a plague of libertarianism?

Charles Brown CharlesB at SPAMCNCL.ci.detroit.mi.us
Thu Jan 18 14:32:21 MST 2001

>>> snedeker at concentric.net 01/14/01 04:15PM >>>
I would remind Carol that a plague is a punishment sent by God. I mention
this because Carol seems dedicated to scientific models of human reality.
her recent post seems to me to go off the deep end of rhetoric. yes,
medications are helpful to many people. this is a way of managing extremes
of emotion. however, this says nothing about the nature of capitalism and
the role of mental illness within society. what about the class dimensions
of treatment? what about psychiatry as a power relation. you can not just
call something "libertarianism" and then be free of all concerns. as a
middle class professional, I am sure Carol has gotten good quality therapy.
I would ad that this therapy was a choice. the antipsychiatry movement of
the 1960s did oppose real abuses like psychosurgery, shock therapy and
involuntary commitment. this is not to say that mental illness is not real.
to say that it is real is not to say that we understand it very well. there
is also an ideology of illness that gives power and profit to the doctors
and drug companies. I wonder what the treatment of mental illness would look
like under socialism? I think good Marxists should avoid all or nothing
reasoning. reality is complex. I think Engels said this somewhere.



Engels said on the last issue:

To the metaphysician, things and their mental reflexes, ideas, are isolated, are to be
considered one after the other and apart from each other, are objects of investigation
fixed, rigid, given once for all. He thinks in absolutely irreconcilable antitheses.
"His communication is 'yea, yea; nay, nay'; for whatsoever is more than these cometh
of evil." [Matthew 5:37. -- Ed.] For him a thing either exists or does not exist; a
thing cannot at the same time be itself and something else. Positive and negative
absolutely exclude one another, cause and effect stand in a rigid antithesis one to
the other.

At first sight this mode of thinking seems to us very luminous, because it is that of
so-called sound common sense. Only sound common sense, respectable fellow that he is,
in the homely realm of his own four walls, has very wonderful adventures directly he
ventures out into the wide world of research. And the metaphysical mode of thought,
justifiable and even necessary as it is in a number of domains whose extent varies
according to the nature of the particular object of investigation, sooner or later
reaches a limit, beyond which it becomes one-sided, restricted, abstract, lost in
insoluble contradictions. In the contemplation of individual things it forgets the
connection between them; in the contemplation of their existence, it forgets the
beginning and end of that existence; of their repose, it forgets their motion. It
cannot see the wood for the trees.

For everyday purposes we know and can say, e.g., whether an animal is alive or not.
But, upon closer inquiry, we find that this is, in many cases, a very complex
question, as the jurists know very well. They have cudgelled their brains in vain to
discover a rational limit beyond which the killing of the child in its mother's womb
is murder. It is just as impossible to determine absolutely the moment of death, for
physiology proves that death is not an instantaneous momentary phenomenon, but a very
protracted process.

In like manner, every organic being is every moment the same and not the same, every
moment it assimilates matter supplied from without, and gets rid of other matter;
every moment some cells of its body die and others build themselves anew; in a longer
or shorter time the matter of its body is completely renewed, and is replaced by other
atoms of matter, so that every organic being is always itself, and yet something other
than itself.

Further, we find upon closer investigation that the two poles of an antithesis
positive and negative, e.g., are as inseparable as they are opposed and that despite
all their opposition, they mutually interpenetrate. And we find, in like manner, that
cause and effect are conceptions which only hold good in their application to
individual cases; but as soon as we consider the individual cases in their general
connection with the universe as a whole, they run into each other, and they become
confounded when we contemplate that universal action and reaction in which causes and
effects are eternally changing places, so that what is effect here and now will be
cause there and then, and vice versa.

None of these processes and modes of thought enters into the framework of metaphysical
reasoning. Dialectics, on the other hand, comprehends things and their
representations, ideas, in their essential connection, concatenation, motion, origin,
and ending. Such processes as those mentioned above are, therefore, so many
corroborations of its own method of procedure.

Nature is the proof of dialectics, and it must be said for modern science that it has
furnished this proof with very rich materials increasing daily, and thus has shown
that, in the last resort, nature works dialectically and not metaphysically. But the
naturalists who have learned to think dialectically are few and far between, and this
conflict of the results of discovery with preconceived modes of thinking explains the
endless confusion now reigning in theoretical natural science, the despair of teachers
as well as learners, of authors and readers alike.

An exact representation of the universe, of its evolution, of the development of
mankind, and of the reflection of this evolution in the minds of men, can therefore
only be obtained by the methods of dialectics with its constant regard to the
innumerable actions and reactions of life and death, of progressive or retrogressive
changes. And in this spirit the new German philosophy has worked. Kant began his
career by resolving the stable solar system of Newton and its eternal duration, after
the famous initial impulse had once been given, into the result of a historic process,
the formation of the sun and all the planets out of a rotating nebulous mass. From
this he at the same time drew the conclusion that, given this origin of the solar
system, its future death followed of necessity. His theory half a century later was
established mathematically by Laplace, and half a century after that the spectroscope
proved the existence in space of such incandescent masses of gas in variou!
s stages of condensation. [26]

This new German philosophy culminated in the Hegelian system. In this system -- and
herein is its great merit -- for the first time the whole world, natural, historical,
intellectual, is represented as a process, i.e., as in constant motion, change
transformation, development; and the attempt is made to trace out the internal
connection that makes a continuous whole of all this movement and development. From
this point of view the history of mankind no longer appeared as a wild whirl of
senseless deeds of violence, all equally condemnable at the judgment-seat of mature
philosophic reason and which are best forgotten as quickly as possible, but as the
process of evolution of man himself. It was now the task of the intellect to follow
the gradual march of this process through all its devious ways, and to trace out the
inner law running through all its apparently accidental phenomena.

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