Marxism as science -Reply
pgold at strauss.udel.edu
Sun Apr 23 06:24:35 MDT 1995
Justin Schwartz writes that "I
am deeply unimpressed by Althusser's theory of science, or indeed his
method of philosophical argument. As far as I can tell, Marxism is the
only area of scientific inquiry which A knew anything about, and
impressive as I think Marxism is as social science, it's not enough"
I believe that Althusser knew about more sciences than Marxism. In
Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of Scientists he wrote about
natural scientists. He would know about biology, chemistry, and physics
from Bachelaard and Canguilhem, who wrote historical accounts of those
sciences. He know psychoanalysis, though you may not grant its claims to
science, and he knew linguistics.
Now that I have listed the many sciences he knew or may have
known, I have to wonder whether or not knowing sciences is an adequate
criterion for calling a view scientific. If Bachelaard and Canguilhem
were right about what a science is, then Althusser's account, which draws
on their views, would be scientific, no matter how many sciences he knewe
or did not know.
As for rigor, which Justin considers a vague criterion, he means
it, I think, in a positivist sense -- precision in the use of language,
although he does not grant the positivist claim that standards for such
precision are universal or logical; rather, he describes these standards
in terms of a discipline's or discourse's formal standards.
As for Callinicos's critique of Althusser, which Justin also
praises, I believe that Callinicos states what is now a familiar attack
on Althusser's rationalism, namely, that Althusser makes a mistake to
divorce theory and practice because he cannot ensure the correspondence
of theory's results and objective nature, truth, etc. One answer to this
argument is that the rigor of science is as close as one can come to
ensuring such correspondence, objectivity, or truth. Appeals to data,
facts, evidence, experience, do not in themselves ensure such truth.
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