DIALECTICS VS ANAL-MARXISM (SAYERS VS COHEN)

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Apr 11 13:07:40 MDT 1995


I thank Justin for his agreement concerning the flaws of the
analytical Marxists cited and am at least glad to know that there
are other analytical Marxists who do not share those flaws.  I
cannot comment on this other work.

I will isolate points out of Justin's comments on analytical
philosophy that bear upon the historical sociological issue.  I do
not have time to respond in full now.  (There are other people
awaiting responses from me, too - sorry.)

>Analytical philosophy is not committed to a method of analysis
>of the sort described here. The name is inherited from Russell,
>who at one point did have such a method,

I would be the last to shortchange Russell for his contributions
to philosophy, not to mention his social democratic contributions
to social improvement and his rejection of religion, but overall
Russell is guilty of a philosophical superficiality perceived by
many, eg. Einstein.  Not least of his flaws is his interventions
that distort the history and scope of philosophy, his awful
history of western philosophy, his distorted views on Hegel,
Leibniz, et al.

>but the main currents in APh are holist.

It would be interesting to see a summary and critique of this
holism.  You are aware, I hope, that dialectical materialism is
neither atomist nor holist.

>Quine is probbaly the most influential APher in the world

And note:

>Quine himself is quite right wing, but never writes about
>politics.

In recent months I happened across an interview with Quine in an
obscure periodical called _Veery_ (but I bumped into at a
newsstand, so how obscure is it?).  Quine indeed is a reactionary,
but as the interview focused on what he considered good
philosophy, I was also offended by Quine's very restrictive notion
of what constitutes philosophy.  This is the issue, which may not
be so distant from the right-wing aspect.  If Quine is the most
influential of these people in the world, what does that say about
the social function of his philosophy?  Do those under his
influence agree with his world view as a whole?

>What's the reactionary social function of APh? I thought we were
>just trying to making ourselves clear.

Maybe _you_ are just trying to make yourself clear.  I do not
believe one can honestly say that this is the sole objective goal
of the tendency as a whole.  Perhaps it would be better to look at
the duality of this movement rather than to condemn it as
reactionary.  Technocracy has a positive as well as a negative
side.  By now you should know that I am a vigorous supporter of
science and technology and that I do not share the anti-scientific
"humanist" snobbery of the postmodernists, Frankfurters, and so
on.  So naturally I welcome those contributions of analytical
philosophy which advance the philosophy of science, logic, etc.  I
am not one who draws dogmatic lines between different schools of
philosophy and disallows any crossing of those lines.  The issue
is fundamentally the overall social role that analytical
philosophy plays, hence why it has been so powerful in the USA (as
opposed to "continental" philosophy), and the restrictive nature
of the philosophical enterprise that it recognizes, which is also
a function of technocracy, which is an integral part of capitalism
in its rational mode.

I am not as well-placed as you to really follow the developments
in this area, but I once functioned on the periphery of the
artificial intelligence world and I have seen this social type of
intellectual up close.  I share some of the same interests and
love of solving technical problems that they do, but I find their
view of the world very narrow, even intellectually, and yes, they
are all reactionaries to the core.  They don't give a shit about
the social system their work support and they don't care about
workers at all.  I am ashamed of the work that I once did and I
don't want to assist the bourgeoisie any more in their Taylorist
program of decimating the working class, which is the overreaching
goal of artificial intelligence, which could be put to good uses
were it socially organized on a different basis.  I imagine there
is more than one type of person involved in analytical philosophy,
but overall it seems very narrow and that is no accident.  It is
structural.

And now for a final comment on how philosophy functions under
normal capitalism.  (I exclude for the moment Stalinist state
capitalism and classic totalitarian fascism.)   As a schizoid
system capitalism requires schizoid world views to reflect it.
There is an inherent duality in its functioning that requires
complementary though incompatible philosophies.  This recently
occurred to me again upon reading about the opposition of Carnap
to Heidegger.  Note: the former is the quintessential
rationalistic philosophical technocrat who goes so far as to
abolish metaphysical questions and construct artificial logical
languages to do so.  The latter is the arch-irrationalist, hater
of science and technology, nostalgically rusticating while
shilling for the most monstrous form of industrially based
genocide ever conceived, obsessed with such deep Teutonic notions
as "being-for-death" (indeed!).  It is to spit.  But capitalism
cannot function without either ideology; both are required even as
they combat one another.  If I had to choose, I would undoubtedly
favor Carnap over Heidegger and that goes for all the leftist
necrophiles influenced by him too from Sartre to Derrida's
groupies, but I am not so ensconced in the terrain of bourgeois
demarcations that I am fooled for one second by this dichotomy.  I
told you before how I rejected the fundamental assumptions of
"Western" vs "orthodox" Marxism, the former being "humanistic" and
irrationalist much of the time, the latter being scientistic and
technocratic.  This is an analogous issue.  It is the world of
capitalism that creates these dichotomous schools of thought, and
by now we ought to be smart enough not to be limited by bourgeois
terms of debate.  But then how smart are we?


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