Blake on Swedenborg

Mervyn Hartwig mh at
Tue Jan 2 21:10:39 MST 2001

Yoshie Furuhashi <furuhashi.1 at> writes
> Hegel made progress by criticizing Kant,
>Schelling, etc., & Marx, in turn, by criticizing Hegel,
>left-Hegelians, etc.  We are heirs to all this development.  Given
>this inheritance, to advocate a return to God, mysticism, objective
>idealism, etc. _today_ means to resurrect "all the old falsehoods"....

>Here's a suggestive parable from the Bible:
>*****   And Esau said to Jacob,

While there's some truth in this, it seems to me a very one-sided and
undialectical view of intellectual progress or development ('the Whig
view'). Now you'll just have to read Bhaskar's *Dialectic*, in which he
in turn criticizes Hegel and Marx! Do we not move on in any sense? What
is this mystical notion of 'birthright' to which we must remain true
whatever the subsequent developments in science and philosophy and at
whatever tactical and strategic cost politically? Remember, I'm not
defending objective idealism, just that it is rational for people to
believe in it on the basis of their experiences given that science
(including Marxism) cannot demonstrate that it is false or that
ontological materialism is true. (I'm still waiting for the
demonstration.) This does not mean that we cannot criticize people's
beliefs in any way, or their political etc implications.

>Despising our birthright (= historical materialism & freedom from
>religion) & trading it for a mess of pottage (= God, etc.) just
>because we are hungry (= politically weak) at this moment doesn't
>seem to me to be a good bargain.

Historical materialism (which I accept) is by no means the same as
ontological materialism. Nobody is rejecting either *because* they are
hungry in your sense. The prior issue is whether ontological materialism
is *true*.

>>Like Bhaskar, Blake
>>believed that human nature was fundamentally good - both speak of the
>>God or spirit within - with the potential to build the New Jerusalem or
>>eudaimonia on earth (there is 'Jerusalem in every man').
>Blake's vision of human nature is radically dialectical, instead of
>fundamentally good:

I agree re Blake. But the same applies to Bhaskar (you *had* better read
*Dialectic*!) - as I go on to say, Bhaskar 'considers the good *in
relation to* evil', and as I have said in other posts, has arguably made
the most significant (philosophical) contribution to dialectics since

>An enthusiast for the American & French Revolutions, Blake,
>notwithstanding his mystical allegories, didn't quite argue that
>unfreedom was "basically layers of false ideas":

You could be right, but I would be very surprised if, as an objective
idealist, Blake didn't go in for socio-historical idealism too (as
'mind-forg'd manacles' certainly suggests) - they do seem to go hand in
hand. It's a matter of emphasis - an idealist primacy thesis vs a
materialist one. Idealist primacy no more excludes material
circumstances than materialist primacy excludes ideas. And Bhaskar, like
Blake, has been preaching revolutionary transformation all his life.

>Blake's Jerusalem is not a religious fantasy
>or political utopia but the vision of a free society which he
>believed would be realized on earth one day....

Exactly the same applies to Bhaskar.

>Science, in my opinion, is not interested in God, which it regards as
>superfluous to scientific explanation.  In this sense, science is not
>agnostic, in that for it to be agnostic, it has to be interested in
>the object [= God] about which it can be agnostic.

Oh right! Hundreds of millions of people believe in God, but science is
not interested in God!

By what warrant does science regard God as *in principle* 'superfluous
to scientific explanation'? Because to date it has been able to dispense
with God...? But why assume that this will hold good (if it does) in the
future (the problem of induction)? Does it necessariy hold good even
now? - Why couldn't God's purpose operate via the processes that science
reveals - the blind chance of the process of evolution, etc?
(Scientists themselves by no means, of course, invariably hold that God
is superflous - see Sid's post re Bohm, a great scientist who certainly
thought objective idealism explanatory).

> we'll continue to teach Darwinism instead of "creation
>science" in biology, geology, etc. (I hope).

Can't we at any rate have classes *about* 'creation science' that do not
just dogmatically dismiss people's beliefs but constructively criticize
and explain them, including their political role, and admit ignorance
where science ends? To repeat, Being 'is a potentially infinite totality
of which we know something, but not how much'. Maybe science has just
scratched the surface, who knows? You?
Mervyn Hartwig
13 Spenser Road
Herne Hill
London SE24 ONS
United Kingdom
Tel: 020 7 737 2892
Email: mh at

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