Why not Bhaskar

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Sun Apr 2 19:47:49 MDT 1995


Thank you Justin Schwartz for your response, especially in that you
have not previously shared your thoughts on Bhaskar.

First, I agree with Schwartz in that Bhaskar's Hegelianism is a very
poor reason to disregard him.  Besides, his first two writings seem
much more neo-Kantian.  Moreover, this seems even a poorer reason,
not to mention problematic for Marxists, when Marx himself "avowed"
himself a "pupil of that mighty thinker [Hegel]" (*Capital* 2nd ed.
Postface).

Second, (what is "right positions"?) is there a problem with an
realist ontology?  And I take "fallibism and antifoundationalism
epistemology" to be in reference to Bhaskar's insisentence of
"epistemological relativism," and if so, is not the exact same stance
of especially H. Putnam?  And I am not sure that Bhaskar is
antifoundational, in a Kantian sense, though I also question his
grounds that "science is possible," therefore the transcendental
question being "what must the world be like for science to be
possible?" Personally, I resolve this transcendental ground
practical, in other words if I believe that I or anyone else is doing
science, perhaps, there is no problem with such a beginning, but is
this antifoundational?  Certainly not in an Hegelian sense.

JS> "His tendency towards transcendental argument is thought to be a
JS> dead-end strategy at odds with naturalism."

Really, are we then committed to empiricism and deductivism for all
inquiry?  This is no else philosophically problematic.  And I see
absolutely no reason why it is at "odds with naturalism."  Behavioral
science seems almost strictly commited to induction and
transcendental reasoning.  Furthermore, I not sure that Bhaskar is a
naturalist, perhaps a qualified or quasi-natrualist.

JS>  Moreover, it's thought that Bhaskar does not engage successfully
JS>  with the best anti-realist arguments...

Schwartz recommeds Devitt's *Realism and Truth* (I will look it up),
but Bhaskar actually seems quite successful in his critique of the
many faces of positivism, especially with is conception of the
*epistemic fallacy*.

I must agree that Bhaskar is widely accepted has having difficult
"jargon" and writing style, though I reject this as a premise for not
taking him serious.  Both Marx and Hegel are considered two of the
most difficult, I take them both serious.  But I accept it as a
phenomena of their avoidance.

JS>  I think that if you get handle on how these debates are conducted
JS>  in the mainstrain of phil of science you will start to see why
JS>  Bhaskar isn't taken seriously there and to benefit by seeing
JS>  how, in my view, the debate ought to go."

Yes, and if I get a handle on how economic debates are conducted in
"the mainstrain," then perhaps I can also begin to understand why Marx
is not taken serious (but I will take look).

Finally did I understand you right when you said the Putnam-Quine
tradition views *Realism* as "in-principle refutable by the history
of science?"  Even if this is your (their) position, isn't
*Idealism*, *Epiricism*, and *Positivism* even further refutable by
the history of science? In fact most any science is refutable by the
history, wherefore, we must be committed to a notion of "relative
espistemology" if not "relative science."  Bhaskar seems quite
suspect of the potential of science, as is Putnam, but it may
nevertheless be the best hope for human emancipation.  Wherefore,
science must be taken serious and conducted in such a way to be in
phase with philosophy and ethic.  Hence, science should not be
conducted as if it is purely objective, as the empiricists and
positivists would like to have it.

Schwartz thank you for your response, however, I find these criticism
quite defendable from Bhaskar's writings.  Moreover, are you taking
issue with Bhaskar notion of *Stratification*, it seems Putnam
*realms of reality* would not fit Bhaskar ontology for example? i.e.
whereas Bhaskar's ontology is like layers of an onion, Putnam's
seems to have different *realms of reality* which overlap, but remain
on the same plain.

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu


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