Bhaskar and dialectics

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Wed Mar 8 21:06:44 MST 1995


>I am unsure how just how valuable Bhaskar contribution is at
>this point, but he must be taken much more serious then Dumain's
>review would indicate.

I, Dumain, agree with you, though Bhaskar's stylistic pomposity
leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

>First, I think it is a mistake to use Bhaskar as a reference to
>the Hegel-Marx debate

Well.  For Hegel-Marx, I have to buy PLATO, ETC.?  I can't afford
Verso books; I was lucky to get the pulse of freedom for
half-price (and Malcolm X said the price of freedom is death --
also too expensive).

>Second, the project includes explicating ontological dialectics
>which are only implicit in Marx, and perhaps confussed in Hegel,
>and maybe misplaced in Engels and Lukcas, while at the same time
>attempting to construct such ontological dialectics (for example
>Hegel and Engles) to be in phase with, not only epistemological
>dialectics (for example Marx and Hegel), but relational
>dialectics (for example Lukcas).

This is an important project, indeed, and I would appreciate your
translation of Bhaskar's thoughts on this ambitious understaking
into English.

>one must return to Hegel (see Tony Smith *Marx's Logic of
>Capital*), which is itself very problematic, or return to Kant
>(Colletti Marxism and Hegel), which seems to confuse the matter

I don't have either of these books.  However, see my comments on
Colletti's essay "From Hegel to Marcuse" uploaded recently.
Smith's brief explanation in DIALECTICAL SOCIAL THEORY AND ITS
CRITICS is helpful, though far from exhaustive.  My preference at
this stage is for Patrick Murray's MARX'S THEORY OF SCIENTIFIC
KNOWLEDGE (see my recent post).  I think it best to examine the
Hegel-Marx relation most broadly, and only afterwards narrow it
down to the question of dialectics.  Almost all of the literature
I've seen follows the latter approach, which I now think mistaken.
We have to know everything Marx thought about philosophy and
specifically Hegel's philosophy as a whole, because of the
profound and subtle difficulties in the rational reconstruction of
Marx's implicit views on dialectics.

>Bhaskar's dialectic is not the same as Hegel's (or Marx's) nor
>does one have to be Hegelian to think dialectically.

True enough.  I was never a Hegelian while thinking dialectically,
and never bothered to think of Marx as one, though I now realize
how little I knew.

>Bhaskar's dialectic begins from absences, which he argues is the
>hidden propeler behind the Hegelian and Marxian dialectic.

Very interesting.

>Bhaskar is arguing that to approach a useful meaning of the
>dialectic one must use a meta-language

Hmmm.  I might be able to accept this on G.P., but what I read
seemed like gratuitous torture.

>because Bhaskar is attempting to leap forward, oppossed to
>remaining in the same over-anaylized issues

This would be laudable indeed.  I hope he does this elsewhere in
the book.  In those specific sections I attempted to read, it
seemed he was bullshitting for the most part.

BTW, I don't like any of Bhaskar's terminology, not only the
arcana in this book, but any of his terms: naturalism, critical
realism, intransitive, transcendental.  What's wrong with
"materialism", or "dialectical materialism" or "non-reductive
materialism"?  I don't care for those other terms at all.

>But, unlike Dumain I am unwilling to write Bhaskar's project off
>so soon.

OK, I won't write him off.  But my patience is very, very thin.
If you can translate his unbearable prose into English, I will be
most receptive.


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