Beliefs, science, art and Marxism.

155 posts / 0 new
Last post
commiegal
I absolutely agree about

I absolutely agree about democratic controls. The problem now is that sceince is not neutral - what is researched is largely what pharmaceutical companies and states want researched ...

jk1921
Contradictions

LBird wrote:

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

Ah, here we have the "brainwashed" idea again. But, yes, I think the way you describe it is exactly how we have been taught to consider science. It is the ultimate authority, the only route to objective knowledge and truth. There is one method, one language that is universal for everyone and which can unite us all behind the truth. But science is not meant to be "magical." It is meant to be the antithesis of magic and magical thinking. Science explains to us why magic is impossible and why magicians are illusionists and charlatans (most of whom are out for our money.) The idea that science could be "magical" is I think very illustrative of some of the disconnects in this discussion.

Of course scientists are humans, so it is all too possilble for them to make mistakes, screw things up and come to incorrect conclusions. But I think the point of science--at least as it has been constructed in modernity from the Enlightenment--is that it is always ongoing, always improving, always in process. Scientists might screw things up, but there is always another scientist waiting in the wings to correct them. This might be the "bourgeois" view of science. Humans are falliable, but the process of peer review, discussion and debate among scientifically trained peers will eventually allow us to get it right, i.e. eliminate the human factor. Kuhn has a different, less linear, view of the scientific process--science can get locked into paradigms that discipline heretics; but eventually these paradigms explode and there is something like progress taking place? There is still something underneath the paradigm that we can identify as "science." 

Similary, Marxists might say that science is distorted by bourgeois ideology. But there is still something like a universal science that only needs to be stripped of its distortions. Marxists can do this because they are uniquely committed to the proletarian viewpoint, which alone guarantees universality beyond any class particularlity. But there is still the idea of "science" as the ultimate authority. Its what gives Marxists their own authority, grounds Marxism in something other than a mere "will to power," alllowing it in true Enlightenment style to unite all of humanity behind its banner.

LBird wrote:

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

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

Just like the idea that there could something "magical" about science, the idea that scientists could form a "priesthood" seems incompatible with the way science construes itself. It seems a real strawman. Priests are the guardians of pure dogma, superstition, received, revealed truth from Holy books. Scientists are supposed to interrograte one another, attempt to prove one another wrong, attempt to advance science. Of course, scientists can fail to carry this out. They can get lazy or just plain fail to do their job, but other scientists should be able to step in a clean up the mess. This is why I say there is a difference between seeing science distorted by ideology and making a meta-critique of scientific reason itself. Science can fix the first problem, but its not clear what we are left with if there is a problem with science itself. Its still not clear to me what comrade LBird is attempting to do.

Of course, all of this means that scientists will have little care for "democracy." Why should they? Why should experts bow down to the power of people who can never understand much about the highly specialized subjects they study? But they are still answering to someone. They answer to other scientists. Of course, there is a clear political connection here. Should revolutionary minorities be expected to bow down to democratic public opinion? Who do revolutionary parties answer to? Isn't the answer that they have to answer to one another? If the ICT puts forward some preposterous theory or they make claims that are simply not supported by evidence, we would hope that the ICC would hold them accountable and vice versa. But nobody should expect the democratic masses to hold the revolutionary minorities (experts) in check, should they?

This seems to lead us to only a few possible outcomes. 1.) there is an inherent contradiction between science and democracy and either we face a.) the kind of dilemna described by Weber, the Frankfurt school and others of a passive society administered by scientific experts or b.) the masses construct a political power that regulates and dominates the scientific community (based on what is not clear, ethics? utility? respect for the "rights of man"?) But this seems like it would inevitably necessitate censorship, repression and a state power or 2.) We imagine a world described by Jaycee in which we have a true Hegelian transcendence of science in the unity of subject and object expressed in communism. Science is not necessary; because we are no longer alienated from nature.

Its not clear to me why this later option is "positivist." Utopian? Perhaps; Hegelian magic? OK, I see that. But positivist? I don't see it. Wouldn't positivism entail a seperation between subject and object that is pierced only occasionally by scientific research carried out by scientific experts? It seems that in the vision described above, this seperation simply no longer exists and there is therefore nothing for a scientific elite to do. This is why I see a real difference between LBird and Jaycee's approach above. They simply do not describe the same thing. It appears Fred doesn't like to see difficult conundrums and would like to think that LBird and Jaycee aren't far apart, but I think there are some very important differences that lead to very difficult conclusions.

Fred
In searching for conundrums

In searching for conundrums jk I think you may be missing out on the jocular side of life ie. is not LBird's reference to science as "magic" a joke, or what would have once been called "wit". Likewise scientists as "High Priests"; which in a way they are. A bit like high powered consultants in health services. (watch tbe way lower staff like nurses treat them.). I admit I might well have missed differences between LBird and Jaycee., my attention often falters. But if there are important differences leading to differing conclusions, why don't you tell us what they are instead of slapping poor old Fred?

Also. I am puzzled by your sentence "But nobody should expect the democratic masses to hold the revolutionary minorities (experts) in check, should they?". Well, I'm not sure who you mean by "democratic masses"but if it were to include the workers in the Kronstadt garrison then they did correctly try to hold their revolutionary minority in check, and paid a price. Also, revolutionary minorities - do they usually claim a sort of "expertise " like scientists and technocrats? - do well to heed and listen to democratic masses. After all, it was the democratic masses who invented the workers' soviet as a means of governance, not the revolutionary minority, who only realized the creative achievement of the democratic masses after the event.

Nor do I like jk your sentence: "Why should experts bow down to the power of people who can never understand much about the highly specialized subjects they study?". BOW DOWN is significant of a rather elitist attitude. Perhaps "why should experts listen..." would have been better. But then why shouldn't "experts" listen? "PEOPLE WHO CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND" I find very objectionable jk. How do you know they can never understand? Just because, under present circumstances, most of us have never had even a chance of a decent scientific education,doesn't mean that all of us are eternally incapable of grasping the essentials of "highly specialized subjects" especially as we start to build communism and our minds are finally opened to development and growth.

I think you've broached a conundrum here jk, and this is one that gets my goat. And Fred's too!

LBird
The 'revealed Truth', and it's not pretty!

Thanks for your considered reply, jk1921. Since you seem to be my main protagonist at the moment, rather than go round in circles and repeat myself about ‘science’, I’ll address this post to what I consider to be your personal assumptions and opinions. Please don’t take this as a ‘personal attack’: I’m merely trying to emphasise the philosophical differences between us two, the better to illustrate the wider debate on this thread. I’m sure that many (ordinary people and Communists) share your axioms: it’s just that I don’t, and I think these contrasting assumptions form the basis of the differences between our differing views of ‘science’.

I think our differences lie essentially in our contrasting views of humans and authority.

jk1921’s assumptions.

jk1921 wrote:
Science explains to us…

I think you have illusions in the ‘objectivity’ of science: ‘science’ is a human activity

jk1921 wrote:
Humans are falliable, but the process of peer review, discussion and debate among scientifically trained peers will eventually allow us to get it right, i.e. eliminate the human factor.

You assume humans can be ‘eliminated from science': this is a return to 19th century positivism.

jk1921 wrote:
But I think the point of science--at least as it has been constructed in modernity from the Enlightenment--is that it is always ongoing, always improving, always in process. Scientists might screw things up, but there is always another scientist waiting in the wings to correct them. This might be the "bourgeois" view of science.

You assume science is always ‘progressing’: I think this is bourgeois ideology, much the same as they claim neo-classical economics is a ‘progression’ beyond the Political Economists and the labour theory of value. Science can turn into a human-inspired cul-de-sac.

jk1921 wrote:
Kuhn has a different, less linear, view of the scientific process--science can get locked into paradigms that discipline heretics; but eventually these paradigms explode and there is something like progress taking place?

Kuhn’s (1962) notions of ‘paradigms exploding’ (with a clear winner emerging) has been surpassed by Lakatos’ (1974) concept of ‘research programmes competing in parallel’: there can be more than one answer (and no clear winner), according to science.

jk1921 wrote:
But there is still the idea of "science" as the ultimate authority. Its what gives Marxists their own authority, grounds Marxism in something other than a mere "will to power," alllowing it in true Enlightenment style to unite all of humanity behind its banner.

You see science as authority for Marxists: on the contrary, Communism will be the authority for science. Also, the ‘will to power’ is a Nietzschean concept rooted in human individuals: the third alternative (which you miss in your ‘science/will’ dichotomy) is that power is rooted in social structures, which must be under our control. This is not a personal ‘will to power’, but all humans taking control of their society.

jk1921 wrote:
Of course, all of this means that scientists will have little care for "democracy." Why should they? Why should experts bow down to the power of people who can never understand much about the highly specialized subjects they study? But they are still answering to someone. They answer to other scientists. Of course, there is a clear political connection here. Should revolutionary minorities be expected to bow down to democratic public opinion? Who do revolutionary parties answer to? Isn't the answer that they have to answer to one another? …But nobody should expect the democratic masses to hold the revolutionary minorities (experts) in check, should they?

This is breathtakingly authoritarian! It is suspicious of ‘people’, anti-democratic, and, to me, carries undertones of an Anarchistic ‘fear of power’ (of individuals dominated by the mob), and claims science must always be a minority activity, given the danger of ‘thick’ plebs sticking their unwanted noses into matters that they don’t understand and don’t concern them.

My comments.

Fear of the mob and its democracy hides behind a mask of pseudo-individuality, and brings forth a self-selecting cognoscenti, whether Leninist professional revolutionaries, scientists or priests.

Because I place ‘class’ first, I am compelled to support democratic methods of control over all ‘self-selecting cognoscenti’. In this assumption, I believe I have the authority of Marx.

Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, 3, wrote:
The materialist doctrine [eg. ‘objective’ science, positivism] concerning the changing of circumstances and upbringing forgets that circumstances are changed by …[humanity] and that it is essential to educate the educator himself. This doctrine must, therefore, divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society.

Communists cannot ‘divide society into two parts’, viz ‘scientists’ and ‘the rest’. The process towards Communism is the self-education of the proletariat, in all aspects of controls of human activity, including ‘science’ Humanity must be its own authority.

[I was writing this when Fred posted, and I fully support his response, too]

Alf
One science

This is the passage where Marx predicts that "there will be one science" in the communist future. It's in the chapter 'Private Property and Communism' of the 1844 Manuscripts: 

 

"Sense-perception (see Feuerbach) must be the basis of all science. Only when it proceeds from sense-perception in the two-fold form ofsensuous consciousness and sensuous need – is it true science. All history is the history of preparing and developing “man” to become the object of sensuous consciousness, and turning the requirements of “man as man” into his needs. History itself is a real part of natural history – of nature developing into man. Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science"

 

I think it would be worth discussing this passage in depth, taking in the context of the whole chapter. I was encouraged to see jk1921 feeling a kinship with jaycee's vision of communism as transcendance. Especially because I have sometimes thought jk was tempted by empiricism, and jaycee by 'anti-science'.

 

LBird
One human science

Marx wrote:
Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science

This means the human study of nature and the human study of society will become one scientific method, and reject the nonsense that the study of nature is 'objective' (in the 'positivist' sense), whilst the study of society is 'subjective' (in the 'mere opinion' sense).

But that scientific method will be the one I outlined earlier: society, ideology, theory, method, empirical research, and repeat, ad infinitum, using the cognitive method where subject, object and knowledge always remain separate entities. Subject interrogates object and produces knowledge, which is a partial truth.

I think my differences with both jk1921 and jaycee remain, as far as I can tell.

jaycee
Two quick questions lbird,

Two quick questions

lbird, what do you think the 'science of man' refers to?

personally i see that as a reference to philosophy and religion in particular (obviously including things like history, economics etc)

Also what do you see as the main difference between what i am saying, what Jk is saying and what you are saying?

LBird
Two quick answers

jaycee wrote:
Two quick questions

lbird, what do you think the 'science of man' refers to?

personally i see that as a reference to philosophy and religion in particular (obviously including things like history, economics etc)

As I've already said, 'the science of man' (sic) refers to the study of human society.

And, being a materialist, not an idealist, I'd reverse your list of 'particulars' to 'economics, society and history (and secondarily including philosophy and religion)'.

jaycee wrote:
Also what do you see as the main difference between what i am saying, what Jk is saying and what you are saying?

I think you are an idealist, with your prioritising of religion, myths, etc., over material factors (which I see as the basis of religion, myths, etc). I'm not sure if your tag is relevent here (jaycee, jc, jesus christ)?

I think jk1921 has been over-influenced by bourgeois accounts (esp. positivist, 'objective' ones) of what 'science' is, but if they retain their open-mindedness and read some later (still bourgeois!) accounts of 'science', eg. Imre Lakatos, they'll move to the more profound insights provided, which I'd argue then provide a springboard for a more complete proletarian account of a single science, as hoped for by Marx.

jaycee
jaycee is my initals not

jaycee is my initals not his 

i don't think i'm an idealist really, I agree with the materialist method in studying history and I definately see the material/social roots of much of what is now 'religion'. The history of religion is an area which has been too much ignored by the Marxist movement but I agree with Marx's view that communism is the 'carrying out of the old dreams' or is the way in which all the dreams of humanities past which have ALL been religious. Somewhere else Marx makes the point that untill the present age all the best thinkers were idealist. To me the idea of not taking something seriously because it is 'idealist' or under the umbrella of religion is un-|Marxist. This isn't a criticism of you but just a general trend in marxism.

This is why I have a problem with 'science' as it is understood now, it is a very singular world-view, completely different to any other human era of society. In some ways that has made it among the greatest developments of humanity in some ways but also one of the blindest. 

There was a programme on yesterday that illustrates the limitations of science very well. It was about the scientific theories of 'inspiration'. The only thing science can say about consciousness is 'it's these little bits of the brain that do it'. To me that tells you nothing at least nothing of great worth. This is the problem with science under the bourgeoisie. Science under the bougeoisie is intimately connected to the process of making existence into a 'thing' into a machine, mechanistic thinking, in killing (or deadening any way) the universe and our connections with it. This is a historical process that has alienated humanity to its greatest levels in history. The connection between these things also has not been studied enough by Marxists/Marxism.

 

 

LBird
Science and method

Thanks for the clarification about your tag, jaycee.

On science, you'd have to point out what you think its method should be. As I've said before, and I'm willing to discuss his ideas if other posters want to, I think Imre Lakatos provides a good starting point upon which we can build a better scientific method.

jk1921
Empiricism Vs. Positivism

Alf wrote:

I think it would be worth discussing this passage in depth, taking in the context of the whole chapter. I was encouraged to see jk1921 feeling a kinship with jaycee's vision of communism as transcendance. Especially because I have sometimes thought jk was tempted by empiricism, and jaycee by 'anti-science'.

 

That depends on what you mean by "empiricism." Unfortunately, it seems to be a term that is kind of thrown around like an epithet in Marxist circles w/o a clear definition of what it means (kind of like science). If by empiricism it is meant the need to formulate statements that are empirically testable, reproducible, falsifiable then I guess I am guilty. But, this should not be confused with "positivism," which assumes that critique is impossible from a scientific standpoint and all science can do is reflect back what exists, i.e. the status quo. I am all for preserving a critical standpoint--the question is can it be done scientifically, without merely reflecting the status quo?

We should acknowledge that we are not the first people to broach these issues. They have been major problems in Marxism for at least a century. Personally, I find myself increasingly drawn to Habermas's problematic, which can be summed up as how to preserve Marxist critique, while at the same time maintaining some commitment to making empirically verifiable statements. Of course, Habermas has written well over twenty books on the question and its unclear if he has "solved" this problem. Its also unclear just how many people actually understand what the heck he is saying. Moreover, his politics absolutely suck--a liberal social democrat at best. This raises the question of whether or not a methodological commitment to empirical verification ineveitbaly leads to such politics or can this still be reconciled with a revolutionary vision? Or does revolutionary politics require either A.) a crass caricature of Leninism or B.) some notion of Hegelian transcendence, (which has been thouroughly attacked as unscientific and utopian)?

But the issue of Habermas politics is illustrative. I say his politics "suck"? Thus, I am putting my committment to revolution in front of everything else, including a commitment to empirical reality and scientific truth. But If his system is truly scientific, i.e. is the only rational way to integrate critique with science, then his politics can't "suck;"  In fact, they become the only scientific way of doing politics that is possible. Everything else is an irrational, emotion driven, ideological, will to power.

These debates seem to echo in many ways the controversy over Neo-Kantianism in the Second International, that was "solved" in several ways--a turn to positivism, Leninist elitism (the caricature of Leninism that is), and Hegelian transcendence (Luxemburg, Pannekoek)

jk1921
Expertise

Fred wrote:
In searching for conundrums

I don't think I had to look too far for this conundrum, Fred. Its fairly obvious, isn't it?

Fred wrote:

Also. I am puzzled by your sentence "But nobody should expect the democratic masses to hold the revolutionary minorities (experts) in check, should they?". Well, I'm not sure who you mean by "democratic masses"but if it were to include the workers in the Kronstadt garrison then they did correctly try to hold their revolutionary minority in check, and paid a price. Also, revolutionary minorities - do they usually claim a sort of "expertise " like scientists and technocrats? - do well to heed and listen to democratic masses. After all, it was the democratic masses who invented the workers' soviet as a means of governance, not the revolutionary minority, who only realized the creative achievement of the democratic masses after the event.

Well Fred, you got me on the Kronstadt example, but my point wasn't meant in that way. I meant something more like--you won't see the ICC take a public opinion poll of the working class prior to its next Congress in order to figure out what it thinks and adjust its analyses and politics according to whatever the masses have in their heads at a given moment. Revolutionary minorities base these things on some kind of scientific analysis of the historical conjuncture from the point of view of Marxism. So yes, they do claim a sort of "expertise," "authority" or whatever. If they didn't there would be no reason to listen to them or care what they think, no reason to read their articles, because we would know it all already.

Fred wrote:

Nor do I like jk your sentence: "Why should experts bow down to the power of people who can never understand much about the highly specialized subjects they study?". BOW DOWN is significant of a rather elitist attitude. Perhaps "why should experts listen..." would have been better. But then why shouldn't "experts" listen? "PEOPLE WHO CAN NEVER UNDERSTAND" I find very objectionable jk. How do you know they can never understand? Just because, under present circumstances, most of us have never had even a chance of a decent scientific education,doesn't mean that all of us are eternally incapable of grasping the essentials of "highly specialized subjects" especially as we start to build communism and our minds are finally opened to development and growth.

Not to be coy, but I really hope the neurologist who is going to perform a procedure on me next week, doesn't ask me for any input on it. If he does, I will get up, walk out and find another one, becuase it would be really bad medicine to ask an ignorant patient for input. That doesn't mean I couldn't be a neurologist, but I couldn't be a neurologist, architect, argonomist and a engineer at the same time. Therefore, there is always some area of highly specialized knowledge that will escape me and will require me to consult an expert about a subject I can never understand--at least under capitalism. Similarly, no matter how hard a world traveler tried, he/she will never be able to speak and understand every single language spoken in the world, so they would inevitably need a translator at some point in their travels. This of course raises the issue of the division of labour and the practicality of its transcendence under communism, which is of course related to the issue of whether or not science itself can be transcended.

I think I did spell out what I think the difference are between LBird and Jaycee's approach.

jk1921
Interesting points

jaycee wrote:

i don't think i'm an idealist really, I agree with the materialist method in studying history and I definately see the material/social roots of much of what is now 'religion'. The history of religion is an area which has been too much ignored by the Marxist movement but I agree with Marx's view that communism is the 'carrying out of the old dreams' or is the way in which all the dreams of humanities past which have ALL been religious. Somewhere else Marx makes the point that untill the present age all the best thinkers were idealist. To me the idea of not taking something seriously because it is 'idealist' or under the umbrella of religion is un-|Marxist. This isn't a criticism of you but just a general trend in marxism.

Very interesting points, but I wonder if there is a hint of the attitude in here that one often hears from  religious thinkers that those who believe only in science are somehow debased, alienated, sorry people, who simply cannot get in touch with a universal human spiritual reality.

The "new atheism" is very aggressive on this point, rebuking these kinds of claims and pointing out that many people can live just fine without believing in illusions, fantasies and false unities. They are secure with the fact that they will die, there is no after life, no real meaning to anything, no comfort in faith, we are all just space dust, etc. What is wrong with accepting this? How does this hurt the Marxist project?

It seems there is a contraditction here between the Enlightenment project of "disenchantment" (which Marxism is part of) and the desire for life to have some kind of ulitmate meaning. Its Weber's diemna of rationalization as "loss of meaning" rearing its ugly head. Can we have both a scientific world view and avoid the problem of "loss of meaning"?

LBird
Going round in circles

jk1921, post 82, wrote:
That depends on what you mean by "empiricism."

How about:

jk1921, post 83, wrote:
Not to be coy, but I really hope the neurologist who is going to perform a procedure on me next week, doesn't ask me for any input on it. If he does, I will get up, walk out and find another one, becuase it would be really bad medicine to ask an ignorant patient for input. That doesn't mean I couldn't be a neurologist, but I couldn't be a neurologist, architect, argonomist and a engineer at the same time. Therefore, there is always some area of highly specialized knowledge that will escape me and will require me to consult an expert about a subject I can never understand--at least under capitalism.

Experience, not thought;

I, not we;

'common sense', not theory;

elite truth, not collective knowledge;

ignorance accepted, not explained.

If we can't raise the discussion above 'man-in-the-pub' prejudice, then we won't get anywhere. Anyone, with any politics, could have written this, jk.

I'm disappointed that the discussion has reverted to personal opinion, after the thread had seemed to be progressing. We must discuss a way forward: if something has been said which others don't understand, then questions must be asked, and better explanations given.

Just saying, in effect, 'Well, I think...', or 'Well, it's my opinion...' without responding to what's been outlined, is 'Well, ironically, unscientific'.

And we wouldn't want that, would we?

LBird
Further explanation

jk1921, perhaps some further explanation from me would help. If you read my post 65, I categorise three positions on cognition. In shorthand, in relation to science, these could be said to be:

1. (objective, positivism, empiricism) I am passive...

2. (subjective, relativism) I am active...

3. (interaction, Marxism) We are active...

Your post 83 clearly falls into the category of number 1.

Further, we could say:

1. I am passive and accept knowledge from reality...

2. I am active and create reality and knowledge...

3. We are active and produce knowledge from reality...

And:

1. My method gives expert, absolute truth... who I am to question an expert?

2. My method gives my truth, which is as good as anyone else's... who is any expert to question me?

3. Our method produces partial truths... we are the experts who question ourselves.

Hope this helps.

LBird
The storm is here

And for my comrade, Fred, who demands some Art with his Science...

The Doors wrote:
Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house we're born
Into this world we're thrown...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKbPUzhWeeI

Now, for some proletarian criticism... After such a good social start, stressing human interaction with nature, it descends into individualist passive empiricism and navel-gazing...

Fred
The Beatles "WE CAN WORK IT

The Beatles "WE CAN WORK IT OUT" is better.

[quote=Beatles] While you see it your way, there's a chance that we might fall part before too long. We can work it out. We can work it out.

Life is very short, and there's no time for fussing and fighting my friend.
We can work it out. [quote/]

jk1921
Truth

LBird wrote:

. Anyone, with any politics, could have written this, jk.

Probably because its true and you don't need a specialized scientific understanding of anything to recognize it. Its one of those instances when common sense makes sense.

jk1921
Humility

LBird wrote:

jk1921, perhaps some further explanation from me would help. If you read my post 65, I categorise three positions on cognition. In shorthand, in relation to science, these could be said to be:

1. (objective, positivism, empiricism) I am passive...

2. (subjective, relativism) I am active...

3. (interaction, Marxism) We are active...

Your post 83 clearly falls into the category of number 1.

Further, we could say:

1. I am passive and accept knowledge from reality...

2. I am active and create reality and knowledge...

3. We are active and produce knowledge from reality...

And:

1. My method gives expert, absolute truth... who I am to question an expert?

2. My method gives my truth, which is as good as anyone else's... who is any expert to question me?

3. Our method produces partial truths... we are the experts who question ourselves.

Hope this helps.

 

Unfortunately, it doesn't. I do not see how your method #3 really gets out of the contradictions between #1 and #2. It wants to have its cake and eat it too. It accepts objective reality and knowledge, but then attempts to escape positivism by referencing "partial truth." It seems to me that partial truth requires at least partial empirical verification. Whether you are positing 100 percent correspondence between reality and scientific knowledge, 50 percent or 2 percent--the problems of empirical verification, falsification and reproducibility remain. Moreover, I dont think making the Carrtesian cogito plural does anything either. Whether the voice is singular or plural the same old problems remain.

"We are the experts who question ourselves"? This sounds awfully self-referential and circular. If you had said, "We are the experts and we are questioned by other experts," well then maybe that would make sense. But ultimately, science has to be questioned by reality. Reality is the ultimate interrogator of whether or not our theories of the world are correct. 

Regardless of this, I do not accept the charge that I am tending towards positivism. We all accept that scientific truth must be tied, grounded in some way, to reality. Moreover, we all accept the problem that a crude empircism can lead to simply accepting and reproducing the status quo. It becomes conservative and serves to legitmate bourgeois reality. We all agree with that and I certainly accept the Marxist perogative for critique. However, I am simply not in a place where I think these dilemnas, which have existed for a long time, are easily solved. I really do not understand the certainty with which some comrades approach these broad questions--as if they can be transcended with the stroke of a pen in an Hegelian rhetorical flourish. I think these issues require a sense of humility in the face of very tough questions that is far too often missing from debates.

jaycee
LBird: I would be interested

LBird: I would be interested in hearing about Lakatos' views and why you see them as important.

In terms of method there is not much I can say but I think the changes I would hope for in a communist society would be more on the level of the underlying assumptions/conscisousness and role and aims of science.

JK: I know what you mean about coming across like I'm condemning people for just following scientific evidence, I would say the point is that religion and science have proven to be unable (on their own) to 'save' humanity, to bring humanity out of it's alienated and degraded state. Obviosly this is because both 'science' and religion have so far been unable to link themselves to a real social body that could make the appropriate social changes to allow this to happen.

Religious believers on average are no less alienated than 'hard nosed empircist atheists' but I would also say the opposite is true, atheists are on average just as alienated as religious believers. The difference is that religion contain in itself (especially the religions of the East but also the mystical traditions in the West) a real tradition of a systematic attempt to transcend this state, at least for a chosen minority so far-our aim is obviously to make this possible for greter numbers and maybe eventually for everyone.

You say that Marxism is linked to the process of disenchantment and I suppose it is in many ways but rememebr what Marx says about criticism not leaving man to wear the chains without consolation but to pluck the living flower, to me this can only mean talking what is true and meaningful from the worlds religious traditions.

 

LBird
'Common sense' defends the status quo

jk1921 wrote:

LBird wrote:

. Anyone, with any politics, could have written this, jk.

Probably because its true and you don't need a specialized scientific understanding of anything to recognize it. Its one of those instances when common sense makes sense.

I can't pretend that I'm not shocked that a comrade could write this.

Since when has 'common sense' been a measure of things for a Communist?

The ideology that stresses 'common sense' is conservativism. Perhaps things are worse than I had anticipated, and it's not just 'science' that is in need of discussion, but political philosophy, too. I had assumed I was discussing 'science' with 'Communists', not just the 'general public'. If the ideas of the 'general public' are to be represented on this thread, all well and good, but then we need to deepen the discussion to convince others posters of 'Communist' ideas, first.

LBird
Brief Lakatos

jaycee wrote:
LBird: I would be interested in hearing about Lakatos' views and why you see them as important.

jaycee, please forgive this simplistic potted history, and read further!

If we see the philosophy of science as developing throughout the 20th century, then we can place Lakatos at the peak of that continuing process, so far. It started with Karl Popper, writing in the 1930s/40s who made it plain that humans were actively involved with creating scientific knowledge (thus destroying  19th century Positivist notions of passive ‘objective science' producing The Truth). His big idea was ‘Falsificationism’. Since humans were now seen as at the heart of ‘science’, the next step was taken by Thomas Kuhn in 1962 who argued that humans worked within ‘Paradigms’, like Newtonian or Einsteinian physics. After a period of conflict, a later paradigm proved more successful and replaced the earlier. Lakatos in 1974 claimed that ‘Research Programmes’ didn’t replace each other, but that they continued to work in parallel, and that conflict was endemic to science.

jaycee wrote:
In terms of method there is not much I can say but I think the changes I would hope for in a communist society would be more on the level of the underlying assumptions/conscisousness and role and aims of science.

This is precisely what Lakatos argued: that ‘underlying assumptions’ determined the ‘role and aims of science’.

Lakatos argued that science consisted of ‘Research Programmes’, which had at their heart a ‘Hard Core’ of ‘irrefutable axioms’, which cannot be ‘refuted’ by ‘empirical evidence’. These ‘irrefutable axioms’ are pre-determined ‘facts’, beliefs, faith, ‘obvious truths’, pre-existing ‘laws’. Put simply, no scientist starts from a blank, passive, disinterested, completely open viewpoint. All scientists are brought up in society, which educates them about ‘society’ and trains them about ‘science’. Around the ‘Hard Core’, Lakatos argued that there was a ‘protective belt’ of ‘Refutable Variants’, which are a series of more flexible auxiliary hypotheses and conditions that can be slowly changed due to empirical evidence, but only if these changes don’t threaten the very heart of the Research Programme. He maintained that the Hard Core provided a ‘Negative Heuristic’, which told adherents within the science community which paths of research to avoid (no ‘witches’ or ‘spells’ allowed as explanations!), and that the Refutable Variants provided a ‘Positive Heuristic’, which pointed scientific adherents in a particular direction: hints, models, suggestions, problematics, avenues of research, etc. Crucially, Lakatos argued that empirical inconsistencies were just ‘ignored’, treated as ‘anomalies’, ‘puzzles’, even ‘nonsense’, or at best as ‘unsolved problems’ to be left until ‘later’.

I think that to take Lakatos further (as suggested by Callinicos), it doesn’t need much of a jump to see ‘ideology’ as part of a Research Programme. So, we could regard Communism, Conservativism and Liberalism as ‘Research Programmes’, which contain adherents who are also scientists, and that part of any ‘Hard Core’ in R. P.s contain ‘political concepts’. So, ‘science’ and ‘humans’ are inseparable.

Personally, I think this leaves open the question of whether ‘religion’ can be ‘scientific’, and I would answer ‘Yes’. I think ‘Creationism’ can be viewed as a ‘Science’ (a Research Programme), and that it must be criticised and rejected from the viewpoint of a different R. P. There is no ‘just science’. If the Hard Core says the earth was born in October 4004 BC (or whenever), then for the purposes of this science, any evidence which contradicts this is just plain wrong (God can trick us?).

Perhaps a bit like jk1921’s ‘common sense’ just rejects out-of-hand any talk of ‘theories of cognition’, whatever their scientific merit in explaining issues.

Hope this helps, and please accept that this is an internet post and, of necessity, brief and probably incorrect at points of detail (and through omission).

[edit]

A link that provides some discussion of Lakatos:

http://www.academia.edu/863058/Lakatos_notion_of_a_Research_Programme._Does_it_succeed_in_saving_the_notion_of_scientific_progress

[end edit]

Demogorgon
If all that is being said is

If all that is being said is that any framework of thought proceeds from certain assumptions, one might almost say this meets the Lakotosian definition of pseudo-science in that it offers no new facts or predictions of facts. Didn't he think that this made Darwin's theory of evolution pseudo-science? I must mention this the next time I pass the Biology department; it's been a long time since I've been properly lynched!

One big assumption both science and marxism have in common, of course, is the acceptance of a world external to consciousness. This is, of course, entirely unproveable but it does have the benefit of parsimony with regards to the evidence and it's rather difficult to proceed in either theory or practice unless you accept it.

Surely the real difference between science and religion is what sorts of assumptions it permits and what they are based on?

jk1921
General public

LBird wrote:

If the ideas of the 'general public' are to be represented on this thread, all well and good, but then we need to deepen the discussion to convince others posters of 'Communist' ideas, first.

I thought it was the general public that was supposed to keep the scientists in check or is it only the members of the general public who are communists?

LBird, I am not sure what is animating the shock you are feeling. I responded to Fred's post where he took umbrage at my suggestion that there may be specialized areas of knowledge beyond the mastery of the general population with a concrete example that broaches the issue of the division of labour. I think you are personalizing the debate a bit and I really don't appreciate your suggestion that my example was somehow un-Marxist.

 

jk1921
Materialism

Demogorgon wrote:

One big assumption both science and marxism have in common, of course, is the acceptance of a world external to consciousness. This is, of course, entirely unproveable but it does have the benefit of parsimony with regards to the evidence and it's rather difficult to proceed in either theory or practice unless you accept it.

I think the big assumption is that both science and Marxism are based on materialism, posit that there is a material world outside of human consciounsess and that it is at least partially knowable through the scientific method.

jk1921
What is true in religion?

jaycee wrote:

You say that Marxism is linked to the process of disenchantment and I suppose it is in many ways but rememebr what Marx says about criticism not leaving man to wear the chains without consolation but to pluck the living flower, to me this can only mean talking what is true and meaningful from the worlds religious traditions.

 

So, what is it exactly that is true and meaningful in the world's religions? What is the core of truth? Didn't Feurbach write that God was but man's alienated vision of himself? What, then, is man's unalienated vision of himself? Wouldn't this involve science? Anthropology perhaps?

LBird
Science, the religion disseminated by the powerful?

jk1921 wrote:
I think you are personalizing the debate a bit and I really don't appreciate your suggestion that my example was somehow un-Marxist.

I apologise if you think I am 'personalising' the debate, but since you fail to respond to any arguments presented for discussion (cognition, research programmes), and just keep re-iterating your pre-existing personal opinions about 'common sense', I'm not sure that I can develop the debate without responding at your level. What is 'Marxist' about 'common sense'?

Why not discuss what's been outlined? Which 'theory of cognition' do you subscribe to? Do you think Kuhn's 'paradigms' are better than Lakatos' 'research programmes' for conceptualising how science works in practice?

Or are you just going to continue with uncomprehending jibes?

jk1921 wrote:
I thought it was the general public that was supposed to keep the scientists in check or is it only the members of the general public who are communists?

Why do you have such high regard for 'scientists'? Do you think it is 'natural', and just your 'personal opinion', or do you think that it's just a little bit possible that the bourgeoisie want you (and everybody else) to think that way? What do you think of the hypothesis that 'science' is the final bastion of 'unquestioned' (and 'unquestionable') authority for the ruling class?

Is 'science' an activity that will always remain outside of our democratic control?

If you answer 'Yes', then doesn't this separate society into two parts, one of which is superior to society?

These are serious political questions, not just related to the realm of 'science', and best left to 'scientists'.

LBird
Science uber alles?

Today's Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/dash-for-cash-is-stopping-science-in-its-tracks-claims-nobel-winner-8539744.html

The Independent wrote:
Another problem is that scientists begin to feel ashamed of negative results, which wasn’t the case a few years ago. Negative results are often as important as the positive results. The current system doesn’t tolerate failure.

'Shame'? From 'scientists'? Surely, according to the 'non-socially-created method of science' argued for by some here, such a human response has no place in 'science'?

Whatever happened to the much-vaunted 'objectivity' of these experts who we are expected to trust, as being above human concerns.

Shame in physics? Now, who'd've thought that!

jk1921
You should tone it down

LBird wrote:

Or are you just going to continue with uncomprehending jibes

LBird, I wasn't responding to you with the example I was giving--I was responding to Fred, so I feel no requirement to get drawn into a discussion of your pet theories.

But "uncomprehending jibes"? Surely, you can do better than that, comrade? I appreciate you feel you have discovered the theory of the milenmium with Lakatos, but your arrogance towards those who aren't entireley convinced isn't going to win you many converts.

[quote=LBird]

LBird
Tone?

jk1921 wrote:
...pet theories...discovered the theory of the milenmium...your arrogance...converts...

jk, I'm trying to discuss 'science', and continually give explanations in my own words to try to help comrades, extracts from authorities, links to articles and references to books for further reading, and try to marshal and defend an argument, the larger part of which has been put forward by the foremost bourgeois philosphers of science.

You?

'Common sense' answers, no sign of having read widely about these debates, no engagement with the original ideas of Popper, Kuhn or Lakatos, the commentary of Chalmers, Marks or Schaff...

I think 'uncomprehending jibes' just about sums up the content of the above words of yours.

Why not engage, rather than just repeat what you have been taught about bourgeois science?

I'm arguing that 'science', as you see it, is a bourgeois myth. You can't just keep repeating "No it isn't", without refuting what, ironically, the study of the actual practice of science seems to be able to teach us.

I always think that comrades, who have come to understand that 'the free market' is a lie, should relatively easily be able to use that insight to realise that their 'science' is a lie, too.

The two internationalist pillars of bourgeois authority are markets and science. They tell us that there is 'No Alternative' to either. We, as Communists, have to challenge both.

If you disagree, that's fine. But surely the onus is on you, rather than disparaging me, to provide evidence, eh, comrade?

Fred
In response to jk LBird

In response to jk LBird said:

Quote:
I'm arguing that 'science', as you see it, is a bourgeois myth. You can't just keep repeating "No it isn't", without refuting what, ironically, the study of the actual practice of science seems to be able to teach us.

I'm not sure that I altogether agree with LBird's statement - identifying myself as a member of "the general public" (lol) rather than one of jk's ubiquitous "experts"- but I like to see the bourgeoisie's insistence on science as unchallengeable being challenged.

jk's defense of science as being the underpinnings of Marxism is disquieting. I would prefer Marxism, or a Marxist society, to be the basic essential for scientific exploration. But then it sometimes appears that jk views communism as being more or less a continuation of capitalism but without capital punishment. Why do I say such a nonsensical thing? Because jk seems to assume (for the sake of argument) that all the divisiveness of this bourgeoisie society - the compartmentalization of the professions, engineering, unskilled labour etc., the strict separation of work and leisure; education as a procedure that turns out people with various restrictive qualifications that will restrict them to certain work for all their lives; people as specialists and "experts" labelled and placed in a box eternally; the imprisonment of daily life, the rat race, the psychological imprisonment of thought in the serpentine crush of bourgeois ideology- that all this bourgeois horror stuff will be carried over into communism. And what is communism anyway but the dumb democracy of the proletarian dictatorship acting to frustrate the marvelous works of the scientific elite? But if communism isn't going to be absolutely and completely different from capitalism, in every way, then why would anybody want it?

To my way of thinking, in unleashing all the repressed energy and talents of suffering humanity, communism will thus have found the way to solve many if not all of the apparently insolvable problems of this society, many of which are actual products of this society. Take health for example. There is so much sickness in this society; so much cancer, heart disease, weariness and unhappiness. Is it not possible that these might largely disappear with the removal of capitalism? And in breaking down divisions between people, and in opening up educational projects that relate to life and all its needs, will this not produce generations of skilled people in all walks of life, that will come to dwarf today's limited "experts", scientists and specialists; the educated and privileged elite whose function is to serve the limited needs of the bourgeoisie?

Communism will be (would be!) so different from this current mess, that it's difficult for us to imagine it. But to even suppose that its mass democracy could somehow limit the growth and development of science, is an absurdity. For that would not be communism at all, but a continuation of this hell.

If I have taken your name in vain jk, or misrepresented your views, then I am sorry.

LBird
Fred, the poet-scientist?

Fred, post 11, wrote:
LBird. I so agree with everything you've said in your posts above, and the way in which you've said it, that I'm lost for words. But thank you comrade, so much.

Since you crafted the compliment first, Fred, I can only echo your originality:

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

Fred wrote:
I'm not sure that I altogether agree with LBird's statement - identifying myself as a member of "the general public" (lol) rather than one of jk's ubiquitous "experts"- but I like to see the bourgeoisie's insistence on science as unchallengeable being challenged.

You're just a Commie troublemaker, Fred!

But the 'challenge' must come from a class that has come to consciousness of these fundamental issues affecting humanity. Some bourgeois thought is inevitably necessary as grounding, but we have to build upon their "expert insights", with a hefty dose of proletarian democratic discussion.

As you allude, if the 'general public' can't do this (given their Communist development, of course), who is going to? To me, Communism must involve the vast majority of humanity voluntarily choosing it.

With 'class consciousness', of course, not 'party consciousness'...

Oops, wrong thread!

MH
!

Fred wrote:
. But then it sometimes appears that jk views communism as being more or less a continuation of capitalism but without capital punishment. [...]  If I have taken your name in vain jk, or misrepresented your views, then I am sorry.

wtf!

Even allowing for a healthy dose of tongue in cheek this reads as just gratuitous. Unfortunately this initially promising thread seems to have become increasingly and unnecessarily polarised. 

And I have to say, reading back through it, on the whole the contributions of jk1921 seem to have been shrilly exaggerated and misrepresented by some.

jk1921 wrote:
I think the big assumption is that both science and Marxism are based on materialism, posit that there is a material world outside of human consciounsess and that it is at least partially knowable through the scientific method.

Sounds to me like a pretty solid basis for discussion....

 

 

jk1921
Where is the ICC?

Fred wrote:
In response to jk LBird said:

Quote:
I'm arguing that 'science', as you see it, is a bourgeois myth. You can't just keep repeating "No it isn't", without refuting what, ironically, the study of the actual practice of science seems to be able to teach us.
I'm not sure that I altogether agree with LBird's statement - identifying myself as a member of "the general public" (lol) rather than one of jk's ubiquitous "experts"- but I like to see the bourgeoisie's insistence on science as unchallengeable being challenged.

jk's defense of science as being the underpinnings of Marxism is disquieting. I would prefer Marxism, or a Marxist society, to be the basic essential for scientific exploration. But then it sometimes appears that jk views communism as being more or less a continuation of capitalism but without capital punishment. Why do I say such a nonsensical thing? Because jk seems to assume (for the sake of argument) that all the divisiveness of this bourgeoisie society - the compartmentalization of the professions, engineering, unskilled labour etc., the strict separation of work and leisure; education as a procedure that turns out people with various restrictive qualifications that will restrict them to certain work for all their lives; people as specialists and "experts" labelled and placed in a box eternally; the imprisonment of daily life, the rat race, the psychological imprisonment of thought in the serpentine crush of bourgeois ideology- that all this bourgeois horror stuff will be carried over into communism. And what is communism anyway but the dumb democracy of the proletarian dictatorship acting to frustrate the marvelous works of the scientific elite? But if communism isn't going to be absolutely and completely different from capitalism, in every way, then why would anybody want it?

To my way of thinking, in unleashing all the repressed energy and talents of suffering humanity, communism will thus have found the way to solve many if not all of the apparently insolvable problems of this society, many of which are actual products of this society. Take health for example. There is so much sickness in this society; so much cancer, heart disease, weariness and unhappiness. Is it not possible that these might largely disappear with the removal of capitalism? And in breaking down divisions between people, and in opening up educational projects that relate to life and all its needs, will this not produce generations of skilled people in all walks of life, that will come to dwarf today's limited "experts", scientists and specialists; the educated and privileged elite whose function is to serve the limited needs of the bourgeoisie?

Communism will be (would be!) so different from this current mess, that it's difficult for us to imagine it. But to even suppose that its mass democracy could somehow limit the growth and development of science, is an absurdity. For that would not be communism at all, but a continuation of this hell.

If I have taken your name in vain jk, or misrepresented your views, then I am sorry.

 

Not only have you misrepresented my views, you are putting words in my mouth that I never said. Where did I say communism was "capitalism without capital punishment?" Comrades are still stuck in a frame of mind where everyone is taking a position all the time, which they intend to defend on the barricades. It seems that we still have not arrived at a point in the culture of debate, where it is possible to raise tough questions, express doubts, hesitations, concerns, fears, explore potential difficulties without accusations of "anti-Marxism" being hurled about. Maybe thisis seen as too academic? Trouble making? Its pretty discouraging actually and really serves to stifle discussion by raising the spectre of intimidation.

I think this thread can go one of two ways. It can die an inglorious death as a result of its degeneration into name calling and bullying or the ICC can step in, defend the culture of debate and attempt to push the discussion past this impasse.

Fred
Regarding "capitalism without

Regarding "capitalism without capital punishment" jk. Recently, somewhere on this forum, though I can't find it now, you suggested that one measure that should be implemented during the period of transition should be the abolition of capital punishment. I agree. But it was your only suggestion for this important period and I was disappointed. I will say no more for now. I agree with MH that the thread is moving towards a polarization of views. Why is that bad?

There is a danger for me that I will misrepresent jk's views: this is because, if I can be honest, I am not sure I really know what jk's views are, but my overall impression ( not necessarily shrill) is that they seem to understand communism as being very much like capitalism; with all the bourgeoisie's elitism and compartmentalizations of life preserved intact; and the great unwashed democracy of the proletariat posing a threat to "standards".

Has there been much in the way of "name calling and bullying"?

As for MH's claim that the insight of the fact that there's a material world outside of human consciousness that is partly open to scientific analysis,and that this provides a basis for discussion ... isn't that where we started?

discussion,

LBird
Reality exists, reality exists, reality exists, reality exists..

MH wrote:
jk1921 wrote:
I think the big assumption is that both science and Marxism are based on materialism, posit that there is a material world outside of human consciounsess and that it is at least partially knowable through the scientific method.
Sounds to me like a pretty solid basis for discussion....

I sometimes wonder if anyone is actually reading the contributions to this thread.

From the very start, everybody has agreed 'that there is a material world outside of human consciousness and that it is at least partially knowable through the scientific method'.

This is not what is being 'discussed'; we all agree on this.

Some posters are arguing that individual 'common sense' is enough for humans to 'know' this reality.

Others are arguing that social theories are required for humans to 'know' this reality.

I'm also arguing that the method of 'individual common sense' is a bourgeois-inspired method, which has already been completely discredited by bourgeois philosophers and the activity of scientists themselves.

I'm also arguing that, if we accept the 'social theories' method, we have to ensure that this method is under the democratic control of humanity, not just a self-selecting society of 'experts'.

Now, if others disagree, and argue for either 'individualism' or 'experts', I think that I'm entitled to ask how these stances are compatible with Communism, which I claim involves collective democratic control.

If someone wants to argue that Communism is the complete freedom for the individual (including the 'freedom' to 'experience' reality through empirical means), mixed with a concealed contempt for the masses/mob, who have to be 'guided' by 'experts' (especially in 'science'), then they should feel free to make that argument.

Then, we'll have a 'discussion', comrades!

But let's not go round in circles...

[bangs head against really-existing brick wall...]

MH
the culture of debate and the way forward

jk1921 wrote:
It seems that we still have not arrived at a point in the culture of debate, where it is possible to raise tough questions, express doubts, hesitations, concerns, fears, explore potential difficulties without accusations of "anti-Marxism" being hurled about. Maybe this is seen as too academic? Trouble making? Its pretty discouraging actually and really serves to stifle discussion by raising the spectre of intimidation.

I think this thread can go one of two ways. It can die an inglorious death as a result of its degeneration into name calling and bullying or the ICC can step in, defend the culture of debate and attempt to push the discussion past this impasse.

I strongly agree with this point about the culture of debate, it is a more considered (and less-caffeine-fuelled) version of the point I was trying to make in my post.

Fred, I’m sure you didn’t intend it, but to accuse a comrade of “viewing communism as being more or less a continuation of capitalism but without capital punishment” is in effect to accuse them of defending capitalism! I think that takes ‘bending the stick’ just a step too far! Let’s dial down the rhetoric comrades...

As for ‘unnecessary polarisation’, Lbird jumps straight in and immediately proves my point.

LBird wrote:
Some posters are arguing that individual 'common sense' is enough for humans to 'know' this reality.

Others are arguing that social theories are required for humans to 'know' this reality.

Nobody on this thread is arguing that individual ‘common sense’ is enough for humans to ‘know’ reality! Your determined search for such straw men to knock down is one of the reasons this thread has degenerated.

LBird wrote:
Now, if others disagree, and argue for either 'individualism' or 'experts', I think that I'm entitled to ask how these stances are compatible with Communism, which I claim involves collective democratic control..

Straw man. No one is arguing for either 'individualism' or 'experts', at most there are different emphases on some questions.

LBird wrote:
If someone wants to argue that Communism is the complete freedom for the individual (including the 'freedom' to 'experience' reality through empirical means), mixed with a concealed contempt for the masses/mob, who have to be 'guided' by 'experts' (especially in 'science'), then they should feel free to make that argument.

Another straw man, which confusedly lumps together a number of different, very  important questions which need a lot more open debate, including the relationship between the individual to the collective in communism, the the nature of decision-making in communism, the possible continuing need for 'experts' in highly specialist fields, etc. 

I make no apology for reprinting jk’s statement about the starting point for a discussion about the materialist approach to understanding reality. The reactions to this only prove how far the thread has departed from it. And before anyone jumps in again, please take a deep breath and re-read jk’s point above about the culture of debate...

LBird
Straws in the wind?

MH wrote:
Nobody on this thread is arguing that individual ‘common sense’ is enough for humans to ‘know’ reality! Your determined search for such straw men to knock down is one of the reasons this thread has degenerated.

Now I know you haven't read the thread, MH!

And, for some reason unknown to me, you have decided to accuse me of causing a degeneration in the thread.

I've tried to encourage comrades to read about these issues, and when Fred congratulated me on 'my' ideas, I put him right and revealed my source. It's not about 'me'.

And instead of putting together an argument, you've accused me of building 'straw men'.

This is getting just like LibCom: avoid arguments, blame egos; next, ban 'controversialists'.

MH wrote:
I make no apology for reprinting jk’s statement about the starting point for a discussion about the materialist approach to understanding reality. The reactions to this only prove how far the thread has departed from it.

This quote only proves how far your understanding of it is. We're discussing 'science'. The only departure from that is your late intervention.

Do us a favour: read jk1921's posts, and compare them with jaycee's. jaycee asks questions; jk1921 reiterates without evidence.

MH
culture of debate

LBird, I'm sorry you didn't address the points made by jk about the way he feels this discussion is going, and the issues he raises about the culture of debate. 

The fact that this is a real issue is confirmed by your frankly disturbing suggestion that my own intervention is somehow about 'avoiding arguments, blaming egos or even banning controversialists'. This may well reflect your personal experience of leftism, or even of libcom, but you can hardly accuse the ICC of not giving you the space here to set out your views. No one is trying to close you down, we just want to have a productive debate without unnecessary obstacles getting in the way. And if, as an individual comrade, that includes what I think is over-the-top language or the setting up of false arguments to be knocked down, then I'm going to call it the way I see it.

Also, I'm getting a bit fed up with being told I haven't read the thread. I've read the thread.

LBird
Culture of DEBATE

Right, let's get some points out in the open.

Debate involves telling someone that they're wrong. This shouldn't be a personal attack on a person's characteristics, but a challenge to their ideas. If someone has their ideas challenged, they can't deflect that challenge into an allegation that they, as a person, are being attacked. They have to back up their position with evidence, theories, examples, explanations, etc.

Debate is best served by clarifying the various stances, if necessary by simplification, as an aid to allow as many comrades as possible to understand (and thus enter) the debate. This often leads to polarisation, as the essence of contrasting stances is revealed.

Challenges, argument and disagreement are not 'unnecessary obstacles', but the very lifeblood of interesting debate.

MH wrote:
And if, as an individual comrade, that includes what I think is over-the-top language or the setting up of false arguments to be knocked down, then I'm going to call it the way I see it.

As long as you grant this right to other comrades, no problem.

MH wrote:
Also, I'm getting a bit fed up with being told I haven't read the thread. I've read the thread.

I don't think you have. As evidence, I produce your failure to engage with the discussions about either 'theories of cognition' or 'paradigms versus research programmes', and your failure to understand that no-one is disagreeing with jk's constant plea for 'external reality'. That's how 'I see it'. 'I' apparently being the measure of things around here.

MH wrote:
LBird, I'm sorry you didn't address the points made by jk about the way he feels this discussion is going, and the issues he raises about the culture of debate.

I didn't 'address jk's points' because I'm trying to have a discussion about 'science', not jk's feelings. In truth, I'm sorry if jk feels as if they've been personally attacked, but I don't think that they have been. Their ideas have, though. jk has expressed an individualist objectivist, empiricist approach to science, and I disagree with that approach. I've outlined other approaches, and attempted to engage jk in a discussion (if they want to learn) or a debate (if they think they are already well-read enough to argue with my views).

Now, to get back on track.

What do MH or jk1921 think of the three theories of cognition that Schaff outlines?

Do MH or jk1921 prefer Kuhn's paradigms or Lakatos' research programmes as a way of conceptualising the activity of scientists?

Does anyone have any other theories, concepts or thinkers that they'd like to introduce into our discussion?

Can science and scientists be separated from society?

Is it useful to contrast notions of 'proletarian' versus 'bourgeois' science?

LoneLondoner
We have a responsibility

I've been away for a while and could not follow this thread, however the fact that the ICC is being explicitly "called out" by jk1921 on the question of the "culture of debate" clearly demands a response from us, not so much on the subject matter as on the rather bad-tempered nature of some of the latest posts (which I think probably everybody will recognise).

The first point that strikes me is the enormous number of reads (well, relatively for us anyway) compared to the number of posts: 80,399 as I right. That means that there are a lot of people out there who are actually interested in following a debate on the nature of marxism and scientific debate between communists – something which ought to be immensely encouraging to us all. But it should also give us a sobering sense of the responsibility we all have to handle a very complex and difficult subject in a manner which is not only worthy of the communists that we are and the communist society we aspire to, but which perhaps will inspire others (including those who have not yet thought about the subject in any great depth), to join in. If we do not do this, then we will fall into the trap that several comrades have already (rightly) said we should avoid: demanding an uncritical acceptance of the ideas put forward by the "experts".

The second striking point is that this is precisely the spirit in which the discussion began, and if anyone doubts this, let me just cite some examples:
#12

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

#13
Lbird wrote:
As you also say, a 'culture of debate' must exist between us all, even if some arguments become very heated, because political debate won't go away after the glorious day! We need to nurture minority views, too, to help us contrast what we think we 'know'. We can all constantly learn.

#75
Lbird wrote:
Thanks for your considered reply, jk1921. Since you seem to be my main protagonist at the moment, rather than go round in circles and repeat myself about ‘science’, I’ll address this post to what I consider to be your personal assumptions and opinions.

So, something seems to have gone wrong, though not seriously wrong I hope. As Lbird says, debate can sometimes get heated especially over subjects about which we have thought deeply and care strongly. When this happens, then we should be able to stand back, take a deep breath, and return to the substantive issues (often easier said than done, I know).

As comrades may be aware, we ourselves have devoted a good deal of thought to these questions over recent years, partly as a result of the bruising splits we have suffered in the past, and it might be worth citing some of the points raised in two texts in particular:

From a text on the question of functioning:
the necessary frankness, which must exist between comrades in struggle, is not synonymous with rudeness or lack of respect. Moreover, insults must be absolutely proscribed in relations between militants.

From the "Culture of debate" text
The possibility for such non-proletarian approaches to appear and reappear indicates the existence of more widespread weaknesses on this question within the organisation itself. These consist in often small and hardly perceptible confusions and misconceptions in the everyday life and discussions, but which can pave the way for more serious difficulties under certain circumstances. One of these is a tendency to pose each debate in terms of a (...) direct struggle against bourgeois ideology. One of the consequences of this is to inhibit debate, giving comrades the feeling that they no longer have the right to be mistaken or to express confusions (...) Another is the problem of impatience in the debates, resulting in an inability to listen to other arguments and a tendency to want to monopolise discussions, to crush ones "opponents", to convince the others "at all costs".

This, I think, is the concern jk1921 is raising when he asks whether we have yet

Lbird wrote:
arrived at a point in the culture of debate, where it is possible to raise tough questions, express doubts, hesitations, concerns, fears, explore potential difficulties without accusations of "anti-Marxism" being hurled about.

Consequently, while we would agree with Lbird when he says:
Lbird wrote:
Debate involves telling someone that they're wrong. This shouldn't be a personal attack on a person's characteristics, but a challenge to their ideas. If someone has their ideas challenged, they can't deflect that challenge into an allegation that they, as a person, are being attacked. They have to back up their position with evidence, theories, examples, explanations, etc.
Debate is best served by clarifying the various stances, if necessary by simplification, as an aid to allow as many comrades as possible to understand (and thus enter) the debate. This often leads to polarisation, as the essence of contrasting stances is revealed.

this is not, in our view, the whole story.

One could find something to criticise in several recent posts, by several participants in the discussion, but I don't think it would help matters to go into them here. I will just conclude by saying that it is out of the question for us to ban "controversialists". This is not libcom.

As far as the debate itself is concerned, two points: first, I suggest that if comrades want to discuss the "culture of debate" issue specifically, then they should do so in the thread on that subject rather than here; second, I have not said anything myself about the issues at hand, which are far from being clarified, and hope to come back to them shortly.

Apologies for the length, by the way.

jk1921
I have not been able to fully

I have not been able to fully digest the last series of posts here, but there are a few things that have struck me so far:

1.) I agree that there should be no question of banning "controversialists" on the forum. In fact, I have often gotten the sense that I have been viewed as a controversialist from time to time. A number of my posts in this thread seem to have sparked quite the controversy, even if it wasn't my intention to be deliberately provacative. I think it is more a question of how the controversy is framed and presented. I don't think it is appropriate to wield our favorite theories like a club and use them as a battering ram when others resist. I think there is a need for more humility, particularly regarding difficult issues such as these. We can't always insist that others subscribe to our terms for the debate all the time.

2.) I find it somewhat ironic that I have been charged both with worshipping scientists and arguing that common sense can reflect the world as it is. It can't be both simultaneously, can it?

3.) I am especially struck by the quote cited by LoneLondoner above about there being an unhealthy tendency at times to see every debate as a "struggle against bourgeois ideology." There is a fear at times that one will be accused of giving comfort to the enemy, reflecting captialist values, being brainwashed, failing to transcend bourgeois categories, subcumbing to dirty empiricism, etc. Its hard enough being a communist in daily life, trying to go against the dominant mores in society, without being repeatedly told by your comrades that you have failed miseribly or that you are some kind of dupe of bourgeois modes of thought. There is only so much of this one can take before the effort becomes overwhelming and resignation starts to set in. I don't mind being told I am wrong about this or that point--but to suggest that my vision of communism is just "capitalism without capital punishment" is (as MH wrote) totally gratuitous, unfair and just plain inaccurate.

4.) Nobody is perfect and I acknowledge that some of my posts may have pushed the envelope too far in raising the bloody towel and calling out others. For that, I offer my apologies.

I hope we can get this discussion back on track at some point, even if it has to wait for tempers to cool off a bit.

LBird
Apologies

Lone Londoner wrote:
One could find something to criticise in several recent posts, by several participants in the discussion, but I don't think it would help matters to go into them here. I will just conclude by saying that it is out of the question for us to ban "controversialists". This is not libcom.

Well, I'll get the comradely ball rolling, shall I?

My apologies to MH for the tone of my recent responses to your posts.

My apologies to jk1921 for inadvertently causing you some personal distress. This wasn't my intention; my intention was to question your stance in regard to science and scientists.

LoneLondoner
I appreciate comrades' replies

Before I rush off to work, I just wanted to say that I for one much appreciate the comradely responses to my last post, and I look forward to getting back to this discussion.

Demogorgon
I also welcome the return to

I also welcome the return to comradely discussion on this thread.

I want to make a brief comment about some of the issues in the debate so far.

At times, we seem to conflate science as it exists within capitalism with the basic premises of scientific method. I think we should acknowledge that the latter has been one of the greatest intellectual aquisitions that humanity has ever made. It deeply inspired the socialist movement in general and Marxism in particular. This doesn't preclude the possibility that it may be superceded by an even more progressive manner of thought.

However, science as it exists with capitalism (and particularly decadent capitalism) is more or less entirely subjected to commercial, imperialist and ideological aims. Science is, as comrades have rightly said, the province of experts who are presented in the popular imagination as infallible high priests dispensing wisdom - but I can say with reasonable confidence, having associated with scientists both professionally and personally, this is not how they see themselves.

Nonethless, it cannot be denied that these people who, partly because of their own gifts and partly because of the division of labour inherent with bourgeois society, do stand head and shoulders above others in respect of their scientific training and understanding. While I could probably attempt to understand conceptually the difference between the Copenhagen Interpretation and the de Broglie-Bohm theory of quantum mechanics, I could never grasp the mathematical expressions of these ideas.

In communism, of course, many of these barriers will be broken down. Education will generally be improved and general scientific knowledge far more widespread. Nonetheless, there will still be human beings who develop exceptional talents in particular areas be that athletics, art, science or other human endeavour. Variation is simply part of being human; the communist vision has never been one where everybody is the same - more, it is about allowing each individual to actualise whatever raw material nature has provided him with (and possible also to improve on nature, but that is another controversial debate!).

Which brings us back to the culture of debate. One of the things we've had to learn the hard way in the ICC is that not every militant is the same. We all have different capacities, different interests, etc. In some debates there will be comrades who are much more erudite regarding the topic at hand. This can generate all sorts of tensions: the less advanced comrades feel inadequate and envious; the more advanced feel frustrated and superior. All sorts of negative dynamics can develop. We do not pretend that all of these problems can be overcome by wishing it so; we are products of capitalism with all its shabby self-interest, the stunted deformity of individual personalities, the shards of broken dreams crushed underfoot. But as communists, we aspire to something better, and developing a real culture of debate is one step on the road.

MH
I too can only welcome

I too can only welcome LoneLondoner's post and the responses to it. It's sobering to be reminded of the level of interest in this thread, and the responsibility we all therefore have to try to take the discussion forward as far as possible.

In this context it's worth reminding ourselves that it began as a discussion not just on science, but 'belief, science, art and marxism' and it's also worth re-reading Fred's original post, the one which started all this off, because although I personally disagree with some of the things he says about the role of 'belief' in Marxism, I think he is to be commended for setting out such a bold and imaginative vision of the transcendance of the artificial barriers between 'science' and 'art' in a future communist society. 

While I'm not suggesting that we go back to the beginning and start all over again, I think this vision of the ultimate goal which we're all committed to may provide a productive way into a discussion of the issues.   

In this context, while I agree with Demagorgon's point about communism breaking down barriers created by the capitalist division of labour, etc., I can't help feel this still tends to underestimate the sheer scale of the transformation that communism will involve, which is (almost) unimaginable for us today.

It may also help if comrades orient themselves more explicitly around what has already been written on this subject by the Marxist movement. The ICC has in fact already produced some reading notes on science and the Marxist movement, which comrades may find relevant to this discussion!

 

 

Fred
sorry jk

In the hope that this will not make matters worse I will try to explain how I came to make the statement - seemingly attributable to jk though I know he didn't say it - that "communism is capitalism without capital punishment". This is an absurd, ironic and even a tragic comment to have made. It arose from what I started to see as a conflict between straight empirical political stances to various events taken by certain posters, and the less empirical, less traditionally scientific stance of posters assuming, or trying to take, sensuous human Marxism as their starting point, and the kind of scientific method which could be associated with that.

I was now going to compare two posts by jk; one would have been a quote from the very empirical jk wondering whether the proletariat was really up to making the revolution without help from experts and revolutionary elites (elites is my word ), and thus implying a hidden necessity for substitutionism (an ugly word for an ugly and unnecessary thing); the other was a beautiful post by jk regretting the sad and awful events in India about a ghastly and horrible rape. In this latter post jk was unhappy for the victims, but unhappy too for their tormentors. He thought the perpetrators of such crimes were victims too; victims of capitalist society, as are we all. And he explicitly insisted that capital punishment was no solution to the problem of murder and rape, being in its own right, an act of cruel murder. In this post, and others too, we have the sensuous human and sympathetic comrade jk coming to the fore; while, on other threads, simultaneously, the militant and empirical jk is pointing out the absurdity of expecting an uneducated working class to be capable of building communism unaided! In fact the inference I make here, is that jk thinks the class will (probably?) never be up to it. (I'm not saying he does think this: but it's my inference; and I think another danger of objective empiricism - or empiricism that assumes its own objectivity - is that it places an over emphasis on literalness, and taking things literally.

So this is how I arrived at the apparently unhelpful and horrid statement about "capitalism without capital punishment". I probably haven't clarified anything much, and those who are angry will I suppose go on being angry. I'm sorry.

I said I was going to provide quotes, but, this morning, having seen the
way matters are going on the other thread about the party, I won't
bother now.

So I am very sad indeed that I have upset you so much jk, it was not my intention. I was trying clarify a matter that has bothered me for sometime. But now I think it is probably being handled better on the other thread. All I hope is that I haven't caused more upset by what I've just said. Life can be difficult at times.

LBird
Sorrow, confusion and frustration

Fred wrote:
...and I think another danger of objective empiricism - or empiricism that assumes its own objectivity - is that it places an over emphasis on literalness, and taking things literally.

I think you might have 'put your finger' on part of the current problem, Fred. I think that I've got a sense of humour, and I think that you share that sense of humour. But when 'literalness' clashes with 'humour', misunderstandings occur.

One illustration of this was my attempt to liken 'scientists' and their 'bourgeois method' to 'priests' and 'magic'. Unfortunately, jk1921 took this literally:

jk1921, post 73, wrote:
But science is not meant to be "magical." It is meant to be the antithesis of magic and magical thinking. Science explains to us why magic is impossible and why magicians are illusionists and charlatans (most of whom are out for our money.) The idea that science could be "magical" is I think very illustrative of some of the disconnects in this discussion.

Perhaps I'm at fault for trying to lighten a difficult discussion. Whatever, it seems clear to me now that my presence on this (and the other!) thread is not helping matters with explaining to jk1921 about scientific method and their individualist empiricism. What's more, I know that jk will take that, in itself, as an insult, but I don't know how to explain to someone who is already convinced of the correctness of their own stance, without any evidence (ironically given their position) of having even read or discussed these issues before.

You seem a lot more sensitive to jk1921's personal feelings, Fred, so I'll let you try to explain, and I'll not engage with jk any further.

Unfortunately, I'm getting to the point where I'll say something to jk that I really regret later. Humans and their feelings, eh?

jk1921
Its a general problem comrade

LBird wrote:

Fred wrote:
...and I think another danger of objective empiricism - or empiricism that assumes its own objectivity - is that it places an over emphasis on literalness, and taking things literally.

I think you might have 'put your finger' on part of the current problem, Fred. I think that I've got a sense of humour, and I think that you share that sense of humour. But when 'literalness' clashes with 'humour', misunderstandings occur.

One illustration of this was my attempt to liken 'scientists' and their 'bourgeois method' to 'priests' and 'magic'. Unfortunately, jk1921 took this literally:

jk1921, post 73, wrote:
But science is not meant to be "magical." It is meant to be the antithesis of magic and magical thinking. Science explains to us why magic is impossible and why magicians are illusionists and charlatans (most of whom are out for our money.) The idea that science could be "magical" is I think very illustrative of some of the disconnects in this discussion.

Perhaps I'm at fault for trying to lighten a difficult discussion. Whatever, it seems clear to me now that my presence on this (and the other!) thread is not helping matters with explaining to jk1921 about scientific method and their individualist empiricism. What's more, I know that jk will take that, in itself, as an insult, but I don't know how to explain to someone who is already convinced of the correctness of their own stance, without any evidence (ironically given their position) of having even read or discussed these issues before.

You seem a lot more sensitive to jk1921's personal feelings, Fred, so I'll let you try to explain, and I'll not engage with jk any further.

Unfortunately, I'm getting to the point where I'll say something to jk that I really regret later. Humans and their feelings, eh?

 

This post in another example of your problematic approach to debate, comrade. Its all about me, my personal feelings and how you need to be careful about what you say to me in particular. You seem to have little congnizance of the wider issue of the need to develop a cultue of debate in general that avoids some of the problems that have continually cropped up here. I understand this is not easy. I understand that it is not necessarily immediately obvious what should be done. As I said above, nobody is perfect on the score, nobody is the perfect embodiement of the culture of debate we seek. But perhaps the best place to start is to admit that there is indeed a general problem beyond my own personal feelings getting hurt. I am not the only person finding fault with your approach, comrade. The insinuation that the problem lies within my own personal psychology seems to me to be a quite unfortunate attempt to delegitimize my speech, to make me appear as the embodiment of irrational emotion, who can thus be justly ignored. This is exactly what pscyhoanalysis did to women at its inception with the mysoginist idea of hysteria. We should be careful not to fall into this trap so easily.....

jk1921
No Worries, Fred.

Fred wrote:
I

So I am very sad indeed that I have upset you so much jk, it was not my intention. I was trying clarify a matter that has bothered me for sometime. But now I think it is probably being handled better on the other thread. All I hope is that I haven't caused more upset by what I've just said. Life can be difficult at times.

 

Fred, no worries. I value your contribution to the discussion and this forum in general, although at times you do go for the dramatic. I do think you have really misunderstood me though. You have taken my posing of tough questions, my attempt to work through difficult issues by getting my own doubts out into the open, as an expression of my programmatic views on certain subjects. Perhaps, I share the blame here--as others have remarked that it is not quite clear what my position is on certain issues. But, I think, this is because I often do not have a fully worked out immutable position all of the time. I am often in as much a process of exploration of these issues as many of the younger militants. Try to have some patience here.

There are a few concrete, simple things that can be done to attempt to lower the temperature at times in tough debates. For example, one can phrase critiques in a way that is not as dramatically personalized. For example, instead of writing, "JK's vision of communism (...)"; one could write, "This vision of communism (...)." These are simple things, although difficult to remember at times, that can help improve the culture of debate so they become a confrontation of ideas rather than one of egos.

MH
Agree

jk1921 wrote:

This post in another example of your problematic approach to debate, comrade. Its all about me, my personal feelings and how you need to be careful about what you say to me in particular. You seem to have little congnizance of the wider issue of the need to develop a cultue of debate in general that avoids some of the problems that have continually cropped up here.

I strongly agree with this, it's a very measured, political response to an issue which I feel is becoming an obstacle to further discussion on this and other threads at the moment. I think it raises a wider issue about how we expect others to understand our position on the culture of debate, which is clearly not a 'given' in the wider milieu today, to say the least, and also how we translate this into practical rules or guidelines for the forum.

 

LoneLondoner
Thanks Lbird and Commiegal

commiegal wrote:

I absolutely agree about democratic controls. The problem now is that sceince is not neutral - what is researched is largely what pharmaceutical companies and states want researched ...

First of all, I would like to say thanks to Lbird despite his feelings of frustration because I have valued his contributions to this and would be sorry if he gave up the discussion. And actually I agree with a lot of what he has said.

However, there is an issue which has not really been clarified completely I think, and that is the question of "democratic control" of science, which Commiegal raised but which nobody has really responded to.

I would therefore like to ask comrades their opinion on this. It seems to me that there is a distinction to be made between:

  • on the one hand, what scientists themselves think and study, what theories they adopt
  • on the other, what resources "society" puts into its scientific effort, and which scientific efforts.

To my mind, there can be no question of "democratic control" over what people, including scientists, think. Nor can you judge the "truth" (with all the necessary provisos about what that might mean exactly!) of scientific theory, on a democratic basis.

On the other hand, a communist society (and even a capitalist one, up to a point), definitely will have a view as to what science it, as a whole society, wants to pursue. And this will be dependent both on considerations of utility and resources (should we build an Even Larger Hadron Collider, or send a rocket to Jupiter?), but also on questions of ethics (should we manipulate the genome?).

These seem to me to be two very distinct things.

LoneLondoner
Rosa Luxemburg - member of the ICC?

Rosa Luxemburg wrote:

In the history of earlier class struggles, aspiring classes (like the Third Estate in recent days) could anticipate political dominion by establishing an intellectual dominance, inasmuch as, while they were still subjugated classes, they could set up a new science and a new art against obsolete culture of the decadent period.

The proletariat is in a very different position. As a nonpossessing class, it cannot in the course of its struggle upwards spontaneously create a mental culture of its own while it remains in the framework of bourgeois society. Within that society, and so long as its economic foundations persist, there can be no other culture than a bourgeois culture. Although certain “socialist” professors may acclaim the wearing of neckties, the use of visiting cards, and the riding of bicycles by proletarians as notable instances of participation in cultural progress, the working class as such remains outside contemporary culture. Notwithstanding the fact that the workers create with their own hands the whole social substratum of this culture, they are only admitted to its enjoyment insofar as such admission is requisite to the satisfactory performance of their functions in the economic and social process of capitalist society.

The working class will not be in a position to create a science and an art of its own until it has been fully emancipated from its present class position.

The utmost it can do today is to safeguard bourgeois culture from the vandalism of the bourgeois reaction, and create the social conditions requisite for a free cultural development. Even along these lines, the workers, within the extant form of society, can only advance insofar as they can create for themselves the intellectual weapons needed in their struggle for liberation.

Couldn't have put it better myself....

MH
on democratic control

LoneLondoner wrote:

To my mind, there can be no question of "democratic control" over what people, including scientists, think. Nor can you judge the "truth" (with all the necessary provisos about what that might mean exactly!) of scientific theory, on a democratic basis.

On the other hand, a communist society (and even a capitalist one, up to a point), definitely will have a view as to what science it, as a whole society, wants to pursue. And this will be dependent both on considerations of utility and resources (should we build an Even Larger Hadron Collider, or send a rocket to Jupiter?), but also on questions of ethics (should we manipulate the genome?).

These seem to me to be two very distinct things.

On the question of democratic control is it also helpful to highlight the main features of the different periods we are talking about?

This is a crude schema, but I would say:

Immediately after a global seizure of power the working class will undoubtedly need to take direct control of scientific activity and research and where necessary divert it away from eg. weapons research towards priorities such as feeding the population;

In the period of transition towards communism, science will be a function overseen by the transitional state, which will be under the political control of the working class organised in its own councils. As the productive forces are more and more diverted towards meeting human needs, the necessity for this control will be lessened;

In a classless, stateless communist society, 'democratic control' surely loses any real meaning; instead we are talking about the collective decisions of humanity on the main priorities for research, whether to go into outer space, etc. But by then, 'science' as a separate category will also have lost its meaning.

In his original post on this thread, Fred set out a vision which imagined the transcendance of both art and science as separate, artificial categories which are the product of class society; if in full communism humanity decides to irrigate the Sahara, for example, this will be as much about achieving some no doubt much argued concept of beauty as it will be about 'science' or 'technology', as Trotsky vividly anticipated:

"Man has already made changes in the map of nature that are not few nor insignificant. But they are mere pupils’ practice in comparison with what is coming. Faith merely promises to move mountains; but technology, which takes nothing “on faith”, is actually able to cut down mountains and move them. Up to now this was done for industrial purposes ... in the future this will be done on an immeasurably larger scale, according to a general industrial and artistic plan. Man will occupy himself with re-registering mountains and rivers, and will earnestly and repeatedly make improvements in nature. In the end, he will have rebuilt the earth, if not in his own image, at least according to his own taste. We have not the slightest fear that this taste will be bad." (Trotsky, Literature and Revolution)

LBird
The Forward March of LBird Halted?

Right, let’s try and get this discussion revved up and back on track.

Some comrades have attempted to renew the thread by moving the discussion forward onto the issue of ‘democratic control of science’. I think that, whilst this debate needs to be had (and I’ve already nailed my colours to the mast on my position: I’m in favour of the widest human control of a human activity), it’s too soon to do so. I still think that the issue of which ‘theory of cognition’ (gnoseology) we, as Communists, should employ, needs to be needs to be debated, first. The reason for this is that the chosen cognitive theory will, to a great extent, determine the stance taken regarding ‘democratic science’.

If comrades follow my advice, this has the unfortunate effect of resurrecting the earlier issue which caused so much pain. This is unavoidable (both the issue and the pain!), so I’d like to tread as carefully as possible to avoid giving offence.

[gulp! Here goes!] It’s my opinion that whenever politics strays onto the issue of ‘individuality’, those who regard themselves as ‘individuals’ necessarily take any criticism of ‘individualist perspectives’ as a personal attack on them themselves. This seems to be in the very nature of the political ideology of ‘individualism’. And, to be sure, it is a political stance, being an individual, seeing the world through one’s own eyes, using one’s ‘common sense’, having an ego. I’ve had this reaction happen to me numerous times when I’ve attempted to question ‘individuality’, in any of its manifestations. This includes discussion of the ‘individualist/objectivist cognitive stance’, outlined earlier. If we are to discuss positivism and empiricism, we need to broach this difficult area.

Perhaps a word about my political views on ‘individuality’ might help. I’m not an ‘individual’, I’m a ‘proletarian’. If the social views I currently hold are proved to be mistaken (and this happens with far too much regularity for my liking!), then I jettison them. My views are entirely separate from me, as a person. I don’t mind comrades disagreeing with me, and I see them as attacking my opinions, not me. This, I believe, is the stance that should be taken by all Communists. We must all be open to criticism of our views, and mustn’t regard an attack on our views as a personal challenge. This doesn’t mean we have to all agree, of course, and I think there are times when we just have to ‘agree to disagree’ for the present.

Which brings me back to our proper discussion: ‘theories of cognition’. If any comrade wishes to retain an empiricist view of science, that’s fine, but I think that starting from that view will have an immense effect on the later discussion about ‘democratic control of science’.

Lastly, if anyone thinks that we should avoid returning to our earlier debate, or thinks that it is unnecessary and we should press on to further discussion on democracy in science, or objects to my characterisation of ‘individuality’, or dislikes my ‘style’ of debate, or just thinks I’m a troublemaking troll, then just say so. But in that case, I’ll drop out of the thread, for the common good.

I don’t know how to put it any more clearly where I’ll take this discussion, if I remain involved, so it’s in the comrades' hands, now.

Alf
pause to reflect

It is my firm belief that the bug which hit the site was sent by a small cyber-based god to give us all time to step back and reflect on the progress of the discussion. True that Lonelondoner's post also helped.

 

Anyway, I don't think that Lbird is a troll, or a goblin for that matter. I think he has raised a number of important issues, even if I am not sure I have understood them all.

I agree with his critique of 'common sense'. As Marx put it, if things were as they appear to be from the common sense standpoint, there would be no need for science. By the same token I agree with the need to reject empiricism as a 'philosophy', although we may define it in different ways. I agree as well that we should as much as possible argue for and against ideas, positions, analyses, which are not our personal property, but products of something much wider, and avoid getting hurt or causing hurt through criticism of these ideas. I am less easy with his notion that he is a proletarian and not an individual. The proletariat is the class of associated labour and in its fully communist sense association is not to be confused with the anonymous 'collectivism' which has become such a key element of bourgeois society in its era of totalitarianism. Communist association is the 'free condition of each being the condition for the free condition of all' (notice that the 'free development of each' comes first in this quote from the Manifesto);  it's the overcoming of the antagonism between individual and society, the association of free individuals. And although a communist organisation, or a network of communists, is not an island of communism inside capitalist society, it must strive as far as possible to be guided by the principles of the society it is aiming for. That means that among communists the diversity of individuals must be taken into account and integrated into the wider collectivity.

LBird
Not a 'troll' or a '[hob]goblin', but a SPECTRE!

Since the bulk of Alf’s post has covered the issue of what we mean by ‘individual’, perhaps I’ll take it a little bit further. Though, as we shall see, the notion of an ‘individual’ being a political category is at odds with the Critical Realist position on ‘science’, I think. One of the main categories stressed by C.R. is the concept of ‘levels’ within nature, that nature itself is ‘stratified’. We can examine this later, but I mention it now to illustrate the wider implication of what I’m about to argue.

Put simply, an ‘individual’ is a biological category, not a political category. Politics operates at the social level. Communism is about all human individuals taking control of the social structures within which they inescapably are born and socialised. As a social animal, we can’t escape the society within which we live. We all have a biological existence, and even under Communism we won’t be able to eat or poo for each other, but politics, ideology and science work at the social level, not the biological level.

Of course, someone has an interest in us not recognising the fact that we are all products of society, that we live within a structure, a level which is above that of its constituent individual components. Which social class would have the interest in stressing ‘We are all individuals’? Of course, the answer is a social class which wants to hide its reality as a social class! ‘Class?’ ‘Society?’ ‘No, no, no, we’re all individuals!’ Until an individual asks the boss for a rise, and on refusal interacts with the boss on the individual, biological level, and punches the boss: then that social structure known as the ‘police force’ turns up! Or do comrades regard the police as merely biological individuals? No, it is a structure.

Individualism is a ruling class ideology, in all its manifestations, political and scientific. 'Individual' is a biological category; 'Proletarian' is a social category, which stresses a relationship, a relationship of exploitation.

Alf wrote:
Communist association is the 'free condition of each being the condition for the free condition of all' (notice that the 'free development of each' comes first in this quote from the Manifesto); it's the overcoming of the antagonism between individual and society, the association of free individuals.

We all agree (I hope!) with Alf: as his words show, any ideology that stresses the ‘individual’ outside of ‘association’ and ‘society’ is inimical to Communist ideas. You show me an individual who claims to be outside of society, and I’ll show you a liar (or a fool).

Finally, to return to the nature of reality, and the empiricist argument that our senses can tell us what we sense, we only need to turn to Marx, as Alf showed. Marx was a Classical scholar, and his words (paraphrased by Alf) only continued the views of the Ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus, who famously argued that ‘Nature hides itself’. Humans have known this for thousands of years: who could have an interest in denying this? Some body who wants us to use our individual eyes and ‘common sense’. Much of nature is only accessible through social theories, and is not able to be ‘experienced’. ‘Empirical reality’ forms only a part of ‘reality’. Empiricism denies humans knowledge of wider reality, rather than provides ‘true knowledge’. But we’ll explore all this later, hopefully.

LoneLondoner
It was just a suggestion...

My proposal for a direction forward for this thread was just that: a proposal. My aim was above all to try to get some sense of where the discussion had got to on one particular issue, rather than attack lots of (very interesting) issues all at once, which tended to lead to dispersal.

It occurred to me that the following quote, from an article published in 1946 by the Internationalisme group (French communist left) against the idea of "brilliant leaders", could be relevant to the discussion on "individuals": an individual may be a social product, but the very notion of an individual is itself a historical product, surely.

In general, the role of the genius in human history is over. What did the genius repre­sent in the past? Simply the fact that the extremely low level of knowledge of the average man meant that there was an immense gap between this level and the knowledge held by a few elite elements. At the lower stage in the development of human knowledge, a very relative degree of knowledge could be an individual acquisition, just as the means of production could have an individual character. What distinguishes the machine as a tool is that it changes the character of what was formerly the rudimentary product of private labour, turning it into the complicated product of collective social labour. It’s the same with knowledge in general. As long as it remained on an element­ary level an isolated individual could embrace it in its totality. But with the development of society and of science, the sum of knowledge could no longer be held by an individual: only humanity as a whole could do so. The gap between the genius and the average man diminishes in proportion to the growth in the sum of human knowledge. Science, like economic production, tends to be socialised. From the genius humanity has gone to the isolated scholar, and from the isolated scholar to the team of scholars. The division of labour tends to increase. To produce anything today it is necessary to rely on the co-operation of large numbers of workers. This tendency towards further division exists at the level of ‘spiritual’ production as well, and it’s precisely through this that it advances.

LBird
Back to cognition?

I’d like to thank LoneLondoner for the link to the article given in post #129. It covers a number of issues regarding our discussion of ‘science’ which need to be thrashed out, before we attempt to say what ‘science’ is. The issues include the following three:

the ‘individual’ and their ‘own mind’ as the location of scientific thought;

the ‘genius’ as a paradigm for the activity of science (Newton, Einstein, etc.);

the notion of ‘truth’ as being a once-and-for-all copy of ‘reality’ (‘the scientific method produces the truth, so we that can say “science tells us…” and it is an unquestionable authority’). The linked article contains some things worth reading.

On the linked issues of the ‘individual’ and ‘genius’:

International Review no.33, 2nd Quarter, 1982, wrote:
The myth of the genius isn’t the future of humanity. It will join the myth of the hero and the demi-­god in the museum of prehistory.

You can think what you like about the diminution of the role of the individual in human history. You can applaud it or regret it. But you can’t deny it.

We have to argue that the scientist doing science (the ‘subject’ in our cognitive schema) is not the ‘individual’, but the ‘social individual’, and thus we have to account for the ‘social’ dimension of the ‘active subject’. The scientist’s politics and class position (amongst many other social attributes) are entirely relevant within a discussion of the ‘scientific method’.

On ‘truth’, and its ‘partial’ nature:

International Review no.33, 2nd Quarter, 1982, wrote:
Against the idea that militants can only act on the basis of certainties, even if they are founded on false positions, we insist that there are no cert­ainties but only a continual process of going beyond what were formerly truths. Only an activity based on the most recent developments, on foundations that are constantly being enriched, is really revolutionary. In contrast, activity based on yesterday’s truths that have already lost their currency is sterile, harmful and reactionary. One might try to feed the members with absolute certainties and truths, but only relative truths which contain an antithesis of doubt can give rise to a revolutionary synthesis.
[my bold]

The idea that ‘science’ produces ‘the truth’ is dead. Science doesn’t produce certainty, and even if we class ‘Marxism’ as a ‘science’, this won’t give us ‘certainty’ that we are correct.

International Review no.33, 2nd Quarter, 1982, wrote:
…discussion wasn’t seen simply as a right but as a duty; the confrontation and study of ideas were the only way of elaborating the programmatic and political positions required for revolutionary action.
[my bold]

On the ‘individual and their opinion’, I think that it is a bourgeois position to insist that ‘I have a right to my opinion!’. On the contrary, within a Communist society we’d insist that any individual ‘has the right to defend their opinion’. ‘Individual opinions’ always have their origin in society, and we must denigrate ‘individual opinion’ and seek instead to reveal “Opinion’s origins”. Within Communist society, every individual must be given the finest education and free access to all research materials, to allow them to construct their ‘defence’ of ‘their opinion’. The individual ‘right’ to an opinion contains the social ‘duty’ to defend it. ‘Opinion’ is a social concept, not a bourgeois ‘proprietorial property’, that one ‘has’, like a car.

Perhaps we should revisit Schaff’s schema now, so that everyone has another chance to consider it? And the implications which flow from the choice that is made from the three (or arguably four) stances on offer? Cognition is political.

Fred
This is an excellent

This is an excellent paragraph LBird, and has stirred me from my slumbers.

Quote:
On the ‘individual and their opinion’, I think that it is a bourgeois position to insist that ‘I have a right to my opinion!’. On the contrary, within a Communist society we’d insist that any individual ‘has the right to defend their opinion’. ‘Individual opinions’ always have their origin in society, and we must denigrate ‘individual opinion’ and seek instead to reveal “Opinion’s origins”. Within Communist society, every individual must be given the finest education and free access to all research materials, to allow them to construct their ‘defence’ of ‘their opinion’. The individual ‘right’ to an opinion contains the social ‘duty’ to defend it. ‘Opinion’ is a social concept, not a bourgeois ‘proprietorial property’, that one ‘has’, like a car.

Yes. Opinion is a "social concept". I wish I'd appreciated that back in the days when it seemed people were for ever saying "Oh! But that's only your opinion..." as a way of dismissing what you've just said. But how exactly do "opinions" have their origin in society: or, more to the point, how do we get to decide between one opinion and another, and go for the " right" one? How do we decide to go with the proletariat rather than the bourgeoisie? But you've provided the answer in saying: cognition is political. Maybe this isn't quite correct. For at what stage of life does/can cognition become political? It doesn't start off political does it; an intelligently active 12 year old wouldn't be political would they? At what stage of his life did Marx's cognition lose it's "innocence"and become thoroughly political? And why did it happen? It must have been after he developed the capability to criticize his "innocently" held (bourgeois) assumptions, and went over to the proletarian viewpoint. But why doesn't this happen to everyone?

To put it another way. Why doesn't everyone adopt Schaff's schema? Do you need to know about the said schema in advance in order to be able to opt for it?

Quote:
Within communist society, every individual must be given the finest education and free access to all research materials, to allow them to construct their 'defense' of 'their opinion'.

As a brief description of education ( or even of life) I wholeheartedly concur. Really it should be happening now, but the bourgeoisie are scared of this, preferring initiation into into boredom as a safer choice. But this must certainly become the way of education in the period of transition. Not just defending what we think but discovering and developing more of it too!

Fred
cognition and consciousness

And what's the difference between "cognition" and "consciousness"?

LBird
Schaff reminder

Fred wrote:
And what's the difference between "cognition" and "consciousness"?

‘cognition’ is a process, and ‘consciousness’ is its result

To use Schaff’s ‘social objective’ model (p.53), the subject (a social entity) actively interrogates the object (an entity which exists outside of the subject), and produces another, third, entity, knowledge.

Perhaps an analogy might help here to explain Schaff’s three models again?

A baker (subject) takes their ingredients (object) and bakes (cognitive process) a cake (knowledge/consciousness).

In Schaff’s first model, the contemplative-receptive model (pp. 49-50), the baker merely stares at the ingredients, which construct themselves into a cake. The cake is a perfect copy of the ingredients, and all cakes produced by those ingredients are identical.

In Schaff’s second model, the idealist-activist model (pp.50-1), there are no ingredients, and the baker, by the power of their own mind, creates the cake. The cake has no existence outside of the baker viewing it. Any result, no matter how misshapen, ill-constructed or inedible a goo, must be termed a cake.

In Schaff’s third model, the social-objective model (pp. 51-3), the baker has to actively shape the ingredients into a cake. The cake is related, in some way, to the ingredients, but it is a separate, actively constructed, entity. The cake can be baked well or badly, and different cakes can result from the same ingredients.

Before Einstein, 19th century scientists followed the Positivist/Empiricist first model; philosophical idealists (and post-modernists?) follow the second model; modern philosophers of science have argued for the third, which Schaff argues is the model compatible with a Marxist approach to the production of scientific knowledge.

Because I am simplifying a bit, I recommend that comrades read Schaff’s book, History and Truth (Pergamon Press, 1976) especially pages 47-73, ‘Three Models of the Process of Cognition’.

I also recommend that we take our discussion forward on the basis of the ‘Social-Objective Model’, and perhaps firstly discuss the political implication of accepting this particular model.

If any comrades wish to defend individual ‘common sense’, empiricism, respect for ‘genius’, ‘science outside of society’, etc., now is the time to do so.

Or does another comrade wish to ‘tie together’ Schaff’s theory and the ICC’s stance embodied in LoneLondoner’s earlier post and link?

LBird
Power in the playground?

Fred wrote:
But you've provided the answer in saying: cognition is political. Maybe this isn't quite correct. For at what stage of life does/can cognition become political? It doesn't start off political does it; an intelligently active 12 year old wouldn't be political would they?

Depends on your definition of 'political', Fred!

Does 'political' mean the adult world of parties, ideologies, debates, etc.?

Or does 'political' mean 'related to power and its usage'?

What 12 year old hasn't experienced the power of adults: parents, priests, teachers, police officers, etc. Are you arguing that 12 year olds are 'innocent' of society? Are they in a Lockean 'state of nature'? Surely all children's relationships, with both adults and each other, are 'political'?

Isn't there a political theory behind your 'innocent' questions, Fred!?

Fred
political theory

I don't know whether there's a political theory or not behind my innocent questions, because I feel a bit like the fly in the spider's web; all tied up and don't know which way to turn, and worry I could be on tonight's menu. (lol) I agree that everything's political. That all the stuff children suffer at the hands of parents, school, at play and so on, is political. But the point is: do the children know that all the unpleasantness and agony is political, or don't they just think that the world can suck at times and that they are more or less powerless to do anything about it? (Rather like so many workers - or "employees" as my American friend insists in an irritating way - must feel about their situation today!) Are there not at least two layers to being political? One where you and your mates are aware of being screwed, manipulated, abused or whatever, and may react against that in a resentful, angry manner. A kind of lower level political awareness, which will not actually change your situation. Perhaps a coming-to-terms with a playground bully; a sort of "reform"! And then there's type 2 political awareness, where, after some serious thought and discussion, you and your mates begin to appreciate and understand the reality of the truly mind blowing political situation you're up against, and that to fight against it usefully, with a view to stopping and changing it, is going to take more than a playground punch up and more than just marching behind a banner in some Union organized walk about. One of my questions was how to get from situation one to situation two? How do we do it? How did Marx do it? Is luck involved? Does it depend on what friends you have? How does cognition turn into the type of politically aware consciousness we aim for? You say LBird that cognition leads to consciousness...but does it always? I suppose you will say "yes" though it may border on the inedible.

What about Rosa Luxembourg's model of cognition? Her description of the way class consciousness can suddenly spring up among a group of militantly active workers/employees/strikers, spreading out in fructifying waves of consciousness-cognition. Would you accept this as being related to the Schaff model, LBird?

And I guess this would be my current political theory. Open to change though.

LBird
Focus on science

Fred, all I'm trying to focus on at the moment is which model of cognition we should choose, to try to understand the activity of science in its dealings with the external world.

If comrades wish to argue in favour of Schaff's models 1 or 2, or introduce an entirely different model, then they should do so now.

Once it is accepted that the 'social-objective' model is the best, then, I think, is the right time to examine what we mean by the notion of the 'social individual', and the extent of political content within the 'social' aspect of the biological individual.

Suffice to say for now, that I agree with your statement that 'I agree that everything's political'.

If any comrades don't think that this is also true of the activity of science, now's the time to discuss it. To make this clear, if any comrade thinks that 'common sense' is not political, or that what they 'see with their own eyes' is not political, they should intervene in the discussion now.

It seems pointless to try to progress any further on the thread topic until these political issues have been dealt with.

LBird
Food for (scientific) thought

Since no-one has posted any protest (or alternative) to my suggestion that we move onto a discussion of what Communists might mean by the concept of a ‘social individual’, I’ll try to stimulate that particular debate. Of the three entities of scientific cognition (subject, object and knowledge), I think that the ‘subject as a social individual’ is the one most likely to need further elaboration. On the whole, I think we agree that the object exists outside of cognition, and that knowledge is not a mere perfect copy of the object, and that knowledge is always a ‘partial truth’. If I’m wrong on these assumptions, we can always revisit object and knowledge, if any comrades wish to do this.

Perhaps the simplest way of characterising the (isolated) ‘individual’ as the subject of scientific cognition is the idea that ‘I can see with my own eyes’ (hear/ears, taste/tongue, etc.). This is the basis of the empiricist stance: individual sensual experience. ‘Reality’ is what ‘I’ can see and touch. If ‘I’ can’t ‘experience’ it, then it is not suitable for scientific examination. ‘Materialism’ and ‘reality’ both mean ‘something that I can experience’.

On the contrary, though, rather than ‘I can see with my own eyes’, the concept of the ‘social individual’ is predicated upon the notion that ‘I can perceive with my mind’. In this case, ‘perception’ involves active interpretation (not just mere sense impressions, passively experienced) and ‘mind’ is a social creation, not something a brain simply ‘owns’ from birth. So, the ‘social individual’ can reject ‘the evidence of its own eyes’ if this ‘personal experience’ clashes with a theory which has been previously accepted by the individual from society. And as our minds consist almost entirely of ‘social theories’, we have to accept that within our minds there is a measure of cultural and political influence. This theory of the ‘social individual’ allows us to understand why different biological individuals ‘experience’ the same phenomena in different ways.

‘Science’ isn’t a passive, ‘objective’ method which produces ‘true knowledge’, but a fundamentally human activity, and is not even an activity carried out by individuals (geniuses or not!), but a social activity fundamentally influenced by cultural and political theories.

To finish, I would argue that the ‘individual’ is a bourgeois concept, an isolated biological category, meant to confuse, a product of recent social and historical change developed under capitalism, and we Communists should reject that idea that we are ‘individuals’ and insist that we are ‘proletarians’, a social category which stresses a position within an exploitative socio-economic relationship.

Bourgeois brainwashing insists that we are all ‘individuals’. How widespread is the passive acceptance of this social conditioning by a ruling class? Even amongst good Communists?

jaycee
Sorry for not posting on this

Sorry for not posting on this thread for a while, I've been really buisy training to become a soul destroying indoctrinator of children.

Anyway, Jk asked a while back what I thought was meaningful or true i religion, i.e. what do I think  will be kept or adapted of religion in a communist society.

This all boils down I think to the question of alienation and consciousness. Is there a higher form of consciousness than the 'waking' consciousness of everyday life. Religion at its best was a cultivation of this higher state; an attempt to overcome the contradictions in mankinds being. To overcome the self, the ego-self which seperates us into 'individuals' that are oppossd to eachother and the universe which brought us into being. 

I also think the imagery and ideas in religion are psychoilogically important and I would agree with Jung that actually the religious impulse is unhealthily repressed in modern/bourgeois society. In communism humanities seemingly natural impulse towards ceremony and some form of collective appreciation of the world/universe around us would mak a reapearance. (whether or not worship is a completely alienated activity is a discussion in itself).

That is a  brief answer here but if you want to check out an essay I wrote a couple of years back on the subject of the New Atheists compared to Marx, Freud and Jung I will try to upload one about alienation and mysticism.

http://www.libcom.org/library/critique-new-atheists

 

LBird
Religion or Communism?

jaycee wrote:
Is there a higher form of consciousness than the 'waking' consciousness of everyday life. Religion at its best was a cultivation of this higher state...

I'm not sure if you've been following the discussion in any detail, jaycee, but given what I've outlined about the 'social individual', this 'higher consciousness/state' would be a Communist consciousness, but, crucially, would be determined, not by religious authorities like priests, but by the entirety of humanity by democratic means.

jaycee wrote:
To overcome the self, the ego-self which seperates us into 'individuals' that are oppossd to each other...

No, this is an ahistorical assumption, jaycee. The notion of an 'ego-self' only makes sense in terms of bourgeois society. What 'separates individuals' is a socially-produced ideology, which we shall overcome under Communism. 'Individuality' is not a 'state of nature' or an eternal condition.

You don't seem to be using Communist ideology to try to understand science, jaycee. I'm not quite sure what you are doing, using non-Communist ideological assumptions and making non-Communist arguments on this thread.

Why would Communist materialists, employing Critical Realism, have anything to learn from an essentially idealist, religious-based argument?

Where would you place your own beliefs within the three-model schema of 'cognition' that I've outlined? So far, I'd be inclined to place you within the second model, the 'idealist-activist', that 'reality' is a creation of a mind (god's?).

Alf
The ego and his own

What I think jaycee is getting at is the possibility that communism will integrate into itself the insights achieved by societies prior to capitalism, which were very often expressed through a mythical, religious, or idealist prism. Take this queston of the ego: it's a central problem for Freud, for example, who sees the ego as the seat of human anxiety, perpetually confronted with the demands of the instincts 'within' and the socially-imposed reality principle 'without'. Freud was certainly trying to develop this theoretical approach from a scientific standpoint, but I don't see any problem for a scientific, historical world view in recognising that similar insights were expressed in older modes of production, most notably in Buddhist thought (which Engels credits with having 'discovered' the dialectic, alongside Heraclitus). A study of Buddhism would contradict the idea that "the notion of an ego-self only makes sense in bourgeois society". They certainly saw the problem, and is it so difficult to accept that we may still be able to learn from their intuitions about the solution?

What is true, however, is that capitalism, by imposing the 'war of each against all' as the first law of social life, has exacerbated the loneliness and anxiety of the 'ego-self' to an unprecedented level; and it could be argued that it is precisely this exacerbation of the problem which makes it possible to really understand it and practically overcome it, as Marx notes in the Grundrisse in reference to the problem of alienation (which is basically what we are talking about here):

 

"Thus the old view, in which the human being appears as the aim of production, regardless of his limited national, religious, political character, seems to be very lofty when contrasted to the modern world, where production appears as the aim of mankind and wealth as the aim of production ... In bourgeois economics - and in the epoch of production to which it corresponds - this complete working out of the human content appears as a complete emptying out, this universal objectification as total alienation, and the tearing-down of all limited, one-sided aims as sacrifice of the human end-in-itself to an entirely external end"

But as Marx explains in the same paragraph:

"In fact, however, when the limited bourgeois form is stripped away, what is wealth other than the universality of individual needs, capacities, pleasures, productive forces etc....? The full development of human mastery over the forces of nature, those of so-called nature as well as of humanity's own nature? The absolute working out of his creative potentialities, with no presupposition other than the previous historic development, which makes this totality of development, ie the development of all human powers as such the end in itself, not as measured on a predetermined yardstick? Where he does not reproduce himself in one specificity, but produces his totality? Strives not to remain something he has become, but is in the absolute movement of becoming?"

(Grundrisse, p 487-488)

 

LBird
Philosophical presuppositions

Alf wrote:
A study of Buddhism would contradict the idea that "the notion of an ego-self only makes sense in bourgeois society".

Alf, if you think that the 'ego-self' is a trans-historic feature of humans, what does that say about the view we should adopt for our 'cognitive subject'? Do you think that we should regard the subject as an 'active individual', rather than an 'active social-individual'?

Alf wrote:
Take this queston of the ego: it's a central problem for Freud, for example, who sees the ego as the seat of human anxiety, perpetually confronted with the demands of the instincts 'within' and the socially-imposed reality principle 'without'.

Yes, perhaps 'it's a central problem for Freud', but was he a Communist? If not, why would we base our philosophy upon his, presumably individualist, ideas?

Alf wrote:
Freud was certainly trying to develop this theoretical approach from a scientific standpoint, but I don't see any problem for a scientific, historical world view in recognising that similar insights were expressed in older modes of production, most notably in Buddhist thought...

But from which 'scientific standpoint' was Freud 'trying to develop his theoretical approach'? Isn't this question of 'standpoint' at the heart of this thread's discussion?

Is there an ahistoric, objective, unpolitical, non-class-based, 'scientific standpoint'?

Lastly, were (and are) Buddhists trying to overthrow private property in this world? Do they reject any notion of consciousness outside of nature on this planet? If not, why would we look to them for philosophical sustenance?

I think that jaycee is on the wrong philosophical track, and if any other comrades reading this thread think that religious, Freudian or Buddhist ideas can form a basis for a proletarian science, I'm keen to hear from them! Especially regarding their theory of cognition, which I'd like to move on from, if we can get some agreement about the 'social-objective' model!

Pages