The Dialectic, was Judging and Not Reading

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Mon Aug 30 00:30:05 MDT 1999

Greetings Comrades,
    Chris Sciabarra has turned on a torrent of anger and caused various
threads to issue from various people going in many directions (which is a
positive thing in my opinion).  My own interests are to follow up a little
bit with his reply to me, and then to reply to Nick Mamatas in another post.
 I have thought about the point of the dialectic in regards to various
angles if I can ape (mimesis) Chris' comments about the Greek view of the
dialectic.   A list member, Tahir Wood, brought up recently in another
context one area of "dialectics"  that interested me a decade and half ago.
Tahir briefly mused about catastrophe theory.  The mathematics of the theory
looked like what I thought how a dialectic might appear in a actual human
brain.   Specifically like a topological transformation in the mind.  But
the theory of topology, labeled catastrophe theory, disappeared as an
influence upon research upon consciousness rather quickly.  I thought it was
so appealing as a good metaphor about how the dialectic might look in the
mind.  I was mystified at the failure to influence thinking about something
so dialectical seeming.  Eventually I got it that a math theory does not
necessarily describe how human minds work.  I have gradually found various
ways to think about this in a realist manner.  For that is what divides us,
we are realists, and the libertarians depend upon a basic otherness of the
mind, a non-reality partition of liberty from the world itself.

    The Libertarian that I have most closely paid attention to has been Noam
Chomsky.  Secondarily, Paul Feyerabend.  From Feyerabend I absorbed the idea
of "incommensurate Intelligences" which term resembles the comment Chris

Chris Sciabarra, Saturday, August 28, 1999, (Dialectic...):
 As for the compatibility of Marxism and libertarianism... I think they are
not compatible ultimately.  But I do think that a more "dialectical"
version of each might have some really fascinating consequences in the
long-run that affect the character of each, and the possibilities for

Here Chris admits there is a fundamental conflict.  That is the
incommensurateness of the differing positions.  That is not as Louis writes
elsewhere about rugged individualism, but instead is about understanding
what consciousness is.  For Louis and others the right wing cowboy
libertarian is what we mostly would encounter, but for example there is much
about the gay rights movement that is libertarian.  It is not sufficient for
Marxist as Louis advocates to keep our noses out of the bedroom.  We would
have to face if we had state power exactly the sort of issues the Chinese
deal with concerning birth control.  Or gay rights.  To say as Marxist we
can ignore those things in the nature of privacy is not possible.  Any more
than Clinton can make a policy for his military that says "don't ask don't
tell" is acceptable to us a Marxist way to deal with political issues.

The reason that libertarians can go into these areas of social rights like
sexuality issues is because they have a historical connection to theories of
consciousness like the Aristotle discussion of the dialectic.  These are
fundamentally direct guesses at what consciousness is.  Marxism is about the
class consciousness.  We are compelled by the subject matter of our politics
to face what consciousness is also.

Chomsky fails because he is not a realist.  That is because he believes
something about consciousness that is not scientifically real.  Because of
Chomsky's committment to the libertarian view, he cannot accept an
"embedded" realism of the mind or consciousness.  That is what is really the
fundamental difference between us and Libertarians is an incommensurate
difference over what the mind is.  There are certainly flavors of
libertarians, kinds of progressive libertarian views, etc.  Yet they all
must share a prototype of how they see the mind working.  The "freedom" of
consciousness from which their libertarian position issues must regard the
mind as outside reality.

Chomsky is a great man, who did significant important work on the study of
linguistics because of application of formal logical methods to the study.
But Chomsky cannot admit to the disparity between the human brain and his
theories.  That is what makes our position preferable to me.  And my
thinking incommensurate with Chris'.

As to the interpenetration because of influences upon each other (Marxist
and Libertarian), well certainly that must follow.  But not because we must
read the book list.  I rather see that as the Steven Jay Gould example of
writing technical thoughts for a general audience.  Gould succeeds at
writing good readable books about biology all the time with little reference
to the necessity to read supporting literature.  That is a subtle issue,
that Carrol's original point relied upon, to understand why Carrol revolts
against the constant growing lists of reading that "authorizes" some
position.  Carrol's recognition of the incommensurate nature of the two
intellectual regimes (Marxist and Libertarian) is not a problem of just
reading the necessary texts to understand things.  Rather, the issue is to
understand how in a world where we are limited to consider the issue of
accessibility of information for the masses.  There are narrow professional
methods that work within our culture to produce scholarly studies.  For the
public at large they will certainly say to themselves that I want what I
want, and I hate the assholes so I won't read this.   And realistically that
is how it is.
Doyle Saylor

More information about the Marxism mailing list