[Marxism] Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Quine and Hegel

Jeff Rubard jeffrubard at gmail.com
Sun Jan 12 17:55:15 MST 2014


Shaun,

Your knowledge of "dialectical materialism" is much deeper than mine and
the story about the miners' strike is classic. Still, it is important to
see modern formal logic for what it is: not a dessicated remnant of
Aristotle but a truly novel contribution to human thought from Frege on,
which paved the way for the omnipresent digital world: without Church and
Turing's negative solution to Hilbert's *Entscheidungsproblem* for
first-order logic, we would not have had the intellectual tools necessary
to build modern computers. It is true that when you escape from the (fairly
wide-ranging) world of metamathematics proper to things like Popper's
"logic of scientific discovery" or Quine's nominalist philosophy of logic
and language, the rigor does not quite follow you: but model theory, proof
theory, and recursion theory teach us a great deal about what it is for
something thought to be representable, provable, or computable. Badiou's
early *Concept of Model* deals with potential implications of Tarskian
model theory for thought (including revolutionary thought) more generally:
here is a link to an online copy --

http://re-press.org/books/the-concept-of-model/

Like I said, I think Badiou goes too far with his mathematical ontology
without stopping to "gainsay", like an analytic philosopher would, just
what is really being said by the formalism. But a legacy of the 20th
century, preferring what Mills would call "sophisticated Marxism" to the
"class-struggle Marxism" you were accused of, can leave us stranded in the
wastes of German idealism or perhaps, with most postmodernism, some other
kind of waste. Ultimately, the novel relevance of class struggle today
requires novel thought about the social world such that militancy can
acquire a relevance to the masses -- and although as I said Hegel is a very
good (and not unclear) example of how "everything and the world" will not
make capitalist accounting for society turn out, the other sources of the
critical outlook demand a certain respect in their distaste for dialectics
of "reconciliation". Dietzgen is perhaps not an *idol d'echelle* but his
efforts certainly admit of and merit some duplication.

Jeff Rubard



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