[Marxism] RE: Marx's "Newtonian" Laws- Reply to Rob

Calvin Broadbent calvinbroadbent at hotmail.com
Mon May 24 06:13:44 MDT 2004

Hi Rob,
Science is not simply observational empiricism (or positivism). Science does 
not entail simply observing 'empirical' reality empirically and generalising 
these observances into 'laws'. Observation is not explanation and what is to 
be observed must be explained.
I do not think it valuable to pose science as distinct from philosophy 
precisely because I do not hold a positivistic view of science. Your point 
about Newton being outmoded by Einstein is correct of course- just as 
Aristotle was to some degree outmoded by Newton- this is the advance of 
science, the dynamism of technological, theoretical, and experimental 
testing and development. At any rate, of course 'laws' cannot be separated 
from their manifestation in the world- a 'law' is precisely the 
understanding of the material world (and not simply the understanding of 
another 'law').
As far as Marx's pragmatism goes- I do not think Marx was a pragmatist, and 
pragmatism is not sceince. Pragamatism states that human beings practically 
evolve 'laws' solely out of their own interests, out of preconceived ideas 
as to what constitues the 'good' at a given time. This, I think, is wrong in 
that for any law to be 'good' or 'useful' it must contain a large element of 
objectivity, or esle it would not work, and would not be valuable. I think 
pragmatism, in its extreme forms, encourages agnosticism and idealism and 
has its roots in both. Marx was into science, not pragmatism. This is not to 
deny that Marx believed that human thought evolved within the context of 
practical problem-solving. Of course, it does, and this was one of Marx's 
scientific insights. I agree with Joe that the social sciences and the 
natural sciences have much more in common, and are much more interdependent, 
than either narrow empiricism or hermeneuticism will allow.

Message: 15
Date: Mon, 24 May 2004 14:45:38 +0900
From: Rob Lucas <roblucas at lucasandblench.com>
Subject: [Marxism] Marx's "Newtonian Laws"- Reply to Calvin Broadbent
	& Joe	Dubovy
To: <marxism at lists.econ.utah.edu>
Message-ID: <BCD7BB12.151A%roblucas at lucasandblench.com>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="US-ASCII"

The point is rather a subtle one. Marx indeed determined a great many "laws"
in his work, and many remain very valuable analytical tools. Marx must also
be seen as attempting to create a valid social "science" to sit alongside
advances that were being made in the natural sciences at the time. All of
this is incontestable.
However, it is the status of "science" that must not be taken simply. Whilst
Marx saw the advances made by people like Darwin as incredible progressions
for knowledge, and stunning examples of the efficacy of empirical science,
he did not simply- or only- aim to create some form of social equivalent to
Darwinism, nor some sort of social "thermodynamics"; he actually saw his
work as somewhat more philosophically grounded than people like Darwin
through his firm Hegelian roots, whilst at the same time possessing the
benefits of empirical science. This is a very significant defining point of
Marx's work; that it is neither easily classifiable as simple empirical
science, nor as simple philosophy. I think, in truth, some texts are more
empirical (thus positing "laws") and some are more philosophical (thus

Want to block unwanted pop-ups? Download the free MSN Toolbar now!  

More information about the Marxism mailing list