[Marxism] Wisdom and Society [was: Challenge...]

Haines Brown brownh at hartford-hwp.com
Thu Aug 31 13:04:09 MDT 2006

> Mark Lause 
> Science starts with observations and data, attempts a generalized
> hypothesis, then tests that hypothesis with experiments that addresses the
> problem of variables or its offers mathematical or other proofs.  There is a
> social and cultural context to science, but the scientific method is
> supposed to--and largely does--cut across those distinctions.

This model of the scientific method is misleading. It is a description
of the hypothetico-deductive method, which is that of positivism, and
it yields only partial truth. There are other scientific methods. I
might also note that the deductive scientific method does not start
with observations and data; it starts with axioms and hypotheses. 

> ^^^^^
> CB: Repeatability of results, is one social requirement of the scientific
> methods. An individual must be checked by others in a social test the
> validity of experimental claims. 

This describes only one method. In "evolutonary sciences" such as
meteorology, cosmology, evolutonary biology, and such social sciencs
as history, one uses the abductive method: start with the observation
of outcomes and use it to generate hypotheses concerning the
potentials in the initial state. In such sciences there is no
laboratory, no experiment, no repeatable results. 

> For Marxism the scientific test of theory is practice. This implies that
> that science has theory, and that it needs to be tested. Practice is
> experimentation and industry. 

Oh, really? I hesitate to disagree with an old saw, but if history is
emergent, outcomes are by definition to a degree unpredictable, and so
there is no test of theory with practice. Another approach to this
same conclusion is that of Sebastiano Timpanaro, On Materialism
(London, 1970). What, if anything, does test Marxism is a challenging

It is my assumption (a point I'd hestitate to try to prove), that
Marxism exposes the inner mechanism of captitalism, which hopefully
provides insight into how the system works - its limits and
potentials. But this is a rather abstract understanding that leaves
out inumerable and very important empirical specifics such as evidence
of the depth of the system's contradiction, the empirical specifics of
its mediating institutions (superstructure and forces of production),
and a lot else. What determines the outcome of a process is both its
inner mechanism of change (mode of production) and its empirical
specifics. I am forced to conclude either that there is no test at
all, or it is a test that is rather vague and difficult to measure
such as human power or human liberation, and what is tested is not
just an abstract theory, but a struggle by specific people in a
specific set of circumstances with certain potentials and
limitations. In biological evolution, the remarkable longevity of the
cockroach or shark is not due to any inherent superiority of their

       Haines Brown
         ET1(SS) U.S.S. Irex SS-482       

More information about the Marxism mailing list