notes on islam
benj at connexus.net.au
Sun Sep 14 16:46:58 MDT 2003
On Tom's thoughtful contribution Shane Hopkinson wrote
"Materialism (and science) are not merely the opposites of idealism (and
religion) they are social products and fighting over them is part of the
In Christopher Caudwell's book "The Crisis in Physics" (written in the
1930s, published posthumously in 1939) which I'm presently reading,
Caudwell (aka St. John Sprigg) writes:
"Matter is a name for the category of objective reality. The field of
physics is objective reality in its most generalized form.
Historically, as with Aristotle, the field of physics included all
'Nature'--i.e. all matter. But gradually certain qualities of matter
were excluded from physics, e.g. those of biology and chemistry-and it
became bourgeois physics.
"The philosophy of physics is the philosophy of all bourgeois in
relation to matter. It is mechanical materialism. The philosophy of all
bourgeois philosophers in relation to matter is the same; but for
various historical reasons bourgeois philosophers ceased to be
interested in matter, and developed another part of bourgeois
philosophy, that concerned with the mind or subjective reality. This
they regarded as `real' philosophy, distinct from physics. Hence what is
called to-day, philosophy, is only a section of the true bourgeois
philosophy or world-view.
"It is equally true that the mechanism of physicists is only a part of
their philosophy for they also accept the standard bourgeois world-view
in regard to mind, that of idealism. But just as the `philosopher' is
not interested in matter, the physicist is not interested in mind.
"In the main, therefore, physicists and philosophers share a general
bourgeois world-view in which the physicists concentrate on developing
one department, that of matter, or objective reality, and the
philosophers that of mind, or subjective reality. The bourgeois
philosophy of subjective reality cannot escape from the standpoint of
idealism or conceptualism. Hence bourgeois ideology, in all fields,
reveals this cleavage between subjective reality and objective reality
as a struggle or contradiction between mechanism and idealism, matter
and mind, causality and free will. This is the notorious subject-object
relation, the most famous problem of bourgeois thought."
"Is it possible that this cleavage has any connection with the basic
contradiction of capitalist economy, which secures its development and
decline? Could it be that in the sphere of ideology a contradiction,
reflecting the cleavage of the foundation, has first of all unfolded all
the complexities of bourgeois ideology, and is now causing them to
disintegrate in anarchy? In fact there is apparent a close connection
between the two. "
Earlier in the same text, Caudwell writes
"It is no accident therefore that the crisis in physics occurs at the
same time as an unprecedent economic crisis, which has become
world-wide. The crisis is not peculiar to physics, it penetrates all
ideology. In its most general form it is the growth of anarchy by and
through integration; it is the explosive struggle of content with form.
In the words of Planck:
" `We are living in a very singular moment of history. It is a moment of
crisis, in the literal sense of that word. In every branch of our
spiritual and material civilization we seem to have arrived at a
critical turning point. This spirit shows itself not only in the actual
state of public affairs but also in the general attitude towards
fundamental values in personal and social life.
" `. . . Formerly it was only religion, especially in its doctrinal and
moral systems, that was the object of sceptical attack. Then the
iconoclast began to shatter the ideals and principles that had hitherto
been accepted in the province of art. Now he has invaded the temple of
science. There is scarcely a scientific axiom that is not nowadays
denied by somebody. And at the same time almost any nonsensical theory
that may be put forward in the name of science would be almost sure to
find believers and disciples somewhere or other' (M. Planck, 'Where is
Science Going', 1933)
"These words reveal a general feeling of collapse of the old order,
together with a complete helplessness and lack of understanding as to
its cause, which is characteristic of certain elements of society in a
revolutionary crisis. Everything is confused, culture is tumbling about
his ears: that is all Planck knows.
"The symptoms are precisely the same in all spheres of Ideology. There
is an increasing specialization and technical efficiency inside the
different domains of ideology, but this leads to an increasing anarchy
and contradiction between the domains. It is not merely that biology
separates from psychology, but psychology itself splits up into mutually
exclusive disciplines. Hence it is no longer possible to have a
synthetic world-view, a living theory in touch at all fronts with
practice. The theory is forcibly torn apart. In such circumstances there
are three alternative attitudes open to conservatism: (a) A mystical
positivistic attitude to all spheres of ideology outside one's little
garden (Eddington); (b) A violent ruduction of all other forms of
thought to the highly limited categories of one's small domain (Freud);
(c) An eclectic mish-mash of all the various specializations with no
attempt to resolve their contradictions. This leads to a world-view that
negates and frustrates itself (Wells). Obviously any of these
alternatives merely intensifies the crisis.
"But in fact this ideological anarchy is only a reflection of the
economic anarchy which is the cause of the general crisis. When I say
`reflection' I mean that the same general development has taken place in
the sphere of social relations as in ideological categories, because the
latter are merely subtilizations, qualitatively different, of the former."
Sorry that's a considerable tangent from the earlier discussion but
Shane's one sentence that I quoted above reminded me of the words that
I'd just read, and I thought I might share them.
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