Is Marxism A Science?

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MH
the marxist defence of objectivity

LBird wrote:

jk1921 wrote:

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

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

Me? At the moment, I want to discuss 'science'.

I think it’s a pity that LBird dismissed jk’s question, because the more I think about this issue the more central I think it is for a Marxist discussion of science. I was about three-quarters of the way to agreeing with LBird’s definition of ‘social objectivity’ because it seemed to be a re-statement of a basic part of a Marxist analysis of society to accept that scientific or any other ideas can only be understood in the context of the society that they emerge from (which is precisely why LBird finds himself in such agreement with the ICC’s text on science above…)

But…  jk’s question about the crisis is central to Marxism: if we can’t ‘prove’ that capitalism today is in its epoch of decadence then our position on the need for revolution is the same as the anarchists, or the ‘anarcho-Bordigists' of the GCI  who reject the whole concept of decadence and argue that communism has been a possibility since 1848 or even in earlier periods of history.

I think the central flaw in LBird’s concept of ‘social objectivity' is that it equates ‘objectivity’ with what bourgeois scientists thought they were doing in the nineteenth century, ie. 'objectivity = positivism’. Even if this was the dominant view in this period does not mean we can or should equate the whole concept of objectivity with a bourgeois world view. Just as we can’t equate everything produced by science or any other human cultural activity today with decadent capitalism.

I think the evidence for this is in fact the whole approach taken by the Marxist movement since its birth! If positivism was the dominant ideology of scientists in the 19th century this didn’t prevent Marx from basing the whole of his critique of bourgeois political economy on … the bourgeoisie’s own political economists  and even its official government statistics! He ‘simply’ turned these upside down by looking at them from the point of view of the new exploited and revolutionary class in order to prove that capitalism was just another transitory mode of production, in fact the last such class society, and needed to be destroyed by the working class.

Similarly, if you read Pannekoek’s excellent article on Darwinism and Marxism, for example (available on this website) , it doesn’t begin with a critique of objectivity or 19th century ideas of positivism but uses a Marxist analysis to build on Darwin’s own scientific achievements and draws out their genuine revolutionary content as a theoretical weapon for the working class.

As Marxists therefore I don't think we need to invent a third category of ‘social objectivity’. Marxism, I would suggest, has historically been perfectly capable of critically understanding and using the products of bourgeois scientists and turning them into theoretical weapons in the hands of the working class. The use of such a term only serves to introduce suspicions about the rejection of objectivity, and I think that’s one reason why LBird has run up against such resistance to the adoption of his schemas, which are rooted not so much in Marxism and the workers’ movement as in a radical philosophy of science.

 

Fred
It's not so much the

It's not so much the rejection of "objectivity" is it, so much as a bad feeling about the concept "objective truth" ? Most on the forum appear to agree that"truth" is open to doubt and change.  Sticking the word "objective" in front of it doesn't make any difference to that.  No doubt Pannekoek didn't bother with a critique of "objectivity" because it really doesn't exist as such.  All perception, all intuitions, all feelings and all knowledge are understood via an individual subjective consciousness; and the problem becomes one of finding a method of expressing and validating all or some of this on an interpersonal level.  (Even if we were to prove some hypothesis we had through only a scientific and technical, mechanical approach, and in solitude, we would still need some other person to confirm what we had done and thus validate it - unless of course we were a bit mad and thought this irrelevant.)   This we do through interpersonal exchange of ideas, the culture of debate and so on, and eventually arrive at a tentative objectivity which has been achieved through social interaction;  and has produced something "socially objective", thus allowing us to escape subjective imprisonment. .  

 

I imagine workers' councils will be constantly in search of the socially objective in all their deliberations. I also imagine (I think?) that feelings of solidarity  are spawned and spread through an innate awareness of "we're being socially objective here: we know - more or less - what we're doing and why, and where we're going."  Aren't class consciousness and social objectivity as scientific achievements of the class, likely to be closely connected? 

LBird
No, the 'Marxist' defence of a discredited 'objectivity'

MH wrote:
I think it’s a pity that LBird dismissed jk’s question, because the more I think about this issue the more central I think it is for a Marxist discussion of science.

No, I don't agree, MH. A discussion about 'science' doesn't need to entangle itself in the specifics of the workings of capitalism and its crises. We need to discuss and decide upon the meanings of 'science' and 'Marxism' first, before moving onto any detailed discussions of the workings of 'scientific Marxism' or 'proletarian science', or whatever else we conclude that we should name our efforts as Communists in trying to understand both the natural and social world.

MH wrote:
But… jk’s question about the crisis is central to Marxism: if we can’t ‘prove’ that capitalism today is in its epoch of decadence...

But this is an entirely different level of question: it is an empirical question that can be examined after we've decided what it is we're actually doing. Are we doing 'science'? If so (and I believe we are), then our scientific method would be an integral part of answering those types of questions.

But we have to describe what our scientific method actually is.

MH wrote:
As Marxists therefore I don't think we need to invent a third category of ‘social objectivity’.

But we're not inventing this category. This is how science actually works! (which is precisely why LBird finds himself in such agreement with the ICC’s text on science above…) I think the concept 'social-objectivity' is shorthand for the ICC's method.

MH wrote:
The use of such a term only serves to introduce suspicions about the rejection of objectivity, and I think that’s one reason why LBird has run up against such resistance to the adoption of his schemas, which are rooted not so much in Marxism and the workers’ movement as in a radical philosophy of science.

But it's not 'rejecting objectivity'! It's got 'objectivity' in its name. But... the notion of 'objectivity' outside of socially-produced understanding has been totally discredited by 20th century science. In my opinion, if Marxists attempt to hang on to a laughable, outdated, disproved concept, they will lose all credibility. To maintain there is simple 'objective knowledge' is, in effect, to take a religious stance on this issue. Quoting 19th century texts and citing 19th century authors as scriptural authority is not the way forward. We must learn the lessons from the best of bourgeois thinkers.

When I mention 'proletarian science', there are shouts of 'Lysenkoism', 'Stalinist political interference', 'proletkultist', etc., and admonitions that we can't simply reject past learning.

I couldn't agree more.

But when I try to define the parts of bourgeois thinking that we should absorb, and take forward as the basis of our proletarian, Communist thinking, I'm accused of now wrongly attempting to 'root Marxism in a radical philosophy of science'.

Marxism must be 'rooted' in the 'best' of existing philosophy - our task is to define 'best', use that to identify the 'best' philosophy, and integrate it into our Communist view of the natural and social world.

I'm not clear on why there is such deference to an 'objective knowledge' outside of its social production. The ICC's text does not do this, does it?

LBird
Oh, no...!

Fred wrote:
All perception, all intuitions, all feelings and all knowledge are understood via an individual subjective consciousness...

But 'consciousness' is not 'individual', Fred. It's 'social'.

Perhaps this is why we are all having so much trouble with these issues? 'Individuals' are products of a certain society in a certain point in history...

That's my 'social-objective' opinion, anyway!

A.Simpleton
Does this help inform the debate ...

I tried an experiment : substituting 'a religious truth' for a 'a scientific truth'. The result lead me to a thorough,  comprehensive presentation of the Three Part Model of Cognition which is very well described there. It is still work in progress: assimilating the way the three components are defined, the way they combine,the way they form a unity, the way that unity remains though the other components are constantly interacting, re-describing each other.

It has certainly informed me and although -work in progress as I said- I don't find it 'at odds' with my Marxist views or a 'threat' as it were to positions..It will take sometime to assimilate but it seems to offer up new possibilities of re-conceptualising, re-describing, acting -whether Theorie oder Praxis- without directing or prescribing . It isn't -even from my rudimentary understanding- built that way.

I can only commend LBird for unflaggingly (and naggingly ..just joshing) trying to draw focus and attention to it. 

NB There are various versions and I'm a 'novice' : I had to take care to see why the very words used are carefully chosen for reasons which paradoxically become clearer as one grasps the model.

(Especially : 'Language' : which itself is distilled into 4 (in her version) focus, attention, utterance, description along with Action  : sudivided intention et alia : Environment -note how 'Greenpeace' springs to mind and that's not it at all )

How is this relevant? 

Your clear presentation above MH identifies the example of Official Government Statistics :@~ Let us as an experiment take that one point .

Yes Marx indeed used them because they were published ( 'Action' of Goverment in this case) .They therefore became part of the Environment of more precisely 'Marx's Environment ': what did he then do? perceive them and with a series of actions use them to show this point or that .

What was the 'intention' of the Governement's Action? Various: (I'm just experimenting with the model) but obviously Capitalism was just about to expand the forces of production in unprecedented ascendance: so they may have been 'accurate' perhaps say to boast success.

What was Marx's 'intention'? to use their own Economic display against them .Why did he choose to 'focus' on this part of the 'Environment' and draw it to 'attention' ? Because he wanted to re-describe. this boasted success as part of a ruthless system . He wanted -say- to write Wage Labour and Capital another Action with intention and so on ..

This is all rather disjointed at the moment -apologies-and obviously there is no need to examine everything in this detail.

Now Official Government Satistics may still be published (Action) but today with what intention? Top prove' that there is a rise in employment with 'evidence' ...well we would not use those figures unless to show that they are faked, forged, empty, propaganda covering up Capitalism's decadence.

But where do we find our 'evidence' to 'prove' the decadence?

Good question ! and that's why -although it's work in progress - we surely can consider other measures than 'objectivity' which if it is assumed to be the basis for 'sientifically' produced lies ,lies and damned lies is ( I am delighted to say) further discredited..

We feel a 'lack' in this area of where to look ,how to show,with what criteria to demonstrate.

'Socially Objective' is a great start ( I don't think I misheard LB ..must have been an apples and oranges thing)

 Through none of this has the Marxist perspective been undermined,  This sentence struck me at the end of the thesis about  the gaps /white spaces in a world or particular 'Environment' that are undiscovered until they are discovered !

Thus, I suggest that the perceived sufficiency of our knowledge of the world is an obtsacle to the sufficiency of perception.

 

AS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

LBird
Own petard?

A.Simpleton wrote:
I can only commend LBird for unflaggingly (and naggingly ..just joshing) trying to draw focus and attention to it.

No, I believe that 'naggingly' is the correct socially-objective term for my activity, AS!

LBird
Competition, eh?

After badgering Fred about their use of 'individuality', I think, on re-reading their post, I should say something much more positive, because Fred's post is overwhelmingly agreeable to me.

Fred wrote:
Most on the forum appear to agree that "truth" is open to doubt and change. Sticking the word "objective" in front of it doesn't make any difference to that.

This is a key point: one might as well use "god's truth" as "objective truth". Or even "true truth". 'Truth' is always a social truth. And thus it changes.

Fred wrote:
This we do through interpersonal exchange of ideas, the culture of debate and so on, and eventually arrive at a tentative objectivity which has been achieved through social interaction; and has produced something "socially objective", thus allowing us to escape subjective imprisonment.
[my bold]

Spot on, Fred! Society is not a subjective opinion. It really exists.

Fred wrote:
I imagine workers' councils will be constantly in search of the socially objective in all their deliberations. I also imagine (I think?) that feelings of solidarity are spawned and spread through an innate awareness of "we're being socially objective here: we know - more or less - what we're doing and why, and where we're going." Aren't class consciousness and social objectivity as scientific achievements of the class, likely to be closely connected?
[my bold]

Christ, Fred, you're better than me at this stuff!

I'm condemned to mere 'naggery' (thanks, AS), whilst you have the touch of a poetic scientist.

More, more!

MH
And yet Marx wrote Capital... *

"Eppur si muove" (and yet it moves, Galileo)

LBird wrote:

A discussion about 'science' doesn't need to entangle itself in the specifics of the workings of capitalism and its crises. We need to discuss and decide upon the meanings of 'science' and 'Marxism' first, before moving onto any detailed discussions of the workings of 'scientific Marxism' or 'proletarian science', or whatever else we conclude that we should name our efforts as Communists in trying to understand both the natural and social world.

LBird wrote:

But this [ie whether the capitalist crisis is an objective fact – MH] is an entirely different level of question: it is an empirical question that can be examined after we've decided what it is we're actually doing. Are we doing 'science'? If so (and I believe we are), then our scientific method would be an integral part of answering those types of questions.

LBird wrote:

Quoting 19th century texts and citing 19th century authors as scriptural authority is not the way forward. We must learn the lessons from the best of bourgeois thinkers.

Tempting as it is to say, ‘I rest my case’ (see post #72, I think this is a good response from LBird if only because it helps us to show just how distanced his whole approach is from the historical approach of Marxism and the workers’ movement. I would encourage comrades to go back over LBird’s post and see whether they agree or not. Last words (yet again) to Karl...

KT wrote:

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

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  * Perhaps more to the point, and yet he and Engels managed to write the Communist Manifesto!

 

LBird
The 'Theses' support social objectivity

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

Yes, it 'is not a question of theory but is a practical question'.

The reality of the 'object', and the theory of the 'social subject', must be brought together in practice, as the 'subject' actively interrogates the 'object', thus producing by practice 'socially-objective knowledge'.

The idea that the 'object' presents itself to the 'subject', unsullied by practical human activity, is positivism. Positivism claims to produce, by its very passivity, 'objective knowledge'.

Philosophers of science have disproved positivism, and Marx's views outlined the Theses have been shown to be ahead of their time.

'Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, the this-sidedness [Diesseitigkeit] of his thinking, in practice.' And this active process by humans produces socially objective knowledge.

MH wrote:
Tempting as it is to say, ‘I rest my case’ ... I think this is a good response from LBird if only because it helps us to show just how distanced his whole approach is from the historical approach of Marxism and the workers’ movement.

My 'whole approach' is 'certainly distanced' from huge parts of the so-called 'Marxism and the workers' movement'. Like Stalinism, like the German SPD, etc.

But that's the $64,000 question isn't it? What parts of 'Marxism' did Marx himself reject?

We're following his lead, comrades. Omnibus Dubitandum.

LoneLondoner
Or Lbird agrees with the ICC?

Lbird wrote:

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

Well, nice to find that we agree on something (actually I have agreed with a lot of what you said about the evolution of scientific thought). But given that you've been on this forum for 16 weeks, and that Chirik's text that I've cited was written in the 1970s, that the article on the Culture of debate was published in 2007, and that the article on Anaximander was written a year ago... wouldn't it be more accurate to say that you agree with the ICC?

As for "social objectivity", I have two major objections: 1) I cannot see that it offers anything beyond some basics of marxism (that's why I cited Chirik, who was a marxist but not a scientist), and 2) what you have said (or implied) about the possibility of everybody voting on the truth of scientific theory is still - assuming I have understood you correctly and forgive me for being blunt - mechanistic and unrelated to reality.

That said, "even if the theory itself turns out to be wrong (for example, Copernicus’ theory that the sun was at the centre of the universe), by posing the right questions it will have allowed debate to go forwards and the sum of knowledge to increase": the questions you are raising are real and important and demand a reply in greater depth than is possible in a forum post.

LBird
But no other posters do agree with the ICC?

LoneLondoner wrote:
Well, nice to find that we agree on something [but]... wouldn't it be more accurate to say that you agree with the ICC?

Yes, I seem to agree with the ICC. And I think that the tripartite model of 'object, social subject and socially-objective knowledge' is by far the best way to explain that Marxist approach.

LoneLondoner wrote:
As for "social objectivity", I have two major objections...

Ahhh.... so you don't agree with the ICC's use of the tripartite model?

You don't think that the ICC is attempting to produce 'socially-objective' knowledge? Have some faith, comrade!

LoneLondoner wrote:
...the questions you are raising are real and important and demand a reply in greater depth than is possible in a forum post.

Yeah, joking aside, these are extremely important questions for all Marxists and Communists, because the answers to these philosophical and scientific questions will determine so many other political stances.

At the end of the day, this is only a forum, which of necessity demands short, pithy posts, and a much longer and considered philosophical response is required from all Marxists, including the ICC.

Personally, I hope that the ICC gets 'ahead of the game' and gives a lead on this issue and produces a pamphlet (in physical and electronic versions) which can be circulated to help stimulate wider discussion within the working class.

LBird
Taking up recommendation

ICC wrote:
As Carlo Rovelli points out in his study of Thales and Anaximander, and of the society of the Ionian city of Miletos during the first millennium BCE...

I've ordered Rovelli's The First Scientist: Anaximander and his Legacy, on the ICC's recommendation.

Thanks.

 

 

A.Simpleton
No matter what you try to say ....

' everybody's gonna listen in their own way ' (Mose Allison song) and yet forward progress is being made on this thread ... I'm certainly learning...

{by the hour... I'm editing this in because even that song which is hey ...just a song but I just realised -totally personal point- how it confirms in me a past expression : becomes part of my environment: limiting my thought by 're-affirming' -if you like- resignation to the impossibility of being understood ......hmmm)  

****

From Engels' letter to C. Schmidt Berlin: written in London August 1890:

 Just as Marx used to say, commenting on the French "Marxists" of the late [18]70s: "All I know is that I am not a Marxist."

And:

"It often seems as if these gentlemen think anything is good enough for the workers. If these gentlemen only knew that Marx thought his best things were still not good enough for the workers, how he regarded it as a crime to offer the workers anything but the very best!"

[my bold and underline]

*****

Now before I die in a hail of bullet points :@--

Self evidently I have used the term of myself many times as a 'shorthand' but ...ah! what danger ...

BUT even when in overdramatic (read 'self-important !) mode, viz
:

 "Let us not ask : is Marxism a Science ..Let us free Science with Revolutionary Marxism !( although he himself unsurprisingly didn't much care for the word 'Marxism' but that's another story ) 

Note that I added at least a caution.

 

AS

LBird
A proletarian method?

A.Simpleton, I'd like your opinion about an outline for a 'scientific method' that I posted on the 'Beliefs, science, art and Marxism' thread. If we're starting to get some agreement on the issue of 'social-objectivity', perhaps now is the time to revisit my suggestion, which, I think, integrates 'social-objective' cognition with a 'scientific method'.

LBird, thread B,s,a and M, post #18, wrote:
...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’.

As I've pointed out here, 'society and ideology' are usually seen as outside the concerns of a 'scientific method'. But surely if we accept the concept of 'social-objectivity', then we must incorporate the social subjects' (ie. today's 'scientists') society and ideology into our model.

I think this also allows us to examine Lakatos' concept of the 'hard core' of a 'research programme' as being located in those first two steps (ie. society and ideology), whilst the rest of the r. p. ('soft pulp'?) would be located in the latter steps (theory, method, hypothesis, etc.).

This is all very speculative, but I would like to hear the opinions of any comrades who have any comments or criticisms.

LBird
Amendment to suggested method

After giving a little thought to Lakatos' argument about 'anomalies' being produced by a 'research programme' (that is, results produced by empirical testing that are 'ignored' by scientists (in violation of their supposed impartial 'scientific method') and simply put to one side 'for later' (sic)), and would like to amend my tentative method, to:

“Society, ideology, theory, method, hypothesis, define empirical evidence, test empirical evidence, results (each stage exposed to general scrutiny), and then loop back to ‘theory’ (where any experimental results which threaten the 'hard core' are ignored) and repeat, ad infinitum”.

The parameters for this supposedly illegitimate 'ditching process' are contained within the axioms and assumptions of the 'hard core', ie. within the particular method's stages of 'society and ideology'.

Also, perhaps we should locate the third stage ('theory') within the Lakatosian 'hard core'?

Perhaps I should follow this post up with some illustrations of this tentative method? I think that will clarify a little where this is all going, and allow comrades to criticise more easily.

LBird
Meat on the bones?

If we accept Schaff’s notion of ‘social-objectivity’ (scientific knowledge is generated by human theoretical and practical activity) and Lakatos’ concept of a research programme’s ‘hard core’ (of axioms and assumptions which are irrefutable by empirical evidence), I think that we always have to locate a ‘science’ in its concrete socio-ideological circumstances. That is, a given society produces its own ‘relevant questions’ and predetermines its own ‘acceptable answers’. Of course, ‘relevant’ and ‘acceptable’ are themselves socially determined.

This inexorably leads us to the consideration, I think, that we must expose both the social material roots and the social ideological roots of any so-called ‘science’. For us as Communists, as it is also a given that societies are class-divided, then it should also be a given that these opposed classes produce competing ideologies with which to interpret and understand the world, both natural and social.

From these assumptions emerge my proposed first and second stages of our ‘scientific method’, that is, ‘society’ and ‘ideology’.

I think that these methodological stages would fit well with Lakatos’ ‘hard core’, because, similarly to his ‘hard core’ being ‘empirically irrefutable’, classes have ideologies that seem to be impervious to correction whatever the ‘empirical circumstances’. In effect, any ‘facts’ which seem to deny the ‘truth’ of an ideology are ‘explained away’ as being ‘not real facts’, ‘biased’, ‘unrepresentative of a wider context’ or ‘ideologically-driven’ (of course, no ideology itself supposedly does this, its own method is always claimed to be ‘disinterested research’!).

But we Communists must refuse to hide our ideological biases. And they are biases. The notion of ‘objective truth’ has been irrevocably destroyed by 20th century science. No humans have ever had unmediated access to reality, and neither will the victorious proletariat have direct access to reality within a future Communist society. We must expose our biases to criticism, the better to form a democratic judgement upon our current ‘social-objectivity’. This is the closest that humanity can get to the nirvana of ‘objectivity’. We are not god. The ‘truth’ is social, and changes. We have eaten of the fruit of the tree of knowledge. What makes our biases less biased is that we have nothing to hide, unlike the bourgeoisie which must, of necessity, always deny its economic exploitation of most of humanity. Our biases are only ideological biases, not material biases, and thus we can claim to be less biased (but not bias-free).

So, to come back to our model, I suggest that stage one (within a class society) in effect consists of the class position of the social subject. Classes have material interests, and these are reflected in their ideologies. Thus stage two would consist of various class ideologies. This difference between the stages is required because no class is monolithic in its ideas, and the same class may produce different ideologies to reflect different historical circumstances and the changing ways of trying to deal with those specific circumstances.

As a current example, on the ‘legacy of Freud’ thread, I have suggested that Freud’s version of science is ‘bourgeois liberal science’. This will be contrasted with our ‘proletarian communist science’. There is no just ‘science’. The claim to objective knowledge being produced by a special method called ‘science’ is a bourgeois myth. Science is a human, questioning, practical activity. As part of our scientific method, we should expose the social and ideological roots of all sciences, including our own.

As examples of ‘science’, using this method, we might have bourgeois liberal, bourgeois fascist, bourgeois conservative, proletarian liberal, proletarian communist, proletarian Marxist, etc. Of course, these are only suggestions, and we might insert a third category, so that we might have proletarian communist Marxist and proletarian communist Anarchist, etc. This categorisation would need a lot of discussion, but my outline at least provides a basis for debate. Comrades should note that there is no reason why two socio-ideological ‘sciences’ should not come to the same conclusions on some issues (so, ‘proletarian molecules’ will be much the same as ‘bourgeois molecules’, to undercut the jokes now), but we can’t be sure of that beforehand in many scientific contexts, so we must expose the different axioms and assumptions of the ‘hard core’ to the light of criticism. Since our scientific method will cover all the disciplines of ‘science’ (physics, chemistry, sociology, history, etc., etc.), we would be moving closer to Marx’s proposal for unifying all the natural and social sciences into one human science.

I have more to say and discuss, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. This post will provide enough food for thought, I think.

LBird
Some supporting text

I have received the book recommended by the ICC. Here are some ‘juicy’ quotes from the Introduction, which I think support the view of science I have tried to discuss here.

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

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

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

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

Alf
who owns science?

First of all, I am glad that, judging from your last post, Lbird, you accept that we (i.e you and the ICC) agree that positivism, which is closely related to common sense empiricism, to the ideology of Reason, and to the vision of the universe as a vast machine, is to be thoroughly criticised and overcome, as indicated by the opening line of the first thesis on Feuerbach:

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

Thus revolutionary praxis means: not taking the world as an alien object, a mechanical operation which the objective observer measures from a great height above it; but, sensuously, "subjectively", i.e., from the inside out rather than the outside in.  

Where we seem to have a major disagreement is with statements like the following:

As a current example, on the ‘legacy of Freud’ thread, I have suggested that Freud’s version of science is ‘bourgeois liberal science’. This will be contrasted with our ‘proletarian communist science’. There is no just ‘science’. The claim to objective knowledge being produced by a special method called ‘science’ is a bourgeois myth. Science is a human, questioning, practical activity. As part of our scientific method, we should expose the social and ideological roots of all sciences, including our own.

But if science is indeed a "human, questioning activity", it cannot be reduced to the property of any particular class, not even a property-owning class like the bourgeoisie, and still less to a propertyless class like the proletariat. Freud's contribution to this human questioning activity was in essence revolutionary, even when it was held back and deformed by the ideology of other classes, which unsurprisingly came naturally to a Viennese 'little burgher'. 

LBird
Humanity not class

Alf wrote:
But if science is indeed a "human, questioning activity", it cannot be reduced to the property of any particular class, not even a property-owning class like the bourgeoisie, and still less to a propertyless class like the proletariat.

I haven't argued that 'science can be reduced to the property of a class', Fred.

I've argued, in the context of Lakatos' concept of a 'hard core' within all research programmes, that we should try to identify some of the contents of this 'hard core', which Lakatos argues is irrefutable by empirical evidence. Thus, I've suggested that a social subject's class position and ideology should be exposed, as a part of proletarian scientific method.

The 'questions' that humans pose are not the result of 'ahistoric, free-thinking individuals', but inherently are part of a wider conceptual framework which changes over time, and which includes the class and ideological context of those questions. We should have a method that 'roots out' the axioms and assumptions of the 'question-poser'.

The problem is that 'science', to the layperson, is still believed to produce 'The Truth' or 'Objective Knowledge'. This is a legacy of 19th century Positivism, and it suits the bourgeoisie to continue teaching this view of science, both initially to children in school and reinforcingly to adults through the media. The reason is that this maintains respect for an 'authority' in society that is unquestionable, because it has access to 'The Truth'. Thus, the answers of 'science' become like the answers of the 'market': There Is No Alternative.

As Communists, we should undermine any authority in society that is not under the control of society itself. If we don't do this, a small section of society will control these authorities, including the production of social knowledge.

In effect, I'm arguing that 'science must be reduced to the property of humanity'.

LBird
Comradely request

Alf wrote:
Freud's contribution to this human questioning activity was in essence revolutionary, even when it was held back and deformed by the ideology of other classes, which unsurprisingly came naturally to a Viennese 'little burgher'.

Alf, I've asked you on the 'Freud' thread to sum up what you consider to be the useful aspects of his thought for Communists. You haven't yet done this, although I'm keen to learn and would like you to do so, on that thread, please.

Alf
then we agree...?

In effect, I'm arguing that 'science must be reduced to the property of humanity'.

Agreed.

Also agree that Freud should be discussed on the Freud thread. I did suggest we start with your response to the article we published. 

LBird
Returning the favour?

Alf wrote:
LBird wrote:
In effect, I'm arguing that 'science must be reduced to the property of humanity'.

Agreed.

So, if we agree on 'social-objectivity', does that mean that you (personally or the ICC) also agree with my tentative outline of a 'proletarian scientific method'?

Alf wrote:
Also agree that Freud should be discussed on the Freud thread. I did suggest we start with your response to the article we published.

Yes, and I responded with a request for you to 'sum-up' the relevant points, just like I have with Lakatos' and Schaff's ideas during these 'science' thread discussions.

If a comrade has some existing expertise with a subject, they should share it with other comrades, rather than expecting someone unfamiliar with a subject to read an in-depth article/book. My outlines of Lakatos' 'hard core' and Schaff's 'tripartite theory of cognition' have tried to serve this purpose. Even without reading the original, comrades can now orientate themselves to the discussion. Of course, once this is done, there is nothing stopping anyone from going further and reading the sources themselves, to confirm my summaries, which is why I've also detailed my sources' texts.

LBird
Summary so far

The thread title is ‘Is Marxism A Science?’. I’ve tried to show that a definition of ‘science’ itself must be provided first, to then answer our question.

So, if we define ‘science’ to be ‘a critical social activity under the control of humanity’, then perhaps we can answer ‘Yes, Marxism is (or can be) a science’.

This also means that we can criticise bourgeois science as not being resolutely scientific enough. It is pretend and partial science. If any supposed science does not use the entirety of resources available to it from humanity, it is not complete. Bourgeois science actively excludes most humans from its processes. Science is at present similar to sport and The Olympics of the nineteenth century, when only wealthy amateurs could take part. Once sport was opened up to ‘the masses’, records fell. The pretence of ‘good breeding’ as being the source of the highest human achievements could no longer be maintained. And so it will be with ‘science’.

Those who argue in favour of ‘expert and elite’ science are, in effect, today’s eugenicists.

To take the bull by the horns, physics (just like any science) can only become a complete science when it is a mass activity, and under the complete democratic control of the widest possible number of humans.

Of course, this is not possible within bourgeois society. Education must be freely available to all humans on this planet, to the highest level of post-doctoral research. All science research papers must be available to everybody. Education must consist of a unified natural and social scientific method. Education must be critical, not just the mere regurgitating of information in exams. The answers of scientific knowledge must be seen to be eternally partial and open to transformation, when measured against new questions posed by society. Knowledge has a history and is a social product. Funding for scientific research must be under democratic control, so that the priorities of humanity are met, not those of an elite body of so-called ‘experts’. We must decry the false god of ‘genius’. Einstein was a product of society, even an accidental product. We must consciously provide the socio-economic conditions for the flowering of thinkers, so that ‘geniuses’ are ten-a-penny!

Of course, all these opinions go against everything that we are taught about ‘science’ by the bourgeoisie. We are brainwashed to revere the work of ‘special experts’ who are naturally few in number, and who provide a ‘respected authority’ for the uncaring, uninterested, uneducable, lazy majority. To maintain that science will always be a minority activity for the capable few, and that it should remain a ‘non-political’ activity that should be withheld from democratic oversight, is itself a political stance. As a Communist, I don’t share that stance.

I think that we should promote these views as Communist Democratic Science, not least because I think that, the more that capitalism goes through its crises, the more that scientists themselves will come to share this approach to their own activities. The more that capitalism drives down the wages of scientists, restricts the funds available to meet their desire for ‘blue-sky’ research, focuses research upon military needs at the expense of scientists’ own expertise and interests, and even medical research seeks after only profits rather than helping the sick and weak, the more that universities become factories merely producing job-hunters who have no inherent love for science, the more food-for-thought will be provided for the attention of concerned scientists. We Communists have to give a lead for non-market-based solutions for humanity, both in the realms of the socio-economic and the scientific.

The only science that can be ‘true’ science is Communist Science.

Un-prefixed ‘science’, just ‘science’, is a bourgeois ideological lie. But the power of this ideological view of ‘science’ is evident from views expressed by comrades on these recent threads. If even Communists, who have worked hard to reject capitalism, can be taken in by this 19th century fable (which already the more advanced bourgeois thinkers reject) then it shows just how far we still have to go.

LBird
Snappy summary

I've thought of a shorter and snappier way of answering our conundrum of 'Is Marxism A Science?'.

The question must be re-phrased 'Is Marxism A Proletarian Science, A Bourgeois Science, or just Science?'.

The complete answer is "Marxism is a Proletarian Science. There is no such social activity as 'just Science'.".

LBird
On science and democracy

A further quote from a text on Ancient Greece recommended by the ICC:

Rovelli, The First Scientist, pp. 94-5 wrote:
Conceiving a democratic political structure means accepting the notion that the best ideas emerge from the discussions of the many and not from the authority of a single power. It means acknowledging that public criticism can determine the best ideas, and that it is possible to debate and converge at reasonable conclusions. These are the very hypotheses that underlie science’s search for knowledge.

The birth of science and the birth of democracy, therefore, have a common foundation: the discovery of the usefulness of criticism and dialogue among equals.

A.Simpleton
Ticks all the boxes

 Distills what I have always felt/understood for so many years (and perhaps lazily assumed other Marxists did)

"The complete answer is "Marxism is a Proletarian Science. There is no such social activity as 'just Science'."

Marx took the German Bourgeois State and its economic apologists and started by saying something along the lines of ' they take for granted precisely the thing that has to be demonstrated'

Marx's 'science' was from the outset critical, 'against' the unquestioned assumptions of the Bourgeois economists. He focussed his attention on exactly the same things but with an entirely different purpose.

Thus revealing -using their very own 'equations'- the untruth of their falsehoods and, as it were, saying : 'Oi! what is this 'commodity' concept which you blithely place in our language? It is a class based concept elevated to deity.: the 'fetishism of commodities': so all-pervading that no category is neutral, not even 'their science' itself.

Dare we draw the curtains in our respective darkened rooms? 

AS

 

 

 

 

 

A.Simpleton
But Alf

When you write:

'But if science is indeed a "human, questioning activity", it cannot be reduced to the property of any particular class, not even a property-owning class like the bourgeoisie, and still less to a propertyless class like the proletariat. Freud's contribution to this human questioning activity was in essence revolutionary, even when it was held back and deformed by the ideology of other classes, which unsurprisingly came naturally to a Viennese 'little burgher'.'

We are by Marx's own definition, 'pre-humans' living in 'pre-history' : explain to a simpleton on what basis we can make claims about 'human nature' in such circumstances?

AS

 

LBird
Drawing a conclusion?

A.Simpleton wrote:
 Distills what I have always felt/understood for so many years (and perhaps lazily assumed other Marxists did)

"The complete answer is "Marxism is a Proletarian Science. There is no such social activity as 'just Science'."

No, I knew from previous attempts to discuss these issues, that there would be plenty of resistance, even from Marxists. Let's hope we've encouraged comrades to do a bit more critical reading around the issue of 'scientific method'.

A.Simpleton wrote:
Dare we draw the curtains in our respective darkened rooms? 

AS

'Draw', as in 'draw open, to let in the light in celebration', or 'draw' as in 'draw close, to remain in sullen, misunderstood darkness'?

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