Science -Reply to Juan

glevy at glevy at
Tue Jul 4 23:05:48 MDT 1995

Juan's post (which is reproduced in its entirety below) is very
challenging and suggests, at least to me, that several questions
are up for discussion.

The first question (the one that Lisa and Juan have been debating) is
whether Marx's scientific method is: a) scientific in today's sense of
the term; and b) useful as a means for Marxists to discuss scientific
questions?  This is an important question for Marxists studying the
"natural sciences."  Even if we say that Marx used the method that Juan
describes below, doesn't really answer that question.

The second question (the one that has broader meaning for how we
interpret Marx's method in political economy and other fields of study)
is: what is the method that Marx used to study these fields?

I have long believed that Marx's method was more heavily influenced by
Hegel than is  widely believed.  Marx's ideas on dialectical logic and
the need to turn  Hegel on his head (i.e. apply Hegelian logic in a
materialist manner) are  widely understood and accepted as important to
Marx's method.  Less understood  is how Marx's ideas  concerning
abstraction as a scientific method of  investigation were  heavily
influenced by Hegel.  What Marx took from   Hegel in this regard  was not
merely the need for abstraction, but, essentially, the   Hegelian method
and  understanding of abstraction.  I believe if you
read  Juan's post  carefully, you will see why Marx, for instance,
started his investigation  of capitalism with the commodity and why the
study of the value-form is at very center of his analysis of capital.
Furthermore, you will begin to get an understanding of
the logical progression of ideas in "Capital."  These questions are
important from the perspective of trying to decipher Marx's method.
Whether Marx's scientific method should be used by Marxists today is,
unknowingly, at the center of many debates by Marxists today. That is,
many debates in political economy and elsewhere revolve fundamentally on
different methodological understandings concerning the method of
scientific investigation. Should we use the method that
Juan describes as Marx's (and I believe is a fairly close representation
of some aspects of Marx's method)?  That is a question that bears further
discussion.  Simply because Marx used a particular method of
investigation doesn't necessarily mean that we should as well.


On Tue, 4 Jul 1995, Juan Inigo wrote:

> Lisa Rogers writes:
> >Juan, I find it very difficult to read your posts.  It seems to me
> >that we speak entirely different languages, and I don't mean because
> >I'm a scientist or blinded by prejudice.
> Lisa, since we both are scientists, I am positive that the problem does not
> arise from this generic being we share. So it is necessary to follow this
> genus into its concrete specific forms to find where does our difference
> come from. And this concrete difference is what I have been developing
> since my first post on the forms of scientific cognition as a concrete
> historical form of the regulation of concrete intentional action. Likewise,
> even in the case you were opposing your "scientist" condition to my
> consequently "non-scientist" condition, I would have not faced it as a
> matter of "blind prejudice." Prejudice is only an abstract name for very
> concrete social determinations of present-day consciousness. So I wouldn't
> have left the question in such an abstract state, but asked for the social
> determination that needed to realize itself by taking shape in a prejudice.
> >I'd like to take another shot at your recent post, if I can find the
> >time, but we might have to start with translation.  I mean, the words
> >look familiar, but I am at least unaccustomed to the way you use them
> >- necessity, reproduction of reality, etc.
> If you were an ordinary scientist, it would be obvious for me that you
> should be unaccustomed to the way I use "necessity, reproduction of
> reality, etc." But, according to your own definition, you are not an
> ordinary scientist concerning these matters: some time ago you defined
> yourself as a "student of Marx." And, being such, I am positive that you
> have faced Marx's
> "The concrete is concrete because it is the synthesis of multiple
> determinations, therefore, the unity of diversity. It appears in thought
> then, as a process of synthesis, as a result, not as a point of departure,
> although it is the true point of departure, and, therefore, as well, the
> point of departure of intuition and of representation. In the first path
> [the analysis], the sheer representation was condensed to abstract
> determination; in the second one, abstract determinations lead to the
> reproduction of the concrete by the path of thought." (Grundrisse).
> As you can see, Marx directly opposes here what he considers the proper
> scientific method to "representation" and "intuition." Furthermore, he
> directly says its result is "the reproduction of the concrete by the path
> of thought." What's this? Isn't Marx opposing his scientific method to the
> two, and only two, forms of human cognition that any present-day ordinary
> scientist will say can possibly exist? And isn't Marx presenting this
> really unaccustomed point of view almost in a casual way?
> Now, Lisa, haven't you been stricken by these facts when you worked with
> Marx text? Or have you just said to yourself, in a Ralph Dumain mood: oh,
> just another of Marx's catch-phrases! Concerning myself, I was really
> impressed by these facts when I noticed them many years ago. So I said to
> myself, how could this uncommon distinction between "representation" and
> "reproduction" be so familiar to Marx? I knew by that time that it was not
> present in the classical economists. So the only path left not to close my
> eyes just turning Marx's development into a pure abstraction, was to look
> in the other area that Marx mastered, Hegel. So I started working with
> Hegel's Logic not just with the abstract interest of seeing what I could
> find there, but with the concrete objective of looking for a possible root
> of Marx's opposition of "reproducing in thought" to "representing in
> thought" (and for other related concrete questions).
> It took me quite a lot of time and effort, but it was certainly there:
> Hegel constantly points out the difference between representation, whose
> development obeys a necessity external to its object, and dialectical
> cognition, that follows the unfolding of the necessity immanent to this
> object, albeit he is unable to avoid the appearance that it is about the
> necessity of the Idea itself. Hegel does but to stick to this appearance up
> to its end. He gives logic as its content, that is, as the content of the
> abstractly ideal necessity, the general form of the development by thought
> of the real necessity, placed not as the ideal reproduction of matter but
> as the development of the real necessity itself. On doing so, Hegel pushed
> representation beyond its limits. The real necessity lay there with its
> strength unchained, ready to be called into action. When Marx placed this
> dialectical development right side up, it was obvious for him that it was
> about following the development of the real concrete by means of thought,
> therefore, that it was about ideally reproducing it.
> Now, what made me follow this path instead of stopping, for instance, at an
> abstract condemnation of Hegel for his "In typical German fashion, not
> wanting to dirty its hands with mere matter," as Ralph Dumain does? Is it
> because of my abstract cleverness vis a vis Ralph's abstract prejudices?
> Certainly not. It is because we personify with our respective intentional
> actions two different concrete necessities of capitalist society concerning
> science. And, again, it is on this concrete difference that I have been
> focusing my posts about science as a necessary concrete form of the
> political action through which the supersession of capitalism realizes
> itself. See, Lisa, I am always following the question of the historical
> determinations of the forms of scientific method until reaching in its
> development the extreme concrete form that it takes in our current
> discussions in this list.
> But there is more to point out here. I am also positive that, given the
> field you are more directly concerned with, you have specifically thought
> about Marx's
> "It is, in fact, much easier to find by analysis the earthly core of
> religious mistiness than, conversely, from the real relations of life at
> each moment, to develop their celestial forms. The latter is the only
> materialistic and, therefore, scientific method." (Capital)
> Rather unaccustomed, if you think about science as an analytical process
> based upon separating what repeats itself from what it doesn't, to place
> then the forms left through a logical necessity, isn't it? And "the only
> materialistic and, therefore, scientific method"? It certainly needs to be
> critically faced until reaching a concrete answer. Or have you concluded
> that it is just another example of
> >a lot of
> >abstract talk, or talk about things in utterly abstract terms, such
> >as the very idea of talking about "science" in general, that have
> >limited usefulness to me.?
> But, if this is the case, when the scientific method Marx uses according to
> his own definition is at stake, doesn't calling oneself a "student of Marx"
> becomes an abstraction? My answer is no; it is a specific concrete form
> that the alienation of human consciousness as a potency of capital needs to
> take by representing itself as an abstractly free consciousness.
> And, Lisa, I never made such an abstract claim as
> >the nature of the problem is such that you can not offer
> >examples
> What I said was that
> >concrete examples can easily become
> >pure abstractions as soon as they are isolated from the explicit
> >development of the determinations they are supposed to show in a more
> >immediate way. Only after these determinations have been exposed, their
> >concrete forms (and this is what examples are about, albeit presented as if
> >they had an external relation with their determinations) can be considered
> >by themselves.
> If you follow my posts you will see that I normally face a real concrete
> form, and then, starting from its simplest specific determinations, I come
> back to it by developing (in the very brief way that fits into current
> e-mail structures) the necessity inherent in these determinations. And I
> even follow this development beyond the initial form, until reaching our
> own action in the Marxism list as a necessary concrete way the initial form
> has of realizing its own necessity. So I am always referring to our
> concrete action here, only that I don't turn each of us into an individual
> abstraction, but consider each of us as what we are: each of us a necessary
> concrete form through which our historically determined social metabolism
> process realizes itself.
> So beyond giving another shot at my posts, I would ask you to stop at any
> point of them and question it about what social necessity can I be
> personifying to present it the way I do. Only one condition: never take as
> a final answer that which only implies a further question. If you follow
> this procedure, you will find that, sooner or later, to answer the initial
> question you will have to ask yourself about the social necessity you
> personify to face that point in the way you do. And the cognition of one's
> own necessity as the necessary form of regulating one's own action is what
> science is about beyond any abstract appearance.
> This is obviously not a simple task (lots of real forms to face with your
> thought, with the corresponding work on texts needed to potentiate it as a
> recognition process from the social point of view), since abstract answers
> cannot fit in it. And it cannot be a simple task since it involves
> discovering that one's own consciousness that, as a Marxist, one has
> abstractly assumed it was the most unquestionable expression of free
> consciousness and, therefore, the absolute negation of alienated
> consciousness, actually is a necessary concrete form of alienated
> consciousness that only through this same task can become the negation of
> this negation of free consciousness. But how could the conscious regulation
> of the social metabolism process through the reproduction in thought by
> each individual of her/his own necessity be a simple task, when it actually
> is the most developed concrete form taken by matter (at least inside
> humankind's present reach)?
> Juan Inigo
> jinigo at
>      --- from list marxism at ---

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