DIALECTICS VS AM (SAYERS VS COHEN) -Reply

Lisa Rogers EQDOMAIN.EQWQ.LROGERS at email.state.ut.us
Wed Apr 12 09:16:25 MDT 1995


This does make sense to me.  All the transcendental hegelianisms are
either non-understandable, useless or uninteresting to me.  I suspect
that you and I agree on some things!

Enjoying your posts,
Lisa

>>> Justin Schwartz <jschwart at freenet.columbus.oh.us>  4/11/95,
07:01pm >>>

Hans asks about my "rejection" of the doctrine of internal relations.
He seems to think that this has something to do with "actualism,"
which I take to be the classical empiricist doctrine that only
"external" observable phenomena are "real" (or only talk about these
is cognitively meaningful, in the logical empiricist way of talking).
On this view, there is no sense in talking about unobservable
"essences" or real causes posited by theories but not observable by
the senses.

If that is what actualism is, I think it has nothing to do with the
doctrine of internal relations, as I understand it, which is not
much,
More on that later. But to the point here, if that's what actualism
is, I reject it. I am a scientific realist. I am quite happy to posit
unobservable theoretical entities as the hidden or internal causes of
observable phenomena. I am not sure that's what actualism is, but
that's what I gather from Hans' description. Anyway it is not my
view.

Internal relations, as described by Ollman and others, is very
different from scientific realism. The notion goes back to Leibniz
via Hegel, and from what I can gather it is a claim about ontological
individuation. It says that Butler's doctrine that "Everything is
what it is not something else" is false. On the contrary, everything
is what is is only because it is "internally related" to everything
else.
Causal relations are "external" on this view: one event causes
another, but the two are logically independent and it is in a sense
contingent that a relation holds between them. "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. I can see that some things are
dependent on others to be what they are--classes are "internally
related" to each other; you can't have a proletariat without
bourgeoisie. 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.

All this is, as I say, quite compatible with realism about
unobservables.

Erik Olin Wright has a nice piece called "What Is Analytical
Marxism?" in
Socialist Review sometime in the last few years. It is collected in
his recent Interrogating Inequality. I don't subscribe to everything
he says, but most of it seems pretty sensible to me.

--Justin Schwartz


On Tue, 11 Apr 1995, Hans Despain wrote:

> JS> As the house analytical Marxist let me say a few words in
defense  > JS> of my own current of Marxist theory and indeed of G.A.
Cohen,  > JS> although I agree with some of the criticisms Sayers
makes here.
>  > Justin thanks for your sympathic defense and differentication of
 > Analytical Marxists.  I think it important to recognize that  >
Cohen, Elster and Romer are not the only AMs.
>  > Ralph> Cohen's commitment to the analytical school involves  >
Ralph> a deplorable commitment to the logic of external relations.
>  > Justin> Well, I've never undferstood the internal relations
ontology  > Justin> myself, so I'm probably guilty here too.
>  > Frankly Justin this is quite susprising to me, what else are you
 > putting forth when you write of "human propensities."  When you  >
write of forms of domination versus forms of resistence you must have
 > in mind internal mechanisms.  Why do some dominate while others  >
accept (or resist) this domination.  Or are you are solely interested
 > in the external manifestation.  (But still you at least recognize
> the internal cause).  In this case, the term "actualist" is again
> quite fitting (as it is for *most* Analytical Marxists).  It is  >
not surprising to me that AM economists are committed to external  >
manifestations, but it seems strange to me that you are committed to
> only external relations.  Once again this convinces me more that
you  > assume the very mechanism which should be proven, or accept
the  > "actual" for the "real."   >  > Personally this seems a very
poor way to understand Marx.
>  > I think you are quite correct to point out the "empiricist"  >
commitment of Cohen, as Ralph calls a Humean.  But this empiricist  >
commitment is only one step from your "actualist" commitment.  I  >
wonder why you reject internal relational logic?  And possiblly could
 > you further explain the philosophical underpinnings of AMs.
>  > BTW, Ralph thanks for your summaries (with all the color piture-
> thoughts), I don't think I want tenure.
>  > Hans Despain
> University of Utah
> despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu  >  >  >      --- from list
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