Bhaskar and dialectics

Adam Bandt bandt at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
Tue Mar 7 04:08:50 MST 1995


After reading Ralph Dumain's posting about Bhaskar's 'constant barrage of
impenetrable, abstract prose, indulging in unbridled name- and
concept-dropping with every word, ' etc etc, I was prompted to re-read a
review of a book he edited called _A Meeting of Minds: Socialists discuss
philosophy - towards a new symposium_. The review was called 'Critical
Unrealism', and appeared in Radical Chains, 1993, no 4.

Initially, I dismissed the review as mere anti-intellectualism. Consider
the following quote about Bhaskar's discussion of Rorty's 'Nietzschean
superstructures' and 'linguistified monisms':

'This is a lot of '-ists' and '-eans' to be crammed into less than two
pages of text. It is not, however, the result of trying to distil the
essence of his longer works into a small space. Readers of Bhaskar's
weightier tomes - the Possibility of Naturalism, for example - will have
noticed the same tendency at work there. The suspicion is that the
adjectives - 'positivist', 'Nietzschean', 'superidealist', and so on - are
doing all the work. They are surrogates for real argument. What exactly is
a 'dualist overly anti-naturalist hue'? How would you recognise a
'superidealist epistemology' if you encountered one?'

Nonetheless, I remember that Bhaskar's piece in the 3 volume 'Issues in
Marxist Philosophy' set published in the 1970's (I could get the exact
reference if anyone is interested) made a huge impact on me in schematising
my understanding of different approaches to epistemology and social
scientific knowledge.

I'd be curious as to whether list-contributors believe that Bhaskar is
becoming not only less clear but less useful, as my impression is that his
earlier work has influenced marxist/critical social science more than his
later work.

On a related topic, has anyone read Wal Suchting's 'Studies in Marxist
Philosophy: Three Essays' [I think this is the title]? If the issue of
epistemology revives on this mailing list, I think it would be a useful
reference.




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