Justice and Bhaskar's Dialectical Universalizability

Justin Schwartz jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us
Fri Apr 7 09:51:52 MDT 1995

On Fri, 7 Apr 1995, Hans Ehrbar wrote:

> Your response was:
> >The problem with finding general (universal, binding for all?)
> >criteria on the basis of which to endorse emancipation is ...
> Halt, this is not what I meant.  In the spirit of Bhaskar's moral
> naturalism which basically says that values are not necessarily
> something which we attribute to the world, but that there are values
> out in the world, I meant to find something out there in the world by
> which emancipation is a value.

Me too. Though "the world" includes us.

  I am thoroughly enjoying the
> permission which my reading of Bhaskar has given me to violate the
> fact-value distinction, but I am still a little uneasy every time I do
> it---and this is perhaps the reason why I did not make it more
> explicit that this is what I was trying to do.

Well, values are not necessarily subjective. As I've been arguing.

> In Dialectic, the Pulse of Freedom, p. 279, Bhaskar talks about the
> "tendential rational directionality of history" and on the next page
> about the "dialectic of dialectical universability and immanent
> critique".  Perhaps he means the following (but I haven't found it in
> so many words, which probably means it is too crude for someone who
> really understands it, yet it may be a step forward for us who are
> groping towards it): The asymmetry which drives geo-history forward is
> that things which are bad fail by their own inner contradictions (they
> so-to-say criticize themselves immanently), while things which are
> good are spread around (this is Bhaskar's "dialectical
> universability").  This is not only true for human action, but for the
> world in general.  This is how humans arose, and this is why there is
> the possibility of socialism.

This is pretty a abstract, but as you describe it I'm not sure I disagree.
I wouldn't go beyond human action though. A dialectics of nature is to
many for me.

> I therefore did not mean: find criteria by which we can convince
> ourselves and others that emancipation is good, but: identify real
> tendencies out in the world which drive geo-history
> towards---socialism.

By doing the latter, as I try to, we do the former.

  These "tendencies" won't do it for us, we have
> to do it,

That's what I think. The tendencies I invoke are the results of our actions.

 but Bhaskar tries to show that the path is open, our desire
> for socialism is not just an illusion bound to end up in an Orwellian
> nightmare.

So we may hope.

> You are looking for something very general too, namely, something
> around which oppressors and oppressed can unite.

No, no. Something around which we can say that oppressions SHOULD unite
with the oppressed on their own (the oppressors) terms, even though we
know they will not. The point is to have an immanent critique of the
oppressors together with an objective basis in the actions of the
oppressed to bring about progressive change.

  You call it justice,
> and you say it is the genuine reconciliation of interests.  This is
> too static (it reminds me of Hegel's static and hence undialectical
> closure of his dialectical system).

I don't know what's static about it. Justice varies with the interests
involved, with what groups are struggling. That's a harmless relativism if
we can still say, as I argue, that domination is always unjust.

 No wonder you end up with the
> dead end stability criterion.

I still don't see why you think it a dead end.

  Marx's "association in which the free
> development of each is the condition for the free development of all"
> is more explicitly dynamic,

How so? ANyway, the oppressors will not agree that this is good. So how do
you defend it without begging the question?

 and this is Bhaskar's inspiration for what
> he does not call socialism but the "eudaimonistic" society.
I can't comment on B.

Thanks again, all, for comments and criticism.

If anyone wants a copy of my paper, send me a SASE, manila, with $3.00
first class/priority postage, and I will pay for the photocopying. The
address is 75 E. Oakland Ave, Columbus, OH 43201. Sorry to ask for the
postage, but I'm unemployed and have no access to free mailing anymore.

--Justin Schwartz

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