Cogito versus Practice (was Re: Reply on Religion and Marxism: 2)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Wed Jan 3 21:43:34 MST 2001

>To acknowledge the *fact* of epistemological stalemate is judgemental
>rationalism, not relativism, and fully compatible with
>'commensurability'. If you don't acknowledge that it is a fact, let's
>hear the arguments that it is not - 'prove' ontological materialism to
>the list.
>Mervyn Hartwig

The second thesis on Feuerbach: "The question whether objective truth
can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but
is a practical question.  Man must prove the truth -- i.e. the
reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice.
The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is
isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question."

"Proof" of ontological materialism would appear to us to be necessary
today _only if_ our point of departure were something like the
Cartesian cogito & its skepticism concerning the existence of the
external world & other minds.  In our everyday as well as scientific
practice, however, we do not start from the assumption of Cartesian
skepticism.  Descartes wrote in the First Meditation: "I realised
that it was necessary, once in the course of my life, to demolish
everything completely and start again from the foundations if I
wanted to establish anything at all in the sciences that was stable
and likely to last."  In contrast to Descartes whose project was
doomed, we do not attempt the unnecessary & in any case impossible
demolition of all our knowledges in order to start afresh from
"indubitable foundations"; instead, we help ourselves to the
scientific knowledge we accept in practice.  In other words, we are
in Neurath's boat: "[W]e are like sailors who must rebuild their ship
on the open sea, never able to dismantle it in dry-dock and to
reconstruct it."

In short, so-called "doubts" as to ontological materialism seem to me
to be merely scholastic, since, outside the meditations of irrealist
theologians & philosophers, nobody -- including the said theologians
& philosophers -- doubts ontological materialism & _acts as if
matters were at bottom ideal_ as the later Bhaskar argues (whatever
such a proposition can be said to mean).

At 10:54 AM +0100 1/3/01, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
>I have known scientists who believed in God and ones who didn't, and
>it didn't make any noticeable difference to their performance as

That is probably because scientists' religious beliefs had no role to
play (unlike in the pre-modern past when scientists' practice was in
fact constrained by institutionalized religions which possessed the
earthly power to dispense rewards & penalties) in their scientific
practice -- hence no difference.

Our point of departure should be _not_ the isolated Cartesian cogito
_but_ social practice (including scientific practice), as the early
Bhaskar (as well as Marx, etc.) correctly emphasized.


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