Ralph Dumain <rdumain at igc.org>: Re: Bhaskar's Dialectic (was Re: Bad writing)

James Farmelant farmelantj at SPAMjuno.com
Wed Dec 8 09:47:30 MST 1999

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: Ralph Dumain <rdumain at igc.org>
To: James Farmelant <farmelantj at juno.com>
Subject: Re: Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at qut.edu.au>: Re: Bhaskar's
Dialectic (was Re: Bad writing)
Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 10:17:49 -0500
Message-ID: < at pop.igc.org>


As a non-participant in whatever discussion list this is, I missed this
entire discussion, except for this one post forwarded to me, but since
people feel entitled to misrepresent me behind my back, I think I'm
entitled to a few words.

MacLennan must be a highly disturbed individual if he cannot get his
straight.  I can clarify my own attitude toward Bhaskar, but I am dying
know how I was used as an attack dog by a fifth column of
anti-dialecticians among the Bhaskarites.  (Sounds Biblical.)  How could
be so blind as to be part of a conspiracy I never knew existed?

But let me clarify my own stance.  Though I did indeed attack Bhaskar
generally, I did not specifically attack DIALECTIC: THE PULSE OF FREEDOM,
or _dialectical_ critical realism in general.  As usual, I am highly
suspicious and skeptical of Bhaskar's obscurantist tactics, but I never
committed myself in unequivocal opposition to this development in
The specific book I attacked was PLATO ETC., which postdates the
book but which is not limited to that subject matter.

So what do I think of Bhaskar?  I think he is a curious specimen of homo
academicus, a mixture of inspired insight and intellectual charlatanism
the first rank.  (That Gary and his crowd of academic wankers are so
neurotic in their defensiveness over Bhaskar should inspire the disciples
of Bourdieu to have a "field" day with this burgeoning paradigmatically
academic phenomenon.)  I barely got started inflicting my pages and pages
and page of analysis of PLATO, ETC. on the Bhaskar list before being cut
off by hysterical liars like Gary.  To explain while dancing on one foot,
would say this: (a) at times Bhaskar shows a rare insight into the inner
dynamics of philosophical structures; (b) at times he is a shameless
bluffer and faker; (c) it is unnecessarily difficult to absorb even his
good ideas because he has created around him a false presupposition of
originality by his hideous obscurantist writing and the prodigious
of misleading and unnecessary neologisms.  One reason he gets away with
this is that so many of his followers lack a background in philosophy but
are intellectual bottom-feeders such as social scientists, English
professors, film critics, etc.

Of course Bhaskar was correct about the "epistemic fallacy", but I
writing the same thing back in the winter of 1972 about David Hume for
Edward Madden's course on philosophy of science, as I'm sure scores of
beginners in philosophy must have done over the years.  The only thing
is new here is the phrase.  Much of Bhaskar is the same: finding the most
unintelligible ways of explaining the most vital generic matters.  The
that Bhaskar is as philosophically perspicacious as he is only makes his
obscurantism all the more intolerable.  If it weren't for the need to
compete with the sex appeal of postmodernism, the pseudo-sophisticated
surrounding Bhaskar would have never caught on.

I don't have much to say about Bhaskar's dialectic, but I've never been
convinced that "absence" is a useful point of departure.  I still
follow the Bhaskar list and I've seen this concept go nowhere.

BTW, Gary, you have publicly admitted using some of my ideas even though
am your worst nightmare.  I hope I am showing up in your footnotes.  It's
bad enough to be an academic hack; please try to avoid being a total

PS: please "cc" all replies to rdumain at igc.org, thanks.

>--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
>From: Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at qut.edu.au>
>To: marxism at lists.panix.com
>Subject: Re: Bhaskar's Dialectic (was Re: Bad writing)
>Date: Wed, 08 Dec 1999 12:53:11 +1000
>Message-ID: < at pop.qut.edu.au>
>References: <s84bb108.050 at mail.ci.detroit.mi.us>
>The issue of Bhaskar's originality has at various times caused a lot of
>heat.  One Ralph Dumain virtually tried to indict Bhaskar for fraud and
>plagiarism.  The scandal was that on the Bhaskar list Dumain had
>support from the anti-dialecticians among the Bhaskarites.  He was
>used as an attack dog against those of us who support the dialectical
>that Bhaskar made in 1993 with the publication of Dialectic: The pulse
>freedom. But for me the reluctance of the Americans to embrace the
>dialectic merely showed the difference between the American academy and
>rest of us.
>Now the more philosophy I read the more I come to realise Bhaskar's
>originality.  Concepts which are half touched on by others are developed
>a wholly original and rigorous way within his model. Quite simply he is
>greatest of contemporary philosophers.
>Now has Bhaskar despiritualised the dialectic? Crucial question.  I
>am working towards arguing that there is a repressed spiritual element
>within Bhaskar's conception of the dialectic.  That by the way for me is
>good thing.
>Les asked me how to join the Bhaskar list.  Try sending an email to
>bhaskar at lists.village.virginia.edu
>For an introduction to Bhaskar thought there is a very accessible
>between Norris & Bhaskar at
>> >>>> Gary MacLennan <g.maclennan at qut.edu.au> 12/05/99 10:03PM >>>
>> >As always, Lou provokes me into thought.  My favorite philosopher is
>> >Bhaskar.  Indeed I consider myself to be intellectually enormously
>> >to him.  Yet Bhaskar is not an easy read.  The Bhaskar list
>> >erupts with complaints about his prose style.
>> >
>> >Mandarin would appear to be an apt description at one level.  But
>> >is a libertarian socialist and deeply committed to spreading the
>> >word.  However he has written that he wants to avoid the trap of
>trying to
>> >use old words to express new thoughts. For example he has coined the
>> >'ontological monovalence'. He uses this to describe the tradition
>> >established by Parmenides which has it that only the positive is
>> >other philosophical traditions, such as Buddhism, have a concept of
>> >consisting of nothingness as well as being.  Heidegger too wrote
>> >nothingness being a positive.  And of course there were many mystics
>> >define God as Nothing. But it is only Bhaskar who has attempted to
>evolve a
>> >contemporary theory of absence into a new dialectic, and to do this
>> >really had to signal the novelty of his thoughts by using novel
>> >
>> >(((((((((((((
>> >
>> >Charles: Is this nothingness really a new idea ?  Isn't the negation
>> >the negation  ( radical negativity) a pretty positive negative? and
>> >new to Marxists. Then look at all the other expressions of it. What
>> >about Bhaskar's conception?
>>Unlike Hegel, Bhaskar doesn't posit the "fullness" (i.e. "presence") at
>>origin that would undergo dialectical negation.  The importance of this
>>reconceptualization becomes clear when one considers concepts such as
>>"human nature."  To posit the full presence of "human nature" at the
>>denies the *contingent* history of human beings.  In other words, the
>>history of "the development of humanity" is *not* to be thought of as
>>already contained in the original presence, merely waiting to unfold.
>>Bhaskar's clarification of dialectic (which I argue is implicit in the
>>later writings by Marx) is indebted to Adorno and Althusser.  It should
>>help to *despiritualize* dialectic, I think (here I'm arguing against
>>only Gary's interpretation of Bhaskar but Bhaskar's recent
>>direction itself as I see it).
>--------- End forwarded message ----------
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--------- End forwarded message ----------

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