Bhaskarians

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Wed Feb 22 17:16:23 MST 1995


Ehrbar and Fellini have posted some nice pieces on Bhaskar.  But I
have one point of difference for each one.  First, Ehrbar says:
"Bhaskar starts with one empirical observation: that science is
possible, i.e., that those procedures which are commonly called
"science" are in fact able to increase knowledge about the world and
therefore expand the range of what humans can do.  Is this
philosophically uncareful?  In my view it is very defensible."

Yes, Hans E., I believe I would agree with you that it is very
defensible.  But there are to sides to this "commonsense" view of
science coin.  First the under-belly, is, what grounds do we have of
knowing we are doing science.  In other words, Bhaksar (and realists
in general) argue that there are "objective standards" out there
(Putnum), or some "joe reality" (Collier) or intransitive dimension
(Bhaskar), but how do we know that our knowledge (science) is
actually describing this "standard joe" and not "subjective jim."  I
don't believe that Bhaskar offers a careful answer, accept for we put
our faith in science historically.
Maybe this is enough, I am not sure?

Second, what emerges from his commonsense view is *transcendental
realism* (critical realism).  Why is this so?  Putnum believes
science is possible and is partial to the ontological position of
realism, but does not come to the same results as Bhaskar (the same
argument can be made about other realists, non-empirical realists that
is).  What grounds critical realism, simply that science is
possible, and indeed carried out?  Is it only is judgmental
relativity that can decide the issue?

However, if we think we are doing science, I think we must have some
philosophical justification, but maybe commonsense is enough, I
don't know.  Hence, following, I tend to agree with the third point
Ehrbar makes, about science being a special kind of knowledge.
Moreover, it is a very fragile type of knowledge that must be
reproduced and transformed for its own survival.  This is also
central to Bhaskar argument as far as I can tell, and intimately
connected to his notion that human existence is very special and
human life very fragile.  Bhaskar seems to suggest that science and
the knowledge that it provides is our best hope, maybe he is right.

I also very much agree with Ehrbar forth point, Bhaskar is very
succussful in pulling out some amazing insights from is commonsense
ground.  But, again it has not been "very careful" to justify the
emergence of dialectics.  Although one can certainly foretell that
stratification, strata and differentiating between the intransitive
and transitive is begging for a dialectic.  Bhaskar uses the analogy
of a tadpole to a frog.  I suppose this is very much tied to his
theory of emergence.  But I am unsure how philosophical convincing
this is.

I like very much what Fellini offers, however, I once again do not
have so much faith in Bhaskar as a commentment of his would seem to
suggest he does.   I am not sure that Bhaskar is "saving dialectics"
from Hegelian and Marxian interpretations.  If it is meant that
there are so many mis-interpretations, I do believe that Bhaskar
makes a contribution.  If it is meant that Hegelians and Marxian
have mis-used dialectics, and Bhaksar is here to save it, I have a
few problems.

I do believe a weaker version may be more helpful here.  Many people
are repeled by dialectics because of the philosophical ties to,
especially, Hegel and Marx.  Bhaskar does indeed offer an
interpretation of dialectics that need not be Hegelian or as Bhaskar
says, vis versa.  But I believe many Hegelians (and Marxians) would
take issue with the stronger version.

I very much agree with Fellini on the point about Bhaskarian
"absences."  This is a very important clairification and contribution
of Bhaskar's.  But it is not that absences are not within Hegelian or
Marxian dialectics, but that they are only implicit in them.

Fellini helps clairify the ontological and epistemological dialectic
distinction.  I don't know how important this is to Bhaskarian
dialectics, but it certainly helps to distingish the different
historical versions of dialectics.

And I for one am very interested in Fellini's "problems about
dialectics," our thoughts are requested.

Hans Despain
University of Utah
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu

















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