ON HEGELIAN MARXISM, THE FRANKFURT SCHOOL, AND VAN GELDER

Ralph Dumain rdumain at igc.apc.org
Tue Oct 10 20:15:02 MDT 1995


Some unfinished business with Mr. Peck:

>A not unrelated point: the connection between idealism and
>"historicism", which I'm sorry to have been unclear about.  I
>had in mind Hegel's equation of the two, on the grounds that
>whatever is mental-spiritual-cultural is historical, and vice
>versa.  And of course that's a necessary, essential connection.
>So, I figure, when Marx took over historicism, he took over a
>good deal of "idealism" in this new mode.  And I take it he was
>well aware of this.  The easiest reference here, I guess, is the
>Engelsish sort of contrast between mechanical and dialectical
>materialism: the "idealist" side of Marxism is the "dialectical"
>side.  --Hegel was proud of and insisted on his difference from
>earlier, "metaphysical" rationalists and idealists (eg Plato and
>Leibniz), nicht wahr?  And I guess Marx's take on this was to
>applaud the step, but insist on one more - in the same
>direction.

I'm afraid your clarification leaves me even more confused.
What's the point of all this?  You say that Marx took over
"historicism", and took along "idealism" with it.  Such assertions
mean little to me.  I do recall one quote from Marx where he
credits idealism with developing the active side of cognition
ignored by (mechanical) materialism.  Does it however mean
anything of any substance to say dialectical materialism (our
phrase, not Marx's) = mechanical materialism + dialectical
idealism?  How do such jejune textbook-y formulations illuminate
the actual thought process by which Marx assimilates these sources
into his developing world-view?  Because you digest pork and
lobster and steak, does that make you pig + crustacean + cow?

>I'm afraid that people who make too much of history in H are
>blowing off culture -- that they're philistines, who have time
>only for politics.  En garde, Ralph.

Huh?  What does this business have to do with me?  I'm not in this
discussion.  Am I blowing off culture, involved only with
politics?  Not a chance.  I don't see what this has to do with
Marx, either.  Your artificially defined concerns may apply to
some people, but why impose them on issues which don't concern
them one way or another?  And, I have not yet got to those
questions on what a new approach to intellectual work means for
the future of philosophy and the analysis of past thought systems.
Give me some time, unless you plan to pay me for doing your work
for you.  I'm no professor and I have a life to lead.


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