Bhaskar's Universalizability: Justin's silent violence

Hans Despain DESPAIN at
Fri Apr 7 00:18:01 MDT 1995

HD=Hans D. on the 6th
JS=Justin S. on the 7th
un-marked=Hans D. on the 7th

HD> I agree with Howie's, Ehrbar's and Fellini's concern of Justin's
HD> stablity and progressive history conception.  This is conservative
HD> and radically dangerous in that one is able to justify all forms
HD> of upheavl, including murder, in the name of a progessive
HD> emancipating history.

JS> Well, murder is unjustified killing, so ipso facto unjustifiable.
JS> But Ithink that Hans' worry is that if we think that history is
JS> directional and progressive, we risk falling into the Bolshevik
JS> error of thinking that anymeans are acceptable which further the
JS> progressive direction of history. I guess I am not so worried
JS> about this. There is no logical connection between the view that
JS> history is directional and the idea that anything that pushes
JS> history that way is OK. I think we can all accept that there are
JS> moral constraints on what can be done to further even good ends.
JS> Moreover, on the other side, I think that social conflicts
JS> generate atrocities quite independently of whether we approve of
JS> them, and that these will occur, and should be condemned, even if
JS> we deny that history is directional or progressive, and even if we
JS> pronounce that there are absolute side constraints which cannot
JS> be violated no matter what. Moralizing doesn't have much effect.
JS> Which doesn't mean we shouldn't do moral theory and moral
JS> education and try to be good.

This makes it sound if we are not so far off, but I doubt it.  You
are committed to a moral ethic, but you tell Ehrbar such things are
relativistic and "Moralizing doesn't have much effect"?  Can you have
it both ways.  Does murder matter or not. Moreover, historical we very
much see that murder, and all else less is justified for historical
objective ends; religious, socialist, Marxist, or otherwise.  You are
correct to give an example of my worry but in my view offer nothing
but faith and hope to ease the worry.

HD> I have followed Justin's arguments and remain completely
HD> unconviced.
HD> Moreover, I believe *systematic dialectics* (Tony Smith)
HD> or *epistemological dialectics* and *ontological dialectics* (Roy
HD> Bhaskar) provides very good reason to **not** be committed to a
HD> notion of history with its own purpose and direction (Justin I
HD> know that this is not what you necessarily mean, but all our
HD> arguments seem to still imply that we be committed to a history
HD> which is gradually working out social ills, I don't buy it).

JS> Well, since you acknowledge that it's not what I mean, why mention
JS> it?

Because you have a quasi-(resistence-)purpose, as did Hegel a self-
conscious purpose, I don't buy it.

HD> A notion of emancipation cannot be rooted in a notion of
HD> historical necessity, and become progessive.  This is indeed
HD> Hegel's problem, is it not (perhaps Marx and Marxists).

JS> But, since I reject historical necessity, not mine.

Is there not a historical necessity for resistence and emancipation
itself, as you explain it?  You see there is no inner propensity, in
what I believe the others of us, certainly myself, for human
emancipation, it is simple a choice of ehtical commitment, without my
own commitment it may not get carried out, but in ours whether I make
the choice to be part of the struggle is unimportant for someone will
fight domination.

HD> Actually I think Hegel progressive argument to be quite
HD> interesting, Hegel's however has to do with a development of Self-
HD> consciousness, where there seems good reason to be committed to a
HD> progressive development, but "stablity" is a strange reformation.
HD> Over-coming domination is not necessarily, in my view (I don't
HD> see it) a declaration of progessive history.

JS> If overcoming dominanation isn't progress, what is?

Well it depends on what form of domination you speak of.  There are
many people that believe that Jews dominate the media and banking
system, is overcoming this progressive.  As you narrow your
defination of domination, as you must to protect your theory against
"misunderstanding" or from its own hidden violence, it becomes less
and less useful and relavant as an emancipating mechanism.

HD> Moreover, often it seems history is a return to domination (See E.
HD> Fromm's *The Anatomy of Human Destructivness* 19??).

JS> Which, among other reasons, is why I reject any necessity or
JS> unilinear, irreversible development.

I am so confussed of what the Hell your argument is suppose to mean,
progressive is progressive, now it is not irreversible, good God.
Maybe your silent violence is against us that attempt to take you

HD> Ehrbar claims that socialism is based on transcendental argument
HD> may overstate or misplace Bhaskar grounds.  Ehrbar qualified this
HD> by saying 'this is how we come to understand it' (parapharse).
HD> Yes, for Bhaksar this is how we become to understand it, but
HD> there is no "Transcendental Illusion" here, Bhaskar does not
HD> ground socialism on transcendental grounds (which is not, I
HD> believe, what Ehrbar has tried to claim), but he has established
HD> a notion of epistemology and ethics which grounds his notion of
HD> human emancipation and a claim for an *alternative* on ethical
HD> grounds, based on our understanding of the world (not on a
HD> transcendental illusion).  Moreover, as Ehrbar points out
HD> Bhaskar's notion of *abscences*, his first step of the dialectic,
HD> seems to have hold much more possiblities then the "positive"
HD> notion of stability.  For Bhaskar the 'positive is tiny but
HD> important ripple on a sea of negativity' (paraphase page 5(?) of
HD> *Dialectic: The Pulse of Freedom*).  It is the abscences in a
HD> very general sense which push history along, it (history) is only
HD> micro-directional for Bhakar (Ehrbar explains this quite well).

JS> As I've said, on my account it is not stability but resistance
JS> that pushes history along. Stability is just a test to see whether
JS> we're making progress by moving towards justice, understood as a
JS> genuine reconciliation of interests.

The problem is not stability or resistance, I don't see barely but a
difference, the problem is in your notion of push, a push toward
socailism, a push away from capitalism, I believe that 6 figure
salary with Hercules (building war heads) does not sound so bad after
all certainly my effort will eventually constitute a form of
resistance and a progress toward justice, in your account.

HD> Socialism or any other "better" alternative is not going to emerge
HD> because history demands it, or because of quasi-human propensity
HD> of something or other, but from human *conscious* action and
HD> effort.

JS> This is what my argument says.

Your fight against resistence has nothing to do with self-
consciousness, you are saying history moves progressive from struggle
and resistence, historically such struggles have been much less than
conscious.  For example, U.S.A.'s struggle against Cuba is this
conscious on the U.S.A.'s part or Cuba's; it cannot be both since they
have opposing views.  Hence, if you say that again here something
about regress, then we agree history need not be progressive.  Which
seems again agreed to above.

HD> This develops from a well formulated and constituted ethic, and an
HD> instituted epistemology.  Bhaskar is attempting to do this.
HD> "De-alienation" and "Freedom" according to Bhaskar, need
HD> motivation and incentives, which is not found in any sort of
HD> rational autonomy of human beings (I think Fellini is correct to
HD> see this in Justin's argument and point it out).

JS> But he's not. I do not assume that people will recognize their
JS> interestsfirsts and then rationally act to attain them. Rather
JS> they experiencesuffering and diminishment because their interests
JS> are being violated,
JS> although they may not understand why or how or what these are, and
JS> they act to change that, moving by a process of learning towards
JS> organizationm which will better realize their interests. Bhaskar
JS> may be gettinmg atsomething like this in his concept of response
JS> to "lacks."

Once again we seem to agree on the "lack" of self-consciousness.  How
then is there not a propensity of human intention and will, and quasi-
commitment to some form of Rational Choice,  Fellini and I must both
have our notion of Rational Choice confussed.

HD> Bhaskar is always very diplomatic with critiques, and of
HD> espeically Marx, but he says something to the effect that a
HD> critique of attempts at alternatives is the fault of
HD> Marxists who negelect or reduce ethics in their attempts, however,
HD> the root of this is found within Marx.

JS> I agree with him here.

So do I, especially as it applies to your lack of ethics above.

HD> Especially his seemingly *utopian* commitment and often unilinear
HD> concept of history.  I think a unilinear commitment to history is
HD> incompatible with the notion of a Marxian or humanistic ethic.

JS> Odd, if it is Marx's own!

Take a look at just the postface of the 2nd ed. of *Captial*, for a
unilinear example of Marxian history and especially his early
writings for the examples of utopias.

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

JS> Well, the view you are unconvinced of isn't mine.

Yes appearently so, I missed misunderstood yours to be progressive!
Much ado about nothing, and no more ado for me.

I don't have to struggle so hard to understand Bhaksar.

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at

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