[Marxism] Theory of Violence

Owen Davies owen.daviies37 at ntlworld.com
Wed Aug 29 14:12:42 MDT 2007


> I think I'm on solid ground in my objection to this formulation. I
> believe nearly everyone agrees that a scientific "hypothesis" is a
> suppositional explanation of facts, while a "theory" is a validated
> hypothesis. My objection to your syllogism was that it did not work
> from facts, but from concepts, and also that the logic of your
> syllogism did not represent a validation of any hypothetical
> explanation.

Well, I'm not saying that my theory is a possible explanation of violence 
(hypothesis) but that it does explain it (theory).  To refute it you will 
need to refute Clausewitz's work which has been majorly influential for a 
couple of hundred years now.  Take smoking for instance.  The cigarette 
companies were able  to deny that there was any relationship between smoking 
and lung cancer for years because as long as the connection could not be 
proved deductively they were able to claim it was only a hypothesis based on 
induction and the fact that millions of smokers were dieing may only be 
correlative.  When the actual mechanism by which the smoke actually caused 
cells to suddenly become cancerous they didn't have a leg to stand on

> I tried to suggest that force (sometimes violence) makes sense as required 
> by
> a system. I hope you are not suggesting it is a constant feature of human 
> nature.

I most emphatically said that my theory proves that violence is not a part 
of human nature though obviously we have the capacity for it.  In fact I 
said that there is more politics in a monkey troop than in primitive 
communist human societies.

On the government stuff, can we save that for another time if that's ok.

>> Monkey troops are the precursor to human society.
> In fact, there exists a common view that human development represents
> a profound break from our primate ancestors. Undoubtedly we remain
> subject to biological determinations, but to reduce human society to
> them is obviously very problematic. To perceive some kind of parallel
> between a monkey troop and human society means absolutely nothing
> until we have exposed the causal mechanisms that explain the troop and
> human society to see if in fact they are similar, and even if they
> were (which is highly dubious), actual outcomes are constrained by
> circumstance, and clearly the circumstances are far different.

I agree  that human  development represents a profound, qualitative break 
from our primitive ancestors.  I pointed out that it was necessary for 
alpha-maledom to be selected out before it could emerge and only human 
society is properly social but monkeys are capable of pursuing their 
instincts consciously rather than blindly to a certain limited degree and 
within  the group that becomes politics.

> That's right, but that does not mean that one can infer general laws
> from Clausewitz's empirical studies.

Clausewitz inferred not just a general but a universal law from his work. 
War is the continuation of politics, always.

>> The dialectic, I think Trotsky said, does not outlaw the syllogism
>> or deductive, formal logic is simply transcends it and in trying to
>> understand the politics of class societies I would defer to the
>> Marxist method any day.
> If Trotsky said this, he was clearly wrong.

I think he says it in In Defence of Marxism.  But he wasn't being 
controversial because Hegel and Marx and  Engels had said it many times 

> Trotsky wrote a long time ago; the new scientific
> consensus only emerged in the 1980s and 90s, which has replaced the
> older traditions of positivism, logical empiricism, analytic
> philosophy, etc. as the "dominant paradigm"..
>> I'm not familiar with abduction and retroduction so thanks for
>> sparing me that.
> Don't breath too big a sigh of relief. Abduction (or retrodiction) is
> the method employed in the study of human society, which arguably is
> necessarily in historical terms. A simple description is in Wikipedia,
> "abductive reasoning", "retrodiction". A useful extended discussion
> that is quite accessible is Andrew Sayer, Method in Social Science, A
> Realist Approach (2nd ed., 1992).

Is Sayer a Marxist?  I am suspicious of scientific realism, in fact of 
anything that calls itself realism, it smacks of Humean agnosticism.  I 
prefer materialism.

I have written all my posts on this quite hastily and I'm pretty sure they 
are coming across as arrogant which is not intended and I hope you will 
excuse that. Also you will be able to tell that I haven't properly prepared 
for the discussion.  I must admit I was expecting objections more along the 
lines of `...but what about this example or that example, they contradict 
the theory etc'.

Daniel (it is Daniel by the way. I'm using a friends e-mail because I 
couldn't solve that problem of formatting with my own). 

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