notes on islam (reply to Ben)

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at
Mon Sep 15 09:27:18 MDT 2003

>>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."

Ben C commented:
>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. <snip>

Shane H responds:

It then goes on to elaborate in some detail how this mind/matter
 dualism plays out. My recollection of Caudwell is that he wrote in
 fairly orthodox terms about dialectical materialism as it was
 understood at the time. He was a literary theorist and died fighting
 in the Spanish civil war.  I think he represents a view – thought its
 not 100% clear in this sections a fairly economically reductionist
 view and positivist view of science that is no longer convincing.  

While dualism is certainly a feature of bourgeois thought I think for
 the most part Marxists like Caudwell and others who would describe
 themselves as orthodox tend to take an uncritical view of science (at
 least Caudwell was writing before the A-Bomb when the neutrality even
 progressive aspects of science seemed more plausible). This dualistic
 view is to a large extent reproduced by marxists who insist on
 maintaining a notion of 'science' which sees itself as 'value free'
 which is a bourgeois notion. As Caudwell outlines you have mind and
 the subjective that deals with ideals and values and matter that is
 studied objectively and deals with facts. This is useful since it allows
 any critique of capital based on values to be written off as merely
 opinion or subjective and for (bourgeois) science to seem value free –
 which stops you asking questions like 'what is science for?'  

Its true marxists distinguish between mechanical and dialectical
 materialism but the way I have seen it discussed it is hard to
 distinguish how they is different. A dialectical view of the problem of
 subject and object (as Caudwell puts it concisely) is not to opt for
 the “object-ive” side (with the label dialectical added) but to see that what is required is a dialectical superseding of the binary – to
 see how “we” collectively create certain objects due to our praxis (ie
 they are objects-for-us) and this creates us as subjects (we are
 subject to objects).  I still find it hard to get my head around this
 completely but it is important. Its starts with the First Theses On

>“The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism - that of
>Feuerbach included - is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, 
>is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, 

This is what Caudwell says isn't it? That there is an OBECT-IVE reality
 concieved of as a world of OBJECTS and THINGS - as things “we” can
 only contemplate from the outside, which Marx says is a defective

>but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively.
>Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was
 >developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does not know
 >real, sensuous activity as such.” 

So objects need to be understood as products of “sensuous human
activity”, as the product of human subjects (as Caudwell notes 
like Marx this side was left to idealism). I don't think Caudwell
succeeds in transcending the dualism in the way Marx is pointing
to: 'objects do not exist solely objectively – but as objects for
“us” - and “we” do not exist except as creature of a certain kind
of practice (engagement with objects).  

Caudwell I think does see humans as “abstract beings squatting o
outside the world” and then needs to explain how we can know about
the material world independent of consciousness (ie objectively) 
but as Marx says in Theses II:

>“The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human
>thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question...

It can't be resolved by declaring that such a 'fact' is the outcome
of some 'object-ive' process of research. 

>Humans must prove the truth — i.e. the reality and power, the this-
>sidedness of their thinking in practice. The dispute over the reality
>or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely
>scholastic question.  

Its not a question of subject/object but the dialectical supercession
of both. 

Enough for now


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