Beliefs, science, art and Marxism.

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Alf
scientists and communists

Comrades will differ as to whether Freud was really scientific in his approach, but let's slightly rephrase the question: was Darwin a communist? And if not, why did Marx and Engels consider that he had made such a fundamental contribution to the materialist understanding of human history? The same question could be applied to Morgan and many other 'bourgeois' scientists

Or bourgeois philosophers like Hegel. Did he reject any notion of consciousness outside of nature? Was he trying to overthrow private property? And yet without his contribution, would there have been a marxist view of history? 

The proletarian outlook did not appear Minerva-like outside of history, but integrated into itself the achievement of other classes and previous human communities. 

LBird
...or non-Communist scientists and Communist scientists?

Alf wrote:
…really scientific…

What is ‘really scientific’, Alf?

Alf wrote:
… let's slightly rephrase the question: was Darwin a communist? And if not, why did Marx and Engels consider that he had made such a fundamental contribution to the materialist understanding of human history? The same question could be applied to Morgan and many other 'bourgeois' scientists

Or bourgeois philosophers like Hegel.

Alf, the question isn’t ‘Are bourgeois thinkers useful?’. Clearly, unless one is a Prolekultist, which we’re not, then proletarian thinking has to be built upon, and take the best of, bourgeois thinkers, like Darwin, Morgan, Hegel, perhaps even Freud!

The real questions of this thread are ‘What is the scientific method?’, ‘What is science?’, ‘Is there a Proletarian science?’.

It seems to me that the method all those thinkers represent is a bourgeois method of ‘be born wealthy, have an elite education, view the world through ruling class eyes, be accountable to no-one, select oneself what to publish and what to keep hidden, etc.’.

Alf wrote:
And yet without his contribution…

Is ‘contribution’ the measure of what we consider ‘science’? What about Mengele’s “contribution”? He (and his mentor von Verschuer) considered themselves scientists doing science. He, at least, ‘contributed’ negative knowledge, of ‘what paths not to follow’. Was Mengele a scientist, like Darwin? If not, why not? Who decides? On what grounds?

How do we Communists define ‘science’? Does our scientific method include morality? Is ‘science’ a socially-neutral activity, or a class-based one?

Alf wrote:
The proletarian outlook did not appear Minerva-like outside of history, but integrated into itself the achievement of other classes and previous human communities.

Right, so what do we integrate and what do we reject from ‘other classes’? What new class-based philosophy and method do we add to that from ‘previous human communities’? What is our measure of integration, rejection and addition? Who does the measuring?

We, as a class, have to define what we mean by ‘really scientific’.

And, I’d argue, that process starts with a ‘theory of cognition’, and a definition of the ‘subject’. Is the subject an individual, a genius, above morality, unaccountable…? Should Darwin, Morgan, Hegel and Freud be our model? Do their methods represent an ahistoric ‘scientific method’?

LBird
Einstein: Theory determines what we can observe

"An end to our darkest secret? Scientists close to explaining dark matter"

The Independent, 4th April 2013, article An end to our darkest secret?, wrote:

Scientists are close to solving one of the biggest mysteries of the universe. They have found tantalising evidence that might soon explain dark matter – the 95 per cent of cosmic “stuff” that we know exists, yet cannot see or detect with conventional scientific instruments....

The AMS experiment does not detect neutralinos directly. Instead, it is designed to detect the electrons and positively charge particles called positrons that are, in theory, given off when neutralinos collide in a process known as annihilation.

The AMS has indeed detected an excess of positrons that supports the sub-atomic particle model of dark matter, but these positively-charged particles could also be the result of nuclear interactions going on in distant pulsars – rotating neutron stars in space.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/an-end-to-our-darkest-secret-scientists-close-to-explaining-dark-matter-8559007.html

Food for thought, for those who argue for the 'empirical evidence', 'what I can see with my eyes', school of 'real science'.

In fact, human theory determines what we know about 'reality'. Most of 'reality' will never be 'empirically experienced' by humans.

Alf
some points of agreement....

I'm a bit pressed but I am glad that LBird has clarified that he rejects the Proletkult approach (which I was concerned about when he posed the question about Freud being a communist), and that he agrees that the proletariat can integrate acquisitions from previous classes/communities (the latter is primarily a reference to primitive communism). And obviously there is much to reject in them as well, and a  discussion to be had about the criteria for integration or rejection. 

We have written about Proletkult and agreed with Trotsky's critique of the notion of 'proletarian culture'. To some extent the same points could be made about the idea of proletarian science. 

https://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_proletkult

https://en.internationalism.org/ir/109_trotsky_proletkult

We also published a contribution by Chris Knight which goes along similar lines and takes up some of the questions of methodology which LBird poses:

https://en.internationalism.org/icconline/2011/07/marxism-and-science-chris-knight

There was a short thread about this which could be revived: 

https://en.internationalism.org/forum/1056/jk1921/4410/chris-knight-marxism-and-science-part-one

 

MH
science in decadence

LBird wrote:

Is ‘contribution’ the measure of what we consider ‘science’? What about Mengele’s “contribution”? He (and his mentor von Verschuer) considered themselves scientists doing science. He, at least, ‘contributed’ negative knowledge, of ‘what paths not to follow’. Was Mengele a scientist, like Darwin? If not, why not? Who decides? On what grounds?

We can see Mengele as an extreme example of the tendency in the epoch of capitalism's decadence for science like other aspects of human culture in the widest sense to degenerate, to become debased, and to be turned into a weapon in the service of capitalist barbarism, just as Churchill's 'scientific adviser', Professor Lindemann, assisted in the 'scientific' firebombing or 'dehousing' of the German proletariat in WW2. In the case of Mengele there was clearly a line of reactionary, barbaric logic that led directly from the 'respectable' scientific theories of eugenics that began to circulate around the turn of the 20th century - precisely the period when we see the unmistakable signs that capitalism is entering its epoch of decay. 

But, just as we argue that capitalist decadence does not imply a complete halt to the  growth of the productive forces, so scientific discovery, as an essential component of the productive forces, does not come to a complete halt either. Even today, in the more extreme conditions of capitalism's phase of decomposition, we continue to see scientific discoveries and techological developments that could at least potentially contribute to the future of humanity; like the discoveries regarding dark matter cited above, for example, or the possible discovery of the Higgs particle, recent discoveries regarding the origins of life on earth, or in developing a cure for AIDS...  All these are developments of science, by scientists, even in a bourgeois society rotting on its feet, that if the proletariat is finally able to affirm itself as a class and destroy this putrid system, can surely be built on and developed in currently unimaginable ways in the service of humanity.

The appearance of barbaric scientists like Mengele, or of barbaric 'sciences' like how to destroy entire populations by bombing, does not negate all the scientific discoveries in decadent, decomposing bourgeois society, just as it does not mean all scientists are barbaric, or somehow not 'real' scientists able to make a contribution to humanity. Similarly, in the field of philosophy, we can argue over whether Adam Schaff, for example, was able to make a valid contribution to the understanding of language, learning and science despite the fact that he was a prominent member of the Polish Stalinist Party after WW2 - the latter is clearly very relevant in considering his contribution, and should make us as Marxists cautious to say the least about using his theories, but it does not in itself invalidate everything he wrote. 

The best science, like the best art, always tends to rise above the limitations of the class-divided society it finds itself in, and to serve the higher interests of humanity.

 

   

LBird
Authority of art?

Alf wrote:
… [LBird] agrees that the proletariat can integrate acquisitions from previous classes/communities (the latter is primarily a reference to primitive communism). And obviously there is much to reject in them as well, and a discussion to be had about the criteria for integration or rejection.

Thanks for the links, Alf. I'll follow them up later.

Yes, ‘criteria’. This is where I’m trying to steer the discussion, towards what the ‘criteria’ are for rejecting some parts of ‘bourgeois science’, and who decides these ‘criteria’. This is where I think my method posted earlier might be of some use.

LBird, post 18, wrote:
To re-arrange and further elaborate the ‘scientific method’ partially outlined earlier by Lone Londoner, I would propose the following as the ‘scientific method’:

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

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

This method would locate any scientific ‘theory and method’ in stage 3 and 4, which would allow us to ask “Within which social class and ideology does the particular ‘scientific theory and method’ originate?”. So, the answer might be ‘petty bourgeoisie and liberalism’, or ‘big bourgeois and conservatism’, or ‘petty bourgeois and fascism’, or whatever. Clearly, it still doesn’t follow that we would necessarily reject any research results merely on the basis of their origin, but it would allow us to assess ‘science’ from the perspective of the interests of the victorious proletariat/Communist humanity. This might be helpful in our search for ‘criteria’, Alf.

MH wrote:
… science …to become debased, and to be turned into a weapon in the service of capitalist barbarism, just as Churchill's 'scientific adviser', Professor Lindemann, assisted in the 'scientific' firebombing or 'dehousing' of the German proletariat in WW2. In the case of Mengele there was clearly a line of reactionary, barbaric logic that led directly from the 'respectable' scientific theories of eugenics…

Yes, but entirely scientific ‘reactionary, barbarian logic’.

We must have both a measure and a measurer of what parts of ‘science’ we reject. Using the argument, as some have done on the thread, ‘science tells us…’ is a big mistake. We must ask ‘Whose science?’.

MH wrote:
The appearance of barbaric scientists like Mengele, or of barbaric 'sciences' like how to destroy entire populations by bombing, does not negate all the scientific discoveries in decadent, decomposing bourgeois society, just as it does not mean all scientists are barbaric, or somehow not 'real' scientists able to make a contribution to humanity.

No, I agree: ‘it does not make all scientists’. But evidently, from your own argument, ‘it does make some scientists barbaric or not real scientists’. We have to have a measure and a measurer of which ‘science’ is barbaric or not real science. That is what is at issue on this thread. I would argue that a Proletarian Science, defined using democratic methods by Communist humanity, is needed for this job.

MH wrote:
Similarly, in the field of philosophy, we can argue over whether Adam Schaff, for example, was able to make a valid contribution to the understanding of language, learning and science despite the fact that he was a prominent member of the Polish Stalinist Party after WW2 - the latter is clearly very relevant in considering his contribution, and should make us as Marxists cautious to say the least about using his theories, but it does not in itself invalidate everything he wrote.

Yes, MH, I warned earlier that I had some differences with Schaff!

LBird, post69, wrote:
I have some disagreements with Schaff, but that's for another day…

Finally,

MH wrote:
The best science, like the best art, always tends to rise above the limitations of the class-divided society it finds itself in, and to serve the higher interests of humanity.

But who determines ‘best’, and by what measure? The problem with likening science to art is that ‘science’ has an authority (as we have seen on this thread) that ‘art’ does not.

No-one, not even Mengele, justifies vivisection of pregnant women by the authority of art.

Just by the authority of science, and its (alleged) value-free method.

LBird
Creative scientific method

Since Fred named this thread Beliefs, science, art and Marxism, it seems appropriate to post something here, which I have just read. Perhaps it will give food for thought.

Paul Feyerabend, in Against Method, p. 32, wrote:
It is possible to retain what one might call the freedom of artistic creation and to use it to the full... as a necessary means for discovering and perhaps even changing the features of the world we live in.

http://www.amazon.com/Against-Method-Fourth-Paul-Feyerabend/dp/1844674428

ps. have a read of the customer reviews at the end of this link.

LBird
Further Feyerabend

Feyerabend, pp. 47-8, wrote:
The first step in our criticism of commonly-used concepts is to create a measure of criticism, something with which these concepts can be compared…the first step in our criticism of customary concepts…is to…invent a new conceptual system, for example a new theory, that clashes…or to import such a system from outside science, from religion, from mythology, from the ideas of incompetents, or the ramblings of madmen.

fn 27. Confusionists and superficial intellectuals move ahead while the ‘deep’ thinkers descend into the darker regions of the status quo or, to express it in a different way, they remain stuck in the mud.

lem_
i'm sorry i lack focus to

i'm sorry i lack focus to reply properly. may i ask: don't we say that marxism is a science in lieu of it being utopian?

 

i.e., this will happen, this is how we stop it from happening, this is the why for both [and more].

that sounds very much like [to me] a working person's science. not it's not astro physics, but do we need it to be? no, what is needed is material struggle against what we are currently being pulled toward. the ICC's ideology itself seems sound: what is missing is the maturation of consciousness from within our current historical point in time. that would result from a mixture of - chance, fate, personal and collective struggle, and perhaps just the flux of time itself. there is no missing theory that will make us all super-agents, we are each [icc member or not] needed but not relied on, and there is no way that can change.

there's no contradiction here - there is nothing any one person can still do that will matter, and yet the roles we have or are taking need to be filled by someone. i do not understand if this is some minor, dry scholastic point we are discussing, or there is some blase notion that our own INDIVIDUAL subjectivities can be in some way enlightened. this is clearly mad, and while i applaud attempts to better get to grips with historical materialism, you will simply become a historical materialist [or a reactionary].

 

to sum: there is no way to improve on what has gone before.

baboon
marx on proudhon

I've just re-read Marx's "The Poverty of Philosophy" and while the whole book is interesting, if a little dense here and there, the second part, called "The Metaphysics of the Political Economy", is particularly interesting, very rigourous, quantifiable, verifiable, very funny in places against poor old Proudhon, and relevant to some aspects of this discussion on science.

I think that it can be confusing to call marxism a science, in the same way that "scientific socialism" doesn't quite cut it. The best term is communist and for the latter something of a scientific approach is needed. Indeed, we can see it in this discussion. In "The Poverty....", Marx shows such an approach with method. In his seven observations on method in the book, he gave for me, the clearest explanation of the overturning of Hegel's Reason, along with the Reason, morality and idealism of Proudhon, the latter wanting to suppress the bad side of capitalism and maintain an earlier, non-existent, "good" side. Marx's polemic was a communist analysis, written  in 1847, of the rise of capitalism from feudalism and the elements of the fundamental antagonism between capital and labour.

It's not that science has a good side (medical advances) and a bad side (atom bombs) but that we live in a society where the fundamental question is the antagonism between the two classes.  A quote from The Seventh and Last Observation: "So long as they"  (the Utopians; Owen in England and the Fourerists in France for example) " look for science and merely make systems, so long as they are at the beginning of the struggle, they see in poverty nothing but poverty, without seeing in it the revolutionary subversive side, which will overthrow the old society. From the moment they see this side, science, which is produced by the historical movement and which associates itself with it with full consciousness, has ceased to be doctrinaire and has become revolutonary".

A.Simpleton
Cognition of the cognitor

I don't revere science, psychology, psychiatry, marriage guidance counsellors ,statistics, law, authority in general, religious truth, doctors, consultants, lawyers, meteorologists ,archaeology, objectivity, and especially not Simon  Cowell ... . ...and in 45 years of adult life I have personally met or heard 10,000s of people of all nationalities ,who don't 'revere' science , doctors, politicians, cont for 94 pages  and easily see through the veneers of importance given to these things  ( 'they're just trying to sell you the drug they get a back hander for' etc ) and this from all backgrounds . You're making it up.: passivity in no way implies stupidity. Sie unterstelle was sie entwärtigen soll German Ideology : 1845/6 Marx [7. Summary of the Materialist Conception of History] 'It {Marx's materialist View Of History} has not, like the idealistic view of history, in every period to look for a category, but remains constantly on the real ground of history; it does not explain practice from the idea but explains the formation of ideas from material practice; and accordingly it comes to the conclusion that all forms and products of consciousness cannot be dissolved by mental criticism, by resolution into “self-consciousness” or transformation into “apparitions,” “spectres,” “fancies,” etc. but only by the practical overthrow of the actual social relations which gave rise to this idealistic humbug; Tthat not criticism but revolution is the driving force of history, also of religion, of philosophy and all other types of theory. It shows that history does not end by being resolved into “self-consciousness as spirit of the spirit,” but that in it at each stage there is found a material result: a sum of productive forces, ** 'An historically created relation of individuals to nature' : and to one another, which is handed down to each generation from its predecessor; a mass of productive forces, capital funds and conditions, which, on the one hand, is indeed modified by the new generation, but also on the other prescribes for it its conditions of life and gives it a definite development, a special character. It shows that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances.'   In Marx's original German note the word 'circumstances' is Die Umstande : and in the doctoral thesis I read on the Triangle of Cognition by Elena Kalmikova (twice slowly)..she uses  a  new word but similar using ' Umweld' to describe a new version of nonetheless a similar process : sphere in Marx triangle in TOG The 'Connected reproduced  Environment ' handed down from the previous triangle -affecting -cognition (choice of focus)-affecting action (intention- action script etc.)thus affecting the  environment and so on . viz: 'prescribes for it its conditions of life and gives it a definite development' :' definite ';  not to be sloppily usurped in one's mind as 'definitive' some bullshit absolute but as as ' boundaried , the boundaries of 'focus' and 'action' and 'environment handed on'.  It's a brilliant model! but /and don't you see that Marx (not just here but throughout)is 150 years earlier describing not only a similaly perceptive and revolutionary model,  the interelation of cognition , action and therefore changed environment leading to new ( or NOT :@{) cognition, but that he radically demonstrated that very model  by blowing out of the water the whole 'previously' limited environment of Politial Economy and its unscrutinised presumptions and took action on it .He found a 'gap' a 'white space' and thank god because otherwise I would have just been lost in Bourgeois chaos .   *******The German Original : Marx , precisely because he was breaking new ground and did not want the 'baggage of old words to be 'assumed' in his exposition' was very.very. very choosy, exact and sarcastic often , in his choice or even invention of words and phrases : in fact his word :Wir gehn .............von gegenwärtigen Faktum aus: was pretty untranslatable ...'socially objective' ...  (fact) .... hmm pretty close  AS ***** 

 

baboon
Barbarian art

Though this discussion has expired for now this post is probably OK here under the heading above.

 

In yesterday’s Guardian there’s an article about an upcoming exhibition of “Celtic” art at the British Museum -

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2015/jul/10/from-monsters-to-man...

except there’s no such thing as “Celtic art” because there’s been no body of peoples historically that have ever called themselves “Celts” or “Celtic”. Like “Pagan” this name is misleading and, in the case of Celtic, is something of a perversion of history. In the article British Museum Director, Neil MacGregor, explains – partially: “The word Celts was used to describe what people were not – not Roman, not Viking, not Mediterranean, not Metropolitan or Imperial... The name Celt is a badge of otherness”. More accurately these people are barbarians and their art is barbarian art.

 

This art reaches it apogee about two thousand years ago in the different La Tene stages of northern France and Britain but it’s influences and steps forward come from eastern and central Europe, Turkey, Italy (Etruscan), but not Greece. These tribes were sedentary, farmers and metal-workers who were also masters in working stone. Their art incorporates clear expressions from the cave art of the Upper Palaeolithic which it goes forward for example from the anthromorphic human/animal figure to the three-sided human/animal/plant compositions. Like the latter it is asymmetrical and dialectical. Single works appear organic and inorganic at the same time and this is deliberate given that the worker has deliberately added twists to enhance the magical effect. It shows the persistence of common belief systems from the U.P., in that there are strong elements of Shamanism throughout.

 

Usually sober experts describe this art, and particularly its later expressions as “astonishing”, “explosive”. Professor N.K. Sanders, in her 1968 book, “Prehistoric Art in Europe”, calls it “...mercurial, shape-shifting enigmatic magic”. The art encapsulates the fantastic beasts, the faces, the figures, the patterns that belonged to a development over tens of thousands of years but, in tribute to it, takes on with La Tene a whole new and different quality. This artistic “explosion” is almost as if this was the final great flourish of art outside of the civilisation that these peoples would be integrated into because like the cave painters these barbarians were history-making people.

 

Around sixteen hundred years ago (c 400 A.D.) barbarian and La Tene art made a brief reappearance in Europe – Engels mentions it in his “History...”. It came from the revival of barbarian culture in the so-called “Dark Ages”, which also included the revival of mother-right and the re-establishment of a certain democracy. This element didn’t do wonders – as Marx noted – but he went on to say that it built up the populations for the blood-letting of the Crusades. It was these elements of La Tene and later barbarian art that were integrated into the Christian religion, its symbols, its texts (exquisite reproduction by the monks) and its architecture.

lem_
i suppose it is quite trendy

i suppose it is quite trendy nowadays to claim to be an artist or interested in art [cultural capital?].

IMVHO this can be tested.

would a communist revolution make your [past] life or behaviour, more meaningful or less meaningful ?

i think mine would be so, but i cannnot guarantuee it...

Amir1
we say:Art enhances the

we say:Art enhances the appreciation of life, but they say: it is just pleasurable-aesthetic-, how could we convince them?

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