Collier about Althusser

Allin Cottrell cottrell at
Mon Apr 24 06:53:47 MDT 1995

Does anyone have a good word for Althusser?  I must say that
in context -- that is, 25 years ago and a long time before
Bhaskar and co. had published anything of note -- I found
A's writings on philosophy very stimulating and liberating.
This was for one who was 'brought up', so to speak, on the
British Empiricists, and who was interested in Marx but
had an impression of Marxist philosophy as either a musty
Dialectical Materialism redolent of Stalinism, or an
ultimately unconvincing Hegelian Idealism.  Althusser,
by contrast, offered an exciting glimpse of a Marxist
philosophy that was related to, but more sophisticated
then, the then-current Anglophone philosophy of science
(Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos).  And his rehabilitation of
Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was brilliant, particularly
since this work was commonly seen as just the polemical
ravings of an amateur, not fit to be put beside 'real'
philosophical writing.

I'm interested to note that A's conception of philosophy as
'lacking an object', and in this respect being fundamentally
different from science and fundamentally incapable of resolving
any issue in itself, seems to be recapitulated in Colin
McGinn's recent work 'Problems of Philosophy'.  I haven't
read the latter yet -- only heard of its arguments at second
hand -- so this claim is an hypothesis rather than a
considered judgment, but I plan to investigate it when I
get some reading time.

Allin Cottrell
Department of Economics
Wake Forest University
cottrell at
(910) 759-5762

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