Bhaskar's Dialectical Universalizability

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Thu Apr 6 11:27:31 MDT 1995


I agree with Howie's, Ehrbar's and Fellini's concern of Justin's
stablity and progressive history conception.  This is conservative
and radically dangerous in that one is able to justify all forms of
upheavl, including murder, in the name of a progessive emancipating
history.  I have followed Justin's arguments and remain completely
unconviced.  Moreover, I believe *systematic dialectics* (Tony Smith)
or *epistemological dialectics* and *ontological dialectics* (Roy
Bhaskar) provides very good reason to **not** be committed to a
notion of history with its own purpose and direction (Justin I know
that this is not what you necessarily mean, but all our arguments
seem to still imply that we be committed to a history which is
gradually working out social ills, I don't buy it).

A notion of emancipation cannot be rooted in a notion of historical
necessity, and become progessive.  This is indeed Hegel's problem, is
it not (perhaps Marx and Marxists).  Actually I think Hegel
progressive argument to be quite interesting, Hegel's however has to
do with a development of Self-consciousness, where there seems good
reason to be committed to a progressive development, but "stablity"
is a strange reformation.  Over-coming domination is not necessarily,
in my view (I don't see it) a declaration of progessive history.
Moreover, often it seems history is a return to domination (See E.
Fromm's *The Anatomy of Human Destructivness* 19??).

Ehrbar claims that socialism is based on transcendental argument may
overstate or misplace Bhaskar grounds.  Ehrbar qualified this by
saying 'this is how we come to understand it' (parapharse).  Yes, for
Bhaksar this is how we become to understand it, but there is no
"Transcendental Illusion" here, Bhaskar does not ground socialism on
transcendental grounds (which is not, I believe, what Ehrbar has
tried to claim), but he has established a notion of epistemology and
ethics which grounds his notion of human emancipation and a claim
for an *alternative* on ethical grounds, based on our understanding
of the world (not on a transcendental illusion).

Moreover, as Ehrbar points out Bhaskar's notion of *abscences*, his
first step of the dialectic, seems to have hold much more possiblities
then the "positive" notion of stability.  For Bhaskar the 'positive
is tiny but important ripple on a sea of negativity' (paraphase page
5(?) of *Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom*).  It is the abscences in a
very general sense which push history along, it (history) is only
micro-directional for Bhakar (Ehrbar explains this quite well).

Socialism or any other "better" alternative is not going to emerge
because history demands it, or because of quasi-human propensity of
something or other, but from human *conscious* action and effort.
This develops from a well formulated and constituted ethic, and an
instituted epistemology.  Bhaskar is attempting to do this.

"De-alienation" and "Freedom" according to Bhaskar, need motivation
and incentives, which is not found in any sort of rational autonomy
of human beings (I think Fellini is correct to see this in Justin's
argument and point it out).  Bhaskar is always very diplomatic
with critiques, and of espeically Marx, but he says something to the
effect that a critique of attempts at alternatives is the fault of
Marxists who negelect or reduce ethics in their attempts, however,
the root of this is found within Marx.  Especially his seemingly
*utopian* commitment and often unilinear concept of history.

I think a unilinear commitment to history is incompatible with the
notion of a Marxian or humanistic ethic.  The ethic can be justified
simply by History's forward march.  I reject unilinear history for
instead the work and effort which must be accomplished to establish;
constitute and institute; a humanistic ethic, based on our
understnading of the world, especially the historical ills, abuses,
and especially the *absences* which have plauged the human race
throughout history including "1984".

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


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