DIALECTICS VS AM (SAYERS VS COHEN)

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Apr 11 23:21:07 MDT 1995


Darrel Moellendorf sez:

>In the context he could mean either focused on specialized set
>of problems or he could mean unwilling even to consider the
>social context in which they do their work.  What's important
>........ is that the first meaning doesn't entail the second.
>One could be focused on specialized problems with in the
>dicsipline and still have a radical critique of capitalism.  I
>know of more than one philospher of mind and logician who are
>also Marxists.

Yes, these are valid points.  However, my criticism is not based
on a requirement that philosophers be openly political as
philosophers.  I have no problem with specializing in a narrow set
of intellectual problems.  I do have a problem with the notion
that all philosophy can ever be is a specialized, technical focus
on a narrow set of discrete problems with no concern for a
coherent view of the whole and no recognition that other aspects
of philosophy constitute a legitimate philosophical enterprise.
This is not even to broach the question of whether one is aware of
what kind of society one is doing one's work in and how it is
shaped thereby.  My criterion for judging intellectuals is not
whether you politicize your work, or what political causes you are
involved in, which are none of my business as long as you are not
acting against my material interests, and not with the direct
political "relevance" of your work either if there is none, but
what the assumptions contained in your work tell me about the kind
of world you think you live in.  I am not just some leftist dweeb
who wants to politicize everyone so he can suck them into his
squalid little sectarian subculture.  Darrell, you weren't paying
attention.

Justin Schwartz sez:

>Hans asks about my "rejection" of the doctrine of internal
>relations.

Hans also misattributes certain views to me.  Don't blame me, I
didn't do it, as Bart Simpson says.

>"Internal" relations means that everything that a thing is and
>what makes it what it is is exhausted by its relations to
>everything else. Now I do not reject this so much as fail to
>understand it.... But as a general view about the nature of
>reality the idea that everything is internally related to
>everything else makes no sense at all. Or, if it does, it's
>false.

That is a real problem with Ollman's treatment and of most Marxist
statements of this sort.  (Please remember I have been selective
in what I endorse in Ollman.)  There is no differentiation of
dialectical materialism from holism or objective idealism.  Most
writers just go along unthinkingly with Engels' statements about
"metaphysics" (poor use of terminology, Freddy), failing to
recognize what Engels was reacting against at the time.  (I think
there is real profundity to Engels's underlying views on this
subject, which are not so obvious, but that is another tale.)  The
specific interconnections that make up the concrete "whole" must
be determined precisely.  Everything cannot be internally related
to _everything_ else or astrology would be valid, or reading tea
leaves.  Some things are not directly related to one another, else
other things that are directly related to one another could not
be.  Once in a great while someone recognizes such distinctions in
print, but not nearly often enough.

One final remark: there are political consequences to the
conceptual distinction between dialectical materialism and the
pernicious objective idealist philosophy of holism.  The stuff
that is worrying Hans, however, seems to me pretty trivial.  This
time I don't blame it on Bhaskar, because after just having wasted
a couple of hours on Dick Howard, I know things can get much
worse.

Oh when will these PhD's brush up on their reading comprehension
skills?  When will they learn to think about something important?
Let me die with the Philistines!


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