notes on islam

Ben C benj at
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 
ideological struggle."

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.

Ben C

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