Marx and Engels as anti-historicists

Sabri Oncu soncu at pacbell.net
Fri Dec 13 12:45:56 MST 2002


Juriaan wrote:

> It is merely implying that history is
> determinate, i.e. not just anything can
> happen at any given time, the options or
> possibilities for human action are limited,
> some are more likely than others, and some
> options are ruled out, by what happened before.

> Admittedly, in his pamphlet Ludwig Feuerbach and
> the end of Classical German Philosophy, Engels claims
> that "the course of history is governed by inner
> general laws" which can be discovered through systematic
> scientific investigation. But it is unclear what he
> means by "laws" here, and whether he is saying anything
> more than that history is determinate in the above
> sense.

It is difficult to know what exactly people have mind when they
say this or that. Also, over time, tools for understanding
change, as well as paradigms. If Engels were equipped with some
of the tools we now have and knew some of the recent debates,
most likely he would have stated his claim differently.

The way I see it, history is a stochastic process whose possibly
"deterministic" parameters, which depend on the past, present and
geography or collectively on the current "state", can somehow be
"guestimated". Although guestimations may differ from person to
person, and people's guestimations may even influence what is
being guestimated, some guestimators will guestimate as "closely"
as possible for most practical purposes. Therefore, if we are one
of those "good" guestimators of the state dependent properties of
the distribution of future possibilities implied by this
stochastic process, then we may be able to associate "decent"
probabilities with "identified" possibilities and predict what
cannot happen at any give time, what are the limited options and
possibilities for human action, what options are ruled out, etc.

It is in this sense that "history is governed by inner general
laws", or, at least, this is what I mean when I say that.

Best,

Sabri


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