive. 

(you can tell I was a teacher cant you!!)

As for the Ravelli quote, I see no problem that there is change of approach by science.  I am not a scientist or a philosopher (I think!) but it seems to me that the 2 things are coming together and science is now debating issues where it may never have the sort of nice neat answers that Newton produced or that we were taught in schools.  I see no problem that science has discovered relativity and quantum mechanics and says that this is an advance on classical physics despite not being able to explain them fully.  That it is just another phase in humanities development even if the implications they pose seem to us at present quite enormous and disrupt the neat universe we thought we lived in.  So I don’t know why you think this change in science is significant.  It is part of social history and I can comfortably fit it into Marx’s view of social development.

Rocks do not tell us anything themselves Lbird, you should know that just as you know that nobody is suggesting rocks are the active element. Not even my naievity leads me to think that although it does lead me to keep hoping you will listen. 

(Listening and reflecting are not part of an exclusive theory that stops us engaging if we don’t believe the theory.  They are simply human activities that we should engage in, so please do join in)

So onto Materials Conditions again.  They include the physical world – the productive forces, nature the environment, the universe and everything and yes big rocks and little rocks -  and the social world – mode of production, social relationships, knowledge, culture religion.  This is reality and I know you agree that social world acts as a real force in society.  They weigh on the shoulders of each new generation as the saying goes.  I still find it surprising that you want to argue that the former the physical world does not have an impact.  Without the physical world, humans cant have thoughts because we wouldn’t have a physical existence either.   Thoughts idea, theories are a product of human creativity, as you say, but they can only be a product of us considering physical and social world about us, thinking about what we can do with it and planning how to use it.  We cant make concrete or diamonds if we don’t have rocks about us to see, understand and manipulate!!  We cant make decent drilling machines until we have diamonds and so on.  And we cant make communism until we have seen what slave society, feudal society and capitalism can do.

Is that long enough to make a clear point?  I could go on!! 

This does not mean I think rocks talk as you suggest.  But it does mean that I see your world view as suggesting that humans can create something new entirely without external stimulation. That would be a very magical world indeed.

Now have I done enough to get you to answer certain questions directly?

MH
So...

LBird wrote:

...it isn't about what 'I' or 'You' think, but which social theories we embrace.

So, what is your answer to my question, based on the 'social theory' that you embrace? Imagine we are at a workers’ meeting and a worker asks you if communism is possible today….

LBird
Maintenance of the aim

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

...it isn't about what 'I' or 'You' think, but which social theories we embrace.

So, what is your answer to my question, based on the 'social theory' that you embrace? Imagine we are at a workers’ meeting and a worker asks you if communism is possible today….

But the title of the thread is not "In answer to workers' questions", but is to provide a theoretical (and thus political) discussion about Marx's Theses on Feuerbach.

In this context, MH, I'm interested in fathoming out the epistemological views of ICC supporters, rather than ignoring them (and thus leaving them hidden and unexamined), so I can test out what I understand by Marx's words.

This requires that we all expose our 'social theories', that we all embrace, for the purposes of contrast and comparison, so we all gain in our understanding of Marx's text.

LBird
But your 'material' list includes 'ideal' constituents

I'll leave alone your continued mischaracterisation of my views, Link, and just note that you are saying that I say something that I don't.

Link wrote:
So onto Materials Conditions again. They include the physical world – the productive forces, nature the environment, the universe and everything and yes big rocks and little rocks - and the social world – mode of production, social relationships, knowledge, culture religion.

So, why call them 'material' conditions, if they include 'ideas' ('knowledge, culture, religion')?

Link
All subtlety is gone!!

I take back all i said about your knowledge and reading.  This is just gobbledygook!!  Avoidance is just too gentle a word!

LBird
Link through the looking glass

Link wrote:
I take back all i said about your knowledge and reading. This is just gobbledygook!! Avoidance is just too gentle a word!

You say 'knowledge' is a 'material' condition, so I ask why do you call 'knowledge' a 'material' condition.

You're the one claiming these things, Link! I'm merely asking you to explain what is it in your ideology that allows you to call 'knowledge' a 'material' condition.

If there is 'gobbledygook' and 'avoidance' afoot, it is coming from your 'statements of gobbledygook' and your 'avoidance of explaining your gobbledygook'.

The fact of your 'gobbledygook' is proved by your 'avoidance' of explanation.

MH
including yours...

LBird wrote:

This requires that we all expose our 'social theories', that we all embrace, for the purposes of contrast and comparison, so we all gain in our understanding of Marx's text.

...including yours, no?  

So when, based on your social theory, does communism become possible?

And what is the key factor that leads people, in your term, to become 'critical' of capitalism?

You give me your answer, I'll give you mine based on my understanding of Marxism. Might even move the discussion forward. What do you say?

 

Link
Material Force

Lbird you were looking at the the texts out of order, look at the headings - my comment about gobbledygook was about your responses to MHs questions and your outright refusal to answer difficult questions for the spurious reasons.   

I am quite happy to discuss and explain material conditions, in fact i think that has happened several times in this thread.  This is why i accuse you of not listening to what others say and of misunderstanding Marx.

I repeat:     "Thoughts idea, theories are a product of human creativity, as you say, but they can only be a product of us considering physical and social world about us, thinking about what we can do with it and planning how to use it.  We cant make concrete or diamonds if we don’t have rocks about us to see, understand and manipulate!!  We cant make decent drilling machines until we have diamonds and so on.  And we cant make communism until we have seen what slave society, feudal society and capitalism can do."

Now, lets go back to the idea that the weight of past generations act as a burden upon new generations.  Each new generation, each new individual is faced by a set of pre-existing cultural beliefs, scientific knowledge as well as the world around them.  Each new generation can no more change historical the social environment that they enter than they can change the physical world that they enter.  Real human beings can do nothing about those historical beliefs and ideas that exist but they can develop and change them - to an extent that the physical limits of the real world and real knowledge allows.  That's why Marx called them material conditions because both the accumulation of the physical and ideological situation at a given point in time affects how the following generation behaves and set the framework for new possibilities for human activity.  Thats why he also called this theory historical materialism because it is a materialism that is not just based on physical matter (ie bourgeois materialism) but also on force created by the social history, social relations and knowledge that man has experienced/developed

 

In fact thinking about it,  you have already as much yourself.  To quote you  "God is Real ....‘When the human-created theory of 'god' 'grips the masses', it has become a 'material force'. Thus 'god is real'.

Have you forgotten that you used to believe this or have you changed your mind?  Do please explain these contradictory positions you take up and then answer those questions seriously!!  Lets see where that gets us.

 

LBird
Material or Real: What's in a name?

Link wrote:
I am quite happy to discuss and explain material conditions, in fact i think that has happened several times in this thread.  ...

.... it is a materialism that is not just based on physical matter ...

In fact thinking about it,  you have already as much yourself.  To quote you  "God is Real ....‘When the human-created theory of 'god' 'grips the masses', it has become a 'material force'. Thus 'god is real'.

Have you forgotten that you used to believe this or have you changed your mind?  Do please explain these contradictory positions you take up and then answer those questions seriously!!  Lets see where that gets us.

[my bold]

Link, if 'material conditions' are not 'just based on physical matter' and contain 'knowledge' and 'culture' (ie. 'ideas'), why call them 'material conditions'?

Surely it makes more logical sense to call these 'conditions' either 'material-ideal' or 'ideal-material' conditions?

In fact, I agree with your statements about the content what your ideology calls 'material conditions', but my ideology calls them 'real conditions'.

The difference between these two ideological axioms is:

'Material' means, as you rightly say, 'material' and 'ideal';

'Real' means, 'material' and 'ideal' (or, 'ideal' and 'material', if anyone mistakes written precedence for 'basic'; both are equally important).

In fact, it seems, no difference!

Why not use the modern term 'real' (which means 'ideal and material'), rather than the 19th century term 'material' (which suggests, obviously, just 'material' alone)?

Unless our axioms are clearly stated, we can't proceed any further, because not only will we participants talk at cross-purposes, but those comrades passively reading (in the hope of clarifying Marx's Theses on Feuerbach for themselves) will also remain either confused or completely misunderstand our views.

Perhaps your quoting of me hints at where this discussion will then go: "Is God real?" (or, in your terms, "Is God material?").

I would argue that 'God is real'.

Would you also argue that 'God is material'?

LBird
'Material' is opaque in meaning?

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

This requires that we all expose our 'social theories', that we all embrace, for the purposes of contrast and comparison, so we all gain in our understanding of Marx's text.

...including yours, no?  

So when, based on your social theory, does communism become possible?

And what is the key factor that leads people, in your term, to become 'critical' of capitalism?

You give me your answer, I'll give you mine based on my understanding of Marxism. Might even move the discussion forward. What do you say?

 

With reference to my answer to Link, I would say when the real conditions are present, that 'communism becomes possible', MH.

This answer, of course, hinges on what my ideology means by 'real'.

If you agree with Link that 'material' means 'ideal' and 'material', then I think we are close to agreement. However, if your ideology argues that 'material' means 'material alone', then I think that we still have some difficulties to discuss.

Link
Changing Meanings

Why keep changing meanings of words? Why introduce new terms for everything?  You were trying to do that with Marx's Capital a while ago and now you want to do that with historical materialism.  Why? Its not up to you!  It this process that muddies the water

If you have really understand what others mean by materials conditions all along, why pose that question?  Was that just another avoidance by any chance?

Why do you suggest discussing religion now when you know you have questions that you need to answer regarding an unfinished discussion?

LBird
Religious reverence to words?

Link wrote:

Why keep changing meanings of words? Why introduce new terms for everything?  You were trying to do that with Marx's Capital a while ago and now you want to do that with historical materialism.  Why? Its not up to you!  It this process that muddies the water

If you have really understand what others mean by materials conditions all along, why pose that question?  Was that just another avoidance by any chance?

Why do you suggest discussing religion now when you know you have questions that you need to answer regarding an unfinished discussion?

I can't say I'm not disappointed by your response, Link, because I am.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with 'religion'. The issue about 'God' is merely an example to help highlight our difficulties about the meanings 'material' and 'real'.

As for 'changing' and 'introduction of new', you have a strange attitude for a Communist who supposedly wants to change the world and introduce a new mode of production.

Do you really believe that obscure, out-of-date, confusing 19th century terminology should be sacrosanct?

This, I'm afraid, has more of a touch of the 'religious' to it, than anything that I've had to say.

MH
ok...

LBird wrote:

With reference to my answer to Link, I would say when the real conditions are present, that 'communism becomes possible', MH.

This answer, of course, hinges on what my ideology means by 'real'.

Well, that’s a bit of a non-answer isn’t it? You’ve now substituted the word ‘real’ for your use of the word ‘material’ in your previous posts.

Anyway, let’s make it simple: do you agree with Marx that a fundamental condition for the communist revolution is that the "material productive forces of society” must “come into conflict with the existing relations of production”?

If you do, then at least you are accepting the basis of historical materialism and there is solid common ground in this discussion.

If you don’t, then you really need to set out what you think the ‘real’ conditions for revolution are. The point of this is precisely to help clarify whether you are an idealist - ie. a defender of the conception that it is the ideas in men’s heads that ultimately determine historical change - or not, so we can develop this discussion on the basis of the political positions that you actually defend. 

LBird
Non-answers? Or pots and kettles?

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

With reference to my answer to Link, I would say when the real conditions are present, that 'communism becomes possible', MH.

This answer, of course, hinges on what my ideology means by 'real'.

Well, that’s a bit of a non-answer isn’t it? You’ve now substituted the word ‘real’ for your use of the word ‘material’ in your previous posts.

Anyway, let’s make it simple: do you agree with Marx that a fundamental condition for the communist revolution is that the "material productive forces of society” must “come into conflict with the existing relations of production”?

It's less of a 'non-answer' than yours and Link's.

We've heard a hundred times that you refer to 'material', whether 'conditions' or 'forces'.

But whereas I have stated openly that 'real' means 'material' and 'ideal', you and Link refuse to state what you mean by 'material'.

It doesn't get us anywhere quoting Marx, because I've already argued on several threads that I consider Marx to be a 'realist', and that if he'd have had the term 'realist' available for his use, he would've used it, to differentiate his 'material' views from Feuerbach's 'material' views, since clearly (and I think we all agree on this point) Marx's 'materialism' was different from Feuerbach's (and earlier) 'materialism'.

It has been a consistent part of my argument that Engels erroneously (because of his poor understanding of the philosophical issues at stake, and of which he seemed to become ever more clearly aware, after Marx died, and he wrote a series of letters trying to backtrack on much of his 'materialism' because of the political direction in which its supporters were heading) reverted the meaning of 'materialism' to earlier 'mechanical materialism', and thus lost Marx's meaning of 'materialism', which was 'historical materialism' (which is synonymous with 'idealism-materialism'). Marx wanted human consciousness, ideas and creativity to be regarded as the 'historical' part of his 'materialism'. Otherwise, why didn't he just continue to refer to simple 'materialism'?

Once again, I've openly stated what I mean by 'real', and I've asked you, Link and others to do me the same courtesy.

If you mean 'physical' or 'tangible' by your use of 'material', why not clearly say so?

If you agree that the 'non-physical' or 'intangible' is included in your use of 'material', why continue to call it 'material', when that then does not as clearly describe its proper meaning as does 'idealism-materialism' (or a more modern term like 'real')?

LBird
Timely refresh

Marx wrote:

1

The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism — that of Feuerbach included — is that the Object [der Gegenstand], actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekts], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such.

There are three positions, not two (idealism and materialism), as Engels argued.

1. Inactive materialism;

2. Active idealism;

3. Marx's 'active side materialism'.

One can reject 'materialism' (ie. 1) without being pidgeon-holed as a supporter of 'idealism' (ie. 2), according to those who support a third position (ie. 3).

But, if one is a supporter of Engels' views of 1 and 2 only, then any rejection of 1 must lead to support for 2, by logic alone.

Those comrades here who read of my rejection of 'materialism' are employing Engels' ideology and thus must see me as an idealist.

This is not my position; I'm not an idealist.

I'm a supporter of Marx's 'idealism-materialism'; that is, position 3.

LBird
Humans make history, not rocks

MH wrote:

If you don’t, then you really need to set out what you think the ‘real’ conditions for revolution are. The point of this is precisely to help clarify whether you are an idealist - ie. a defender of the conception that it is the ideas in men’s heads that ultimately determine historical change - or not, so we can develop this discussion on the basis of the political positions that you actually defend. 

[my bold]

This is an Engelsian definition of an 'idealist', MH, not a Marxian.

For Marx, the omitting of 'the ideas in men's heads' as one of the 'ultimately determining' factors in 'historical change' would be unthinkable.

This is what is at stake in our 'philosophical' discussion, as I'm sure that you're aware, MH, but I'm making it plain for other comrades reading, who might not see the political significance of this apparently abstract 'philosophical' question.

Marx believed, as do I, that both 'the ideas in humanity's heads' and the 'material conditions' in which they find themselves, are 'ultimately determinant'.

Marx wrote:
Men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing.

'Material circumstances' are not the 'ultimate determinant'; humans and their conscious activity are. Theory and practice.

Our 'political positions' flow from our respective ideologies.

Engelsians see 'material conditions' as determinant, and regard those who oppose their ideology as 'idealists'. To me, this includes MH.

Marxists see 'humans and their activities' (the 'active side', for Marx), as determinant, and regard those who oppose their ideology as 'Engelsian-Leninists'. To me, this also includes MH, and many others here.

MH
Once again...

LBird wrote:

Marx believed, as do I, that both 'the ideas in humanity's heads' and the 'material conditions' in which they find themselves, are 'ultimately determinant'.

No. He didn’t, as has been pointed out to you more than once by more than one comrade on this same thread:

MH wrote:

While Marx clearly recognises the role of human consciousness in the development of the material forces of production, the actual relationship of consciousness to these other forces is not ‘equal’, as LBird claims. On the contrary, Marx is very specific about the relationship of one to the other, as Link’s quote from the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy makes clear:

The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, my emphasis).

And this basic error in your reading of Marx continues to negate your entire argument that he wished in some way to ‘reconcile’ idealism and materialism – again, as has been pointed out more than once here.

(Incidentally, I couldn’t help noticing you didn’t answer my question. In your own time...)

LBird
Humans, not 'material', are active

MH wrote:

LBird wrote:

Marx believed, as do I, that both 'the ideas in humanity's heads' and the 'material conditions' in which they find themselves, are 'ultimately determinant'.

No. He didn’t, as has been pointed out to you more than once by more than one comrade on this same thread:

MH wrote:

While Marx clearly recognises the role of human consciousness in the development of the material forces of production, the actual relationship of consciousness to these other forces is not ‘equal’, as LBird claims. On the contrary, Marx is very specific about the relationship of one to the other, as Link’s quote from the Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy makes clear:

The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.” (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, my emphasis).

And this basic error in your reading of Marx continues to negate your entire argument that he wished in some way to ‘reconcile’ idealism and materialism – again, as has been pointed out more than once here.

(Incidentally, I couldn’t help noticing you didn’t answer my question. In your own time...)

This could have all been cleared up long ago, MH, if you and Link would be open about your Engelsian reading of Marx!

You are reading 'material' to mean 'material'! Why not just say it openly!

Say it, comrade, "For Marx, 'material' means 'material' ".

I've said it for you, time and again, but none of you can bring yourselves to say "For Marx, 'material' means 'material' ".

This is because, it's clearly nonsense, as Link as much as admitted when they wrote about 'knowledge' and 'culture', etc.

Marx's works can't be made sense of if you hold to the Engelsian mantra that "For Marx, 'material' means 'material' ".

Whilst comrades hold to this mistaken, outdated and scientifically-disproved (by Einstein, as Rovelli says in the ICC-recommended text) position of Engels at his most positivist, then Communism is impossible. Human ideas are fundamental.

Marx was not a 'materialist'. Marx was a 'realist'. Production is social, existence is social. The Theses on Feuerbach tell us this. Marx is not a 'materialist'. He openly condemns 'materialism' and praises 'idealism'.

This is a philosophic axiom, a definition, and cannot be resolved by resort to empirical evidence (like selected quotes).

To those who regard Marx as a realist, his body of works don't make any sense if one uses the ideology which you do.

We know from the 20th century that waiting for the rocks to bring revolution and Communism won't work, comrades.

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