More on Dialectics
djsaylor at SPAMprimenet.com
Sat Sep 4 11:06:11 MDT 1999
A lot of heat generated, but an interesting discussion is coming up.
For example I notice Michael Perlman is talking economics. He asks if other
people are interested in his comments and I am. I can't participate on that
level. But I can talk about consciousness. Immediately Chris brings up a
misunderstanding that he feels came up between he and I. However, before I
quote him, I want to re-iterate what Chris has already said without much
experience with me, that he disagrees with me. I point at this observation
Chris made in order to state that there is an incommensurate difference
between us. I aggressively laid out what I thought are vantage points for
me to crow about why I think Marxism is my paradigm. But someone else with
another system, libertarian, for example are often so much more complicated
than the impression I might have. Chris is like that obviously. My simple
minded views must grow a lot to get how supple this person I disagree with
I like Chomsky because one can trace down what he really stands for, and not
stand for, but also see the published debates that reveal his meaning. But
e-mail exchanges clarify by the exchange, where talking past happens yet
over time the threads continue to mature in the mind, and understanding
emerges. I get more out of hearing directly from the Libertarians mouth,
than reading the book. In part because when I react my crude reaction is
pointed at a specific moment of Chris' thinking. I cannot hope a book can
address that sort of interactive dialectic.
Chris: I think there is a misunderstanding here; I do not believe that
dialectic is unconcerned with material reality. My point was that the
Platonic idealist conception -- WHICH I REJECT -- has had some deleterious
consequences, which, thru the years, have been manifested in other
conceptions of dialectic, including Hegel's and Marx's. I cover this in my
next book -- TOTAL FREEDOM, which features a history of dialectic in Part
Chris: Actually, it is a lot older than POMO. Plato uses the phrase: "Ho
... sunoptikos dialektikos" -- "He who thinks synoptically is a
It would have been better to say "comprehensively" -- since Plato's
"synoptically" can only be rendered as omniscience, total knowledge of the
Forms, given his idealist ontology.
Well thanks for the clarification. It is now much clearer to me how you
differ from the Post Modernists. I will buy your book out of respect, and
also I think I might learn a lot from you. But I wonder how you can say
Plato's idealist concept is manifested in Marx, but your view of the
dialectics is not idealist? The way I generally see that question is that
how is your concept of a dialectic grounded in how the mind works? Just
like Chomsky having trouble finding the grammar module in the brain, I
wonder if your concept is speculation about a dialectic without embodiment.
Chris: My point, again, is that once central planners destroy the
mechanisms by which individuals-- and individuals acting in concert -- make
decisions, they substitute their own illusory guesses. I'd like one single
example of central planning that works -- and I'm not talking about the
kind of central planning that one finds in the military and for weapons of
mass destruction. Planners are very good when they plan to destroy the
world. Not too good when it comes to serving consumers.
What do planners destroy? What about human brains are they destroying?
Illusory guesses is your metaphor for a god's eye view. But for example,
when one sets a policy for how much energy is going to be produced in a year
or two, one gathers information to globally set that. One can't help
conflict with others about what that means. Market mechanisms would not
eliminate such planning. If it isn't based upon reality, then it fails.
Much of your thinking is riddled with speculation about how the mind works.
Well planners who don't have direct knowledge of consciousness can be
excused for making guesses and failures, but the point is that planning upon
national and international scale happens. Some of it is primarily motivated
by profit which by definition means taking from the many for the few. I
suppose you mean we can eliminate profit but keep the market so that a
dictator doesn't abrogate the democratic dialogue. But the devil is in the
details. Global mechanisms seldom obey individual needs.
Chris: It is not the scale so much as the means. Businesses plan because
they have a means by which to gain information, and they relate that
information to their own individual contexts and market contexts. Central
planners don't. Throughout 20th century history, the planners almost
always have to refer to some market somewhere in order to judge the
efficacy of their plans. The Soviet Union functioned primarily because of
-- not in spite of -- its vast system of "black" markets. Markets are like
weeds, as one of my colleagues once said... they spring up even when you
don't want them to.
Black markets or business activity un-monitored by the state. The U.S.
plans, I mean the government, and computing, and banking to give everyone
smart cards. Through global positioning satellites everyone can be tracked
to within a few feet everywhere they have ever been for the rest of their
lives. Their every communication monitored through the national
intelligence gathering system. How do you think a black market can spring
up like a weed under those circumstances? Capitalist Agriculture is moving
toward a plant regime where they completely dominate the natural ecology.
What is a weed? They themselves want that sort of control. They lust for
that control. But the point I am making is that such things depend finally
upon understanding human consciousness. If as they plan to completely tie
the whole world population together through computing networks, so no one is
external to the whole system, your position is moot. What is to stop that
from happening? Certainly not small scale human revolts. And if we win,
why wouldn't we want exactly the same sort of mechanism to come about?
Planners in the first state (USSR) had nothing much to go by. So it makes
sense they referred to outside experience. I don't condone the worst of the
situation in those states. But so what in relation to making a plan. A
plan like a cigar is sometimes just a plan. Not a moral judgement that is
Chris: Well, I think we're talking passed one another. I think dialectics
is an activity, and I think it is an activity worthy of rational
individuals who relate to the real world. I think you may be criticizing
the Platonic ideal of dialectics that << I've >> criticized. It was not my
intention to say that dialectics is Platonism; it is my belief that
vestiges of Platonism have remained in the dialectical tradition thru
Marxism, and that these vestiges have been terribly distortive of the
function of dialectics in the real world.
Dialectics is fundamentally a human activity. Because we can talk back and
forth. But also because our brains allow that to happen. Other animals no
doubt perform much the same kind of thinking in various ways, but cannot
perform the language exchange which permits a dialectic. However,
dialectics is not just an activity external to human beings. I raise that
to keep you on your toes. We are in the totality. We aren't external to
the totality. I can only suppose that being a libertarian that somewhere in
there in your system that freedom is external to reality for you. It seems
to show in your attitude toward planning. Planning is God Like. Planning
on the state scale is impossible. But it sounds complicated to me how you
envision your liberty. For you also picture the business activity that
really knows what is happening will be total freedom. In other words you
have some way you see this as a realism where the socialist plan is not
democratic not realistic. I will have fun pinning you down to what you
really mean. My little pidgeon!
Rationality as you use it is a good example. Historically Rationality
demands the exclusion of feelings from rational thought. However if one
looks at the totality of human beings it is clear that one cannot cut the
pathway between the frontal lobe and the thalmus or technically remove
feelings from rationality. In that way if one does that sort of surgery
which Francis Farmer got one version of, one can no longer act in ones best
interest. They test this by getting someone who has had that sort of damage
to play cards. The person can no longer figure out what is in their best
interests in a card game. How is your rationality not like the
Incidently Rationality is an enlightenment strategy to compromise with
religion to make the body God's province while the mind is the kings'. But
fundamentally the Enlightenment Rationality puts thinking outside the real
world. So when I hear the word, rationalism, I think closet religionism.
One last thing. I have gained quite a bit from this exchange. You are
amazing to be in the camp of those to whom you don't agree and endure the
buffeting of the exchanges. I am sure you look at that as a dialectic, but
these sort of things are rough. I can only suppose having been submitted to
Postmodernist tactics how painful at times the exchanges can be for you. I
myself do not think that mere written exchanges change another persons mind.
That process is well beyond a well written essay. It takes a lot of time
to make such changes. A person has to be willing. Chris in your case where
you are maintaining your position against all comers like a prize fighter I
can only admire your resilience and audacity. Your sheer knowledge carries
you forward when there are prices to pay. I hope you can get your work
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