MATERIALISM AND RATIONALITY
MATERIALISM AND RATIONALITY (PHILOSOPHY FOR THE SOCIAL ACTIVIST)
“CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD.”
YES, CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD, HOW THEY ARE EATEN BY GOATS, TRANSPLANTED BY “MAN” INTO HIS BUTTONHOLE, HOW THEY ARE CRUSHED BENEATH THE IMMODEST EMBRACES OF THE DAIRYMAID AND THE DONKEY-DRIVER!
KARL MARX – 1846 (Marx-Engels 1976: 499)
MATERIALISM AND RATIONALITY – PHILOSOPHY FOR THE SOCIAL ACTIVIST
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1.0. WHY MUST THE SOCIAL ACTIVIST STUDY PHILOSOPHY?
1.1. “CONSIDER THE LILIES OF THE FIELD…”
It is not possible to accept the current state of things without objecting to it.
Debate: CAN WE SEPARATE PHILOSOPHY FROM SOCIAL ACTION? (using Rousseau 1992)
1.2. PRACTICE AND THEORY IN SOCIAL ACTIVISM
To narrow our action to the “practical world” maintains the separation between theory and practice. Philosophy remains in the academies and activism in the street, exactly what the tenants of the status quo expect.
Debate: THE STERILITY OF ACADEMIC THEORY SEPARATED FROM PRACTICE (using Voltaire 1977)
1.3. THE OMNIPRESENCE OF PHILOSOPHY
Before being an academic discipline, philosophy is an ordinary behavior. Everybody has questions and answers about the fundamentals of existence, To claim not to have a philosophy is already a philosophy (and the worse one). Then, is philosophy a “difficult” thing to develop?
Debate: TO LEARN WITH THE MASSES (using Althusser 1971)
1.4. PHILOSOPHY: “THE FALSEST OF ALL FALSE PATHS”
The fundamental mistake of separating practice and theory… is exactly what we are doing here. In what way is philosophy the gallery of human mistakes… and for what reason should we study it very carefully.
Debate: TO STUDY A FALSE PATH (using Althusser 1971)
1.5. DOGMA VS ORGANON
The difference between an intellectual yoke and an intellectual tool.
Debate: TO CHANGE THE WORLD INSTEAD OF INTERPRETING IT (using Korsch 1972)
2.0. WHAT IS PHILOSOPHY?
2.1. DEFINITION OF PHILOSOPHY WE WILL USE
We will assume that Philosophy is THE ACTION OF ADDRESSING GENERAL (OR FUNDAMENTAL) ISSUES.
Debate: TO PHILOSOPHIZE IS A FREE-MINDED ACTIVITY (using Galileo 1967)
2.2. SUBDIVISIONS OF PHILOSOPHY WE WILL USE
– The doctrine of Nature/Universe (Cosmology)
– The doctrine of Humankind (History)
– The doctrine of Being (Ontology)
– The doctrine of Knowledge (Gnoseology)
Debate: THE PHILOSOPHER ALWAYS MAKES A SELECTION OF THE DOCTRINES TO INQUIRY IN PRIORITY (using Diderot 1989f)
2.3. DEFINITIONS OF PHILOSOPHY WE WILL AVOID
– “Love for wisdom”
– “Search for the truth”
– “Inquiry into the meaning of things”
Debate: THE IMPORTANCE OF AVOIDING CERTAIN DEFINITIONS OF PHILOSOPHY: THE CASE FOR HEGEL (using Hook 1962)
2.4. THE GALILEAN EPISTEMOLOGICAL SHIFT
Concerning the difference between the question WHY? and the question HOW? at the level of specifics and at the level of fundamentals.
Debate: THE GALILEAN EPISTEMOLOGICAL SHIFT SEEN BY ALBERT EINSTEIN (using Galileo 1967)
2.5. EXAMPLES OF PHILOSOPHICAL CATEGORIES
– MATTER Vs SPIRIT
– EMPIRICAL REALITY Vs NON EMPIRICAL REALITY
Debate: TO EXIST IS ONE THING, AND TO BE PERCEIVED IS ANOTHER (using Berkeley 1979)
2.6. PHILOSOPHY VS SCIENCES VS RELIGIONS
– GENERAL (OR FUNDAMENTAL) Vs SPECIFIC
– TO SEARCH Vs TO INVESTIGATE Vs TO SPECULATE
– PHILOSOPHY Vs SCIENCE Vs RELIGION
Debate: SCIENTISTS AND PHILOSOPHY (using Engels 1972)
(B) THE FUNDAMENTAL ONTOLOGICAL DEBATE:
IDEALISM VS MATERIALISM
3.0. THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN IDEALISM AND MATERIALISM IN PHILOSOPHY
3.1. THE DANGER OF COMMON SENSE IN THE USE OF TERMS LIKE “IDEALISM”, “MATERIALISM”
In common sense language these two terms have a pejorative value. IDEAL-ISM seems to refer to the views of a dreamer or an utopianist. MATERIAL-ISM seems to refer to the desires for luxury as described in Madonna’s song “Material Girl”. These meanings are different from the ones we will use for the two terms here.
Debate: WHAT “MATERIALISM” AND “IDEALISM” ARE IN THE OPINION OF THE “PHILISTINE” (using Marx-Engels 1959)
3.2. WHAT DOES “***ISM” STAND FOR IN PHILOSOPHY?
[Category’s name] + ISM stands for: a) Trend (or schools or doctrines) considering that that category DETERMINES all the others in the system (called also CONSISTENT ***ISM); b) Trend (or schools or doctrines) considering that that category IS THE ONLY ONE existing in the system (called also ONE-SIDED or VULGAR ***ISM); c) Tendency to hypertrophy that category in the system more than initially wanted or planned (called also ***IST DEVIATION).
[Thinker’s name] + ISM stands for: Position considering that that thinker’s thought is the system to believe in. Very close to a faith (cf. Confucianism, Christianism). Normally the vivid elements of a thinker’s vision can be reformulated in terms of [Category’s name] + ISM. A whole philosophical system cannot come from one individual, not even from a Hegel or a Marx. Ambiguity of philosophical self-designations.
Debate: WHY DOES PHILOSOPHY FIGHT OVER WORDS ? (using Althusser 1971)
3.3. THE STARTING POINT OF THE DEBATE: THE OBJECTIVITY AND SUBJECTIVITY OF THE CATEGORIES OF MATTER AND SPIRIT
Spirit: Mind of a SUBJECT (a man or a superior animal). Matter: What exists as an OBJECT external to our consciousness. Consequences: a) MIND is a SUBJECTIVE SPIRIT; b) NON EMPIRICAL REALITY is OBJECTIVE MATTER; c) EMPIRICAL REALITY is SUBJECTIVE MATTER; d) GOD would be an OBJECTIVE SPIRIT.
Debate: THE DEBATES OF PHILOSOPHY (using Rousseau 1992)
3.4. THE FUNDAMENTAL DEBATE OF PHILOSOPHY
SPIRITUALISM Vs (CONSISTENT) IDEALISM Vs (CONSISTENT) MATERIALISM Vs VULGAR MATERIALISM. To the question WHICH CATEGORY DETERMINES THE OTHER?, one can answer: a) MATTER (the materialist position); b) SPIRIT (the idealist position); c) NEITHER (THE EMPIRICIST POSITION); d) WE CANNOT KNOW (the agnosticist position); e) I DO NOT ADDRESS THAT DEBATE (the pragmaticist position); BOTH (the eclecticist position).
Debate: AN EXAMPLE OF ONE-SIDED MATERIALISM: LUCRETIUS (using Lucretius 1979)
3.5. THE CRISIS OF THE CARTESIAN COGITO
There are two opposite meanings to the Cartesian statement I THINK THEREFORE I AM. a) The idealist meaning, coming from the ontological value given to the statement: I AM BECAUSE I THINK (standing for: “Describing myself as a being, I claim that it is the fact that I think that makes me exist”); b) The materialist meaning, coming from the gnoseological value given to the statement: I AM SINCE I THINK (standing for: “In my investigation about myself, I notice that I think. Then it permits me to conclude that I am, since you have to exist to be able to think”). The struggle between these two opposite meanings is flagrant in Descartes’ Discourse on Method.
Debate: THE CRISIS OF THE CARTESIAN “COGITO” (using Descartes 1956)
4.0. ONTOLOGY OF IDEALISM
4.1. OBJECTIVE IDEALISM VS SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM
– Subject VS Object; Subjectivism VS Objectivism
– SOLIPSISM (SOL = self; IPSI = alone)
Vs SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM: objects are ideas
Vs OBJECTIVE IDEALISM: ideas are objects
Subjective idealism is an idealist MONISM (Being = Mind – though the subjective status of the SUBJECT’S BODY remains unclear). Objective idealism is an idealist DUALISM (Being + Mind – though the objective status of the SUBJECT’S MIND remains unclear). One main debate within idealism is therefore between monism and dualism.
Debate: MONISM Vs DUALISM (using Plekhanov 1967)
4.2. OBJECTIVE IDEALISM IN PHILOSOPHY: ESSENTIALISM VS NOMINALISM
– ESSENTIALISM: philosophical stand claiming that ESSENCE = IDEA, the “essence” of things exists as a spiritual reality.
– NOMINALISM: philosophical stand claiming that ESSENCE = NAME, the “essence” of things do not have an objective existence, it is nothing but a name we have created to designate everything that is not specific and empirically perceptible.
– Nominalism rejects the objectivist deviation of essentialism but remains trapped in idealist dualism. It appears as a type of subjectivist deviation within objective idealism, a sort of negative mirror image of essentialism.
– What essentialism and nominalism have in common is that they claim that since the essence is non empirical it is therefore NON MATERIAL (it is either an objective idea or a name given by a subject).
Debate: THE COMPATIBILITY BETWEEN ESSENTIALISM AND NOMINALISM (using Rousseau 1992)
4.3. IDEALIST ONTOLOGY OF NATURE AND MAN
– Ontology of Nature: CREATION
– Ontology of Man: HUMANISM
Debate: THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE IDEALIST ONTOLOGY OF NATURE AND THE IDEALIST ONTOLOGY OF HUMANKIND: GOD (using D’Holbach 1970)
4.4. RELIGION AS AN OBJECTIVE IDEALISM
– Idealist ontology of Nature and Humankind leads to GOD. God as an objective spirit creating the world and determining the actions of man is the foundation of an idealist system.
– Religion developed to become an objective idealism. From ANIMISM (anthropomorphization of the material environment through introspection) and POLYTHEISM (a multitude of MONISM, a god activating the ocean, another god activating the volcano, each god deeply fusioned in its material source) to MONOTHEISM (a unique DUALISM, God on one side, the world on the other) evolving itself in two phases: THEISM (anthropomorphization of an invisible spiritual being able to act on man, to punish or reward) then DEISM (God is there, it determines and created the universe but does not act anymore). Although, God is slowly being withdrawn from reality: animism and polytheism are the VITALIST steps, the two varieties of monotheism are the OBJECTIVE IDEALIST steps. The natural final step is ATHEISM (no/God).
DEBATE: “…IT IS THE OPIUM OF THE PEOPLE” (using Marx 1970)
5.0. GNOSEOLOGY OF IDEALISM
5.1. BERKELEY’S ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF SUBJECTIVE IDEALISM
– “Matter” is in the mind.
– Only what is subjectively “perceived” can be trusted. We can not “believe” in the objectivity of matter.
– Matter changes constantly. Its perception too.
– (How Berkeley avoids solipsism:) Matter is in all minds, including God’s.
– (How Berkeley avoids objective idealism:) No idea exists without the mind.
– (In what way Berkeley’s view is a monism:) Ideas are things and they exist.
Debate: A CONCEPTION DIRECTLY OPPOSED TO BERKELEY’S ONE: IDEAS NEVER EXIST EXCEPT WHEN WE GENERATE THEM (using Condillac 1977)
5.2. THE IDEALIST DOCTRINE OF KNOWLEDGE
– Knowledge is the one of an individual. This individual is socio-historically passive but intellectually active.
– We are addressing direct knowledge only. Such a thing as indirect knowledge does not have a status qualitatively distinct from direct knowledge.
– There is an inneist dimension to knowledge. Reason, intuition, feeling of the individual has a developed status.
– When accepted as a source of knowledge, the senses are seen as the least reliable.
– Knowledge has no history. We shift from ignorance to knowledge or from a wrong conception to a right one without any process other than a negligible time delay. New ideas and inventions spontaneously emerge from the minds of Great Men or Leaders.
Debate: THE DOCTRINE OF KNOWLEDGE OF IDEALISM (using Bacon 1960)
5.3. IDEALISM IS AN ONTOLOGIZATION OF KNOWLEDGE
– Idealism is given here as the view to struggle against. Despite that, we have a lot to learn from idealism, especially about the intellectually active part of knowledge.
– For materialism, idealism is an ontologization of knowledge due to an hypertrophy of the inquiry on the mind leading to an ideological inversion of the relation between Being and Thinking.
Debate: THE ACTIVITY OF THINKING IS OBJECTIVELY DETERMINED BY THE FACT OF BEING (using Spinoza 1981)
6.0. ONTOLOGY OF MATERIALISM
6.1. THE PHENOMENON OF ANALOGON
– Being given two systems where two poles or two categories are opposed one to the other with a connection of determination between them. If one system is the ANALOGON of the other, it means 1- that one of the systems has similarities to the second, 2- that, however, a certain number of inversions and qualitative differences distinguish them radically 3- that one of the systems is historically and logically second vis-à-vis the other. Example: the camera is an analogon of the eye.
– An analogon is different from a simple analogy which is nothing but the fortuitous resemblance between two realities without any connection of mutual genesis linking them. Example: a cauliflower looks like a brain, a sea horse looks like a horse but there is no analogon between them.
– It is possible to build an analogon between the pair of categories Matter/Spirit and the pair of categories Masses/Leaders. Then the debate between Idealism and Materialism finds a concretization in questions like: Do the leaders determine the action of the masses or do the masses determine the action of the leaders?
Debate: THE PROCEDURE OF ANALOGON (using Lucretius 1979)
6.2. MATTER, NATURE, HISTORY
– MATTER: What is external to our consciousness. This is the philosophical definition of matter not the description of it as we would find it in (Aristotelician or Einsteinian) physics.
– NATURE: Totality of material reality considered independently from human practice and history.
– HISTORY: The development of social structures and social struggles as an objective reality, based on the concrete organization of the production and reproduction of the conditions of human material life. History is not the past but the motion of social change.
Debate: THE OBJECTIVE UNIVERSE EXISTING OUTSIDE OF OUR CONSCIOUSNESS (using Lucretius 1979)
6.3. WHAT NATURE AND HISTORY HAVE IN COMMON: MOTION AND INTERCONNECTION
– Motion in Nature: Evolution and Natural Selection.
– Motion in History: Development and Revolutions.
– Interconnections in Nature.
– Interconnections in History.
Debate: THE ATTRIBUTES OF MATTER ARE INCONCEIVABLE WITHOUT MATTER ITSELF (using Berkeley 1979)
6.4. THE INQUIRY OF THE INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN NATURE AND HISTORY
NATURE DETERMINES HISTORY BUT DOES NOT DOMINATE IT.
HISTORY DOMINATES NATURE BUT DOES NOT DETERMINE IT.
NATURE DETERMINES NATURE BUT DOES NOT DOMINATE IT.
HISTORY OVERDETERMINES (I.E. DETERMINE AND DOMINATES) HISTORY.
– Monist deviation: NATURALISM. All (even History) is Nature. The grounding of that vision: the fact that Nature comes before History (cf. Cosmology).
– Dualist deviation: HISTORICISM. The life in Nature and the life of Humankind are two different things. The grounding of that vision: History separates Humankind from Nature.
Debate: NATURE VS HUMANKIND: THE FICTION OF HUMAN “NATURE” (using Plekhanov 1967)
6.5. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURE AND HISTORY: THE SUBORDINATED STATUS OF CONSCIOUS ELEMENT
-The natural and historical process are both OBJECTIVE (external to any consciousness or will). But the latter involves the subordinated action of the conscious element. It makes the objectivity of History more complex and contradictory than the objectivity of Nature from that point of view. The movement of a marble dropped on a plate in a ship at sea is as random and complex as the movement of the same marble dropped on a stable Ouiji board with ten people around it. But the movement of these two marbles are not grounded in the same type of determinism. There is an ANALOGY but not an ANALOGON between Nature and History.
Debate: THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN NATURE AND HISTORY (using Marx-Engels 1959)
6.6. APPLICATION OF THE ANALOGON TO THE PROBLEM OF THE INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN NATURE AND HISTORY
– It is possible to build an analogon between the pair of categories Matter/Spirit and the pair of categories Nature/History. History is second and generated by Nature but we will not accept that Nature dominates History. Historical Materialism will claim that Nature determines History but is dominated by it, and furthermore that History overdetermines itself. To do so it will use a transposition of idealist arguments for the description of the category of History through the analogon by adapting them and applying them to the practical action of Humankind instead of applying them to the objective activity of the mind.
Debate: HEGEL AND THE ANALOGON: CORPORATION VS BUREAUCRACY (using Marx 1970)
7.0. GNOSEOLOGY OF MATERIALISM
7.1. SENSES AND PRAXIS/NATURE AND HISTORY
– Praxis: Ordinary activity of the social human being applied on natural and historical entities.
– Theory: generalization based on praxis.
Senses and Praxis are not separable in the activity of human knowledge. Nature and History are not separable in the human being.
Debate: SENSES AND PRAXIS: WALKING ON THE APPIAN WAY (using Strodach 1963)
7.2. DIRECT CONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE: THE INDIVIDUAL GRASP OF THE MENTAL IMAGE
Conscious knowledge is direct or indirect. The mental image is a natural individual perceived knowledge that can be a direct or indirect reflection variably grounded in praxis.
Debate: THE PROBLEM OF MENTAL IMAGE (using Sextus Empiricus 1960)
7.3. INDIRECT CONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE: THE SOCIAL ACTIVITY OF CONCEPTUALIZATION
– History provides direct and indirect knowledge.
– Scholastic AND experimental knowledge are always a social product.
– The status of logic is limited because it is theoretical.
– Description of the practical and social nature of the activity of conceptualization.
– Idealism provides elements of understanding to materialism concerning the doctrine of the CONCEPT, but isolate it from historicity.
Debate: THE MODES OF PERCEPTION ACCORDING TO SPINOZA (using Spinoza 1955)
7.4. UNCONSCIOUS KNOWLEDGE: HABITUS AND IDEOLOGY
– Assets and limitations of the Freudian discovery.
– Feelings, impressions and intuitions are manifestations of unconscious knowledge.
– Habitus: unconscious knowledge with a social origin.
– Ideology: reversed consciousness of real relations due to the position of the thinker in the division of labor of his/her historical phase.
Debate: ETHNOCENTRISM AS AN IDEOLOGY (using Rousseau 1992)
7.5. ON THE LIMITATIONS OF KNOWLEDGE: ABSOLUTE KNOWLEDGE VS (COR)RELATIVE KNOWLEDGE
– Historical foundations of every steps of knowledge: the conceptualization AND the perception of mental images.
– Absolute knowledge Vs (co)relative knowledge.
Debate: ON THE CORRESPONDENCE OF REALITY TO ITS CONCEPT (using Marx-Engels 1936)
8.0. THE “THIRD” PHILOSOPHIES: EMPIRICISM AND AGNOSTICISM
8.1. THE PROBLEM OF THE LIMITATION OF KNOWLEDGE
To the question WHICH CATEGORY DETERMINES THE OTHER, one can answer:
a) MATTER (materialist position);
b) SPIRIT (idealist position);
c) NEITHER (empiricist position);
d) WE CANNOT KNOW (agnosticist position);
e) I DO NOT ADDRESS THAT DEBATE (pragmatist position);
f) BOTH (eclecticist position).
We are addressing c) and d) which represent the main attempt to build a third option to the fundamental ontological debate between idealism and materialism. To try to build such a third option corresponds to entering a crisis of knowledge, as if a refusal to face the fundamental debate was tightly linked to an incapacity to know.
Description of the two main modes of knowledge: PROOF (involving the application of the criterion of PRAXIS) and DEMONSTRATION (involving the intellectual activity of SPECULATION).
Debate: THE INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN PROOF AND DEMONSTRATION (using Duns Scotus 1962)
8.2. EMPIRICISM: A SHAMEFUL IDEALISM
Presentation of the system of thought of the most prominent empiricist: HUME. Empiricism addresses only the PROOF, and claims that it can prove the impossibility to prove. Its one-sided deviation is PRAGMATISM (claiming that nothing can be demonstrated) and its diametrical opposite is RATIONALISM (claiming that all can be demonstrated). Empiricism is an apparent materialism claiming to trust only the senses, but it reveals itself as being fundamentally an idealism since it addresses only what the senses printed in the mind.
Nota: in bourgeois thought the struggle between MATERIALISM and IDEALISM is often presented as a debate between EMPIRICISM and RATIONALISM. That appears to be a reduction of the fight of two philosophical camps around the ontological fundamental, to a simple debate within a gnoseological crisis.
Debate: THE PERCEPTUAL AND THE RATIONAL STAGES OF KNOWLEDGE (using Mao Tse-Tung 1975a)
8.3. AGNOSTICISM: A SHAMEFUL MATERIALISM
Presentation of the system of thought of the most prominent agnosticist: KANT. Agnosticism addresses only the DEMONSTRATION, and claims that it can demonstrate the impossibility to demonstrate. Its one-sided deviation is SCEPTICISM (claiming that nothing can be proven) and its diametral opposite is SCIENTICISM (claiming that all can be proven). Agnosticism is an apparent idealism claiming to trust only the speculative reasoning, but it reveals itself as being fundamentally a materialism since it affirms that there is an aspect of existence which is external to any human knowledge, and consequently that something exists outside of our consciousness.
Debate: THE MATERIALIST REFUTATION OF AGNOSTICISM (using Marx-Engels 1959)
8.4. THE INTERCONNECTION BETWEEN THE TWO TRENDS OF PHILOSOPHY WHICH TRIED HISTORICALLY TO BUILD A THIRD PATH TO THE FUNDAMENTAL ONTOLOGICAL DEBATE
– Both of them are developing their reflection around the impossibility to know.
– Both of them narrow themselves only within one of the two main modes of knowledge.
– Both of them perpetuate the contradiction between idealism and materialism. Since they do not control that contradiction, they are controlled by it.
Debate: THE DEPTHS OF DOUBT (using Sextus Empiricus 1961b)
8.5. THE STATUS OF DOUBT
-Empiricism (proof in doubt) end Agnosticism (demonstration in doubt) are both ONTOLOGIZATIONS OF DOUBT.
– Eclecticism (I tie together different parts of systems that I consider true without worrying about the contradictions it could generate) and dogmatism (I consider that there is only one true system and reject any attempt to contradict it) are both REJECTIONS OF DOUBT.
– Materialism and consistent Idealism give to doubt its central GNOSEOLOGICAL STATUS in the process of knowledge.
Debate: ON THE GNOSEOLOGICAL STATUS OF DOUBT (using Spinoza 1955)
(C) THE FUNDAMENTAL GNOSEOLOGICAL DEBATE:
METAPHYSICS VS DIALECTICS
9.0. THE STRUGGLE BETWEEN METAPHYSICS AND DIALECTIC IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Etymological origin of METAPHYSICS and DIALECTICS. Reading of Engels (1985: 45-53) on the logical and historical opposition between these two intellectual procedures.
Debate: METAPHYSICS AND DIALECTICS IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
(using Engels 1985: 45-53)
10.0. WHEN GNOSEOLOGY IS METAPHYSICAL
10.1. A GNOSEOLOGY OF THE COMMON SENSE
Metaphysical gnoseology grounds itself in common sense. Reference to the common sense leads us toward the so called debate between EMPIRICISM and RATIONALISM which, as a debate, is totally under the domination of the metaphysical system of thought.
Debate: THE LOGIC OF COMMON SENSE (using Lefebvre 1968)
10.2. TO SEARCH FOR IDENTITIES
We refer here to procedures such as “If A = B and B = C than A = C”. We also refer to any AXIOMATIC procedure.
Debate: THE LOGICAL ILLUSION OF IDENTITY (using Lefebvre 1968)
10.3. TO SEPARATE AND ISOLATE THINGS
The analytic method as a crisis between a monist and a dualist approach.
Debate: TO SEPARATE IDEAS (using Spinoza 1955)
10.4. TO ABSTRACT AND TO GENERALIZE ABSTRACTLY
The procedure of abstraction is an activity of mental separation (involving the constitution of a fictive element) AND an activity of generalization.
Debate: THE EMPTINESS OF ABSTRACTION (using Marx 1936)
10.5. THE STATUS OF INTERCONNECTIONS: SYMMETRIES
The interconnections are addressed by metaphysics in their symmetry, cf. the concept of STRUCTURE and the whole structuralist ideology.
Debate: THE MYTH OF EQUILIBRIUM AND HARMONY IN SCIENCE (using Bacon 1960)
10.6. THE STATUS OF CHANGE: STABLE CYCLES AND GRADUALITIES
When accepted, change is seen by metaphysics as the repetition of immutable cycles (if reversible) or the graduality of a continuum (if irreversible).
Debate: TOWARD A “SCIENCE OF THE PROCESSES” (using Engels 1959)
10.7. THE STATUS OF CONTRADICTION: MISTAKES AND PARADOXES
The abhorrence and rejection of contradiction is such in the metaphysical gnoseology that it is usually seen as a marginal mistake. The main arguments used against the existence of contradiction are paradoxes, i.e. the contradiction between demonstration and proof due to an attempt to demonstrate something that needs a proof. An inquiry of paradoxes shows that they appear more as an argument against the metaphysical conception of contradiction involving, symmetry, purity of the poles of the contradiction, and an abstract and fictive IDEA of how they develop or would develop. Discussion of the following (fictive and real) paradoxes:
– Achilles and the Turtle
– The liar’s paradox
– The Street Gang Paradox
– Alison Beale’s Cold Paradox
– The In Camera Session Paradox.
Debate: THE ILLUSORY EXPULSION OF CONTRADICTION (using Lukacs 1979)
10.8. THE STATUS OF THE ANALOGON: A MODEL
A model is the stable hypertrophy of the empirical.
Debate: TO BUILD A MODEL (using Diderot 1989b)
11.0. WHEN GNOSEOLOGY IS DIALECTICAL
11.1. A NEGATIVIST GNOSEOLOGY
To think dialectically is to refuse (negate) the reality of the apparent world. Dialectics is the negation of common sense.
Debate: THE NEGATIVE POTENTIAL OF THE “RIGHT” SCEPTICISM (using Lefebvre 1968)
11.2. THE STATUS OF THE MODEL: AN ANALOGON
A model is always an approximate analogon. Major consequence: there is no end to the process of knowledge.
Debate: MODELIZATION LEADS TO THE BELIEF IN NON EXISTENT ENTITIES: THE CASE FOR ETHER (using Pannekoek 1948)
11.3. THE STATUS OF CONTRADICTION: THE MAIN OBJECT OF INVESTIGATION
We look for the unity and identity of the opposites and their passage into a third element. Contradiction is not subjective only.
Debate: HOW TO DESCRIBE CONTRADICTIONS (using Marx 1970)
11.4. THE STATUS OF CHANGE: SHIFTS AND AUFHEBUNG
There is no stability. Change is omnipresent. SHIFTS: the gradual QUANTITATIVE change is only a moment that leads to the sudden QUALITATIVE change, cf. water turning to ice; evolution is not a regular continuum but an irregular series of shifts. AUFHEBUNG: stands for to maintain/suppress/overwhelm. Examples: the videocamera aufhebt the camera, the adult we are aufhebt the child we were. The majority of changes are aufhebung.
Debate: THE KNOWLEDGE OF FACTS DISSOLVES THEM INTO PRECESSUS (using Lukacs 1979)
11.5. THE STATUS OF INTERCONNECTIONS: DISSYMMETRIES
Symmetric structures are mental images. Even the reality of relativism is dissymmetric. Reversible change IS irreversible change and negation of negation is a qualitative change.
Debate: DISSYMMETRY AND CAUSALITY (using Ruben 1979)
11.6. ABSTRACTION IS SUBORDINATED TO CONCRETIZATION
Dialectical gnoseology stands for the concrete analysis of the concrete situation.
Debate: THIS ABSTRACTION TAKES PLACE DAILY… (using Marx 1913)
11.7. TO THINK THINGS IN THEIR TOTALITY
Subjectivity isolates things. To think things in their totality is neither monism nor dualism but rather something like “dialectical dissymmetric pluralism”.
Debate: STRUCTURE AND CHANGE (using Lukacs 1979)
11.8. TO ADDRESS THE CRISIS OF IDENTIFICATION
The activity of identification recognizes no objective status to the idea of identity.
Debate: THE GIMMICK OF IDENTIFICATION (using Galileo 1967)
12.0. WHEN ONTOLOGY IS METAPHYSICAL
12.1. A REDUCTIONIST ONTOLOGY
The doctrine of being of metaphysics is reductionist.
Debate: THE AVATARS OF REDUCTIONIST ONTOLOGY (using Mao-Tse-Tung 1975b)
12.2. THINGS ARE IDENTICAL
The ontological consequences of MONISM.
Debate: ON ONTOLOGICAL MONISM (using Bruno 1964a)
12.3. THINGS ARE ISOLATED
The ontological consequences of DUALISM, The myth of the existence of random facts. The myth of the existence of liberty.
Debate: TO SEPARATE MATTER FROM FORM (using Bruno 1964a)
12.4. THE ESSENCE OF THINGS IS A STABLE ABSTRACTION
The myth of perfection.
Debate: THE ESSENCE OF THINGS IS A STABLE ABSTRACTION (using Bruno 1964a)
12.5. ALL IS SYMMETRIC (MODEL OF THE BALANCE)
If the structuralist ideology is relativist, then it tends to absolutize the relative.
Debate: THE ILLUSION OF SYMMETRY (using Spinoza 1955)
12.6. ALL MOVEMENT IS CYCLIC (MODEL OF THE PENDULUM OR THE CLOCK) AND GRADUAL (MODEL OF THE STAIR OR THE SCALE)
All changes are strictly quantitative changes.
Debate: THE PROBLEM OF MOVEMENT (using Bruno 1964a)
12.7. THERE IS NO CONTRADICTION
Opposites are mutually exclusive. The third element is excluded. External cause analysis.
Debate: MOTION AND REST: TRYING TO ESCAPE THE INHERENT CONTRADICTION INSTEAD OF FACING IT (using Toland 1964)
12.8. ONTOLOGICAL MODELS (EXISTENCE IS LIKE…)
MODELS FOR THE DESCRIPTION OF NATURE: FIXISM (Eleatic school), to which you add the notion of symmetric movement becomes MECHANICALISM (17th-18th century), to which you add the notion of qualitative change, becomes CHEMICALISM (positivism of the early 19th century), to which you add the notion of life/death process, becomes BIOLOGISM (positivism of the late 19th century), to which you add the notion of (artificial) cognitive process, becomes COMPUTERISM (computer sciences, 20th century).
MODELS FOR THE DESCRIPTION OF SOCIETY: economical and political “machine”; life and death of societies (positivist sociology).
MODEL FOR THE DESCRIPTION OF THOUGHT: logicism.
Debate: THE LIMITS OF MODELS (using Agrippa von Netteshein 1974)
13.0. WHEN ONTOLOGY IS DIALECTICAL
13.1. AN ONTOLOGY OF THE CONCRETE
If you are looking for a unique straightforward rule for “thinking dialectically” it would be “drop everything and address the issue CONCRETELY”.
Debate: LET US THINK CONCRETELY (using Lenin 1965)
13.2. ONTOLOGICAL ANALOGONS
– The problem of the historicist model: in its Hegelian-Marxian version (before the Leninian phase), dialectical thought took the reality of history as a model. Willingly or not, the real bourgeois revolution was the model for the proletarian revolution to be. Dialectical thought was then grasping CONTRADICTION + CHANGE + CONNECTION but the issue of DISSYMMETRY remained problematic. Under the form of the “hope” for SYMMETRY, bits of metaphysics continued to influence dialectical thought.
– No a priori model (against all reductionism): The Leninian phase introduced clearly the notion of dissymmetry in the reality of history. The procedure of modelization was then destroyed (the stalinian phase meant a regression by the reintroduction of fixist models and the sabotage of dialectics). Analogons are not a priori models, they are “guides for action”. Qualitative distinction dominates quantitative ones. Difference dominates identity. Connections are not analogies.
Debate: THE “PATTERN” OF REVOLUTION (using Lukacs 1979)
13.3. CONTRADICTION IS THE ESSENCE OF THINGS
“When we go to the essence of things we find contradictions, because contradiction is the essence of things”. All realizes itself in contradiction.
Debate: THE RESISTANCE OF COMMON SENSE TO THE REALITY OF CONTRADICTION (using Colletti 1979)
13.4. ALL CHANGE
The cause of change is internal not external. Quantitative change generates qualitative changes by leaps. Aufhebung is an objective reality.
Debate: AGAINST THE VULGAR NOTION OF CHANGE (using Lenin 1964a)
13.5. “ALL IS RELATIVE” MEANS ALL IS CORRELATED
All (including relativism) is (cor)relative and in non symmetrical reciprocal action. On relativism and relativity of relativism.
Debate: THE RELATIVISM OF RELATIVISM (using Lenin 1972)
13.6. CONCRETION GENERATES ABSTRACTION
Abstraction is the “calm”, reduced and limited aroma of concrete objective reality.
Debate: CONCRETE KNOWLEDGE (using Galileo 1967)
13.7. THE MOVING TOTALITY
Monism, dualism and eclectical pluralism are the various aspects of the same metaphysical gnoseology. Toward a dialectical totalization.
Debate: INTERACTION AND THE TOTALITY (using Lukacs 1979)
13.8. DIFFERENCE DOMINATES IDENTITY
Identity is strictly gnoseological (activity of identification). It is a moment in the praxis toward difference.
Debate: THE DIALECTICS OF ELEMENTARY MOVEMENT (using Plekhanov 1937)
14.0. METAPHYSICAL IDEALISM, METAPHYSICAL MATERIALISM, DIALECTICAL IDEALISM
14.1. THERE IS NO “PURE” PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMATIC
The struggle between idealism and materialism generated two main middle terms: agnosticism and empiricism. The struggle between metaphysics and dialectics generated a continuum of middle terms. This shows that there is no “pure” philosophical problematic, but, in modern philosophy, the ontological and gnoseological main debates have intertwined into four major combinations.
Debate: THE DIVERSITY OF PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEMATICS (using Oizerman and Bogomolov 1986)
14.2. METAPHYSICAL IDEALISM. EXAMPLE: LEIBNIZ (1646-1716)
Reality is divided in “monads”, stable and non connected very small spiritual units.
14.3. METAPHYSICAL MATERIALISM. EXAMPLE: SPINOZA (1632-1677)
The substance of all things is fundamentally one and material. Contradictions are manifestations of the flaws of our perception.
14.4. DIALECTICAL IDEALISM. EXAMPLE: HEGEL (1770-1831)
Existence is determined by the dialectical movement of the Absolute Idea.
14.5. DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM. EXAMPLE: MARX (1818-1883)
Matter is objective and dialectical. This choice will be the one proposed to the social activist. This is why we will develop it here in details.
(D) DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM
15.0. DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM I: ONTOLOGY
Matter is dialectical.
15.1. CONTRADICTION IS OBJECTIVE
Opposites are united and interpenetrate each other. There is an identity of the opposites. It is mostly on the issue of contradiction that dialectics needs to be fed by materialism because of the strong tendency to subjectivize contradiction (cf. Sartre, Merleau-Ponty).
Debate: THE “ABSURDITY” OF MEDIATION (using Marx 1970)
15.2. ESSENCE IS RELATIONS
The essence is fundamentally contradictory relations.
Debate: THE ESSENCE OF PRODUCTION IS RELATIONS (using Engels 1942)
15.3. TOTALITY IS QUALITATIVELY DISSYMMETRIC
Reality is infinitely polymorphic. There is a crucial qualitative distinction between Nature and History.
Debate: “FREEWILL” AND THE TOTALITY (using d’Holbach 1970)
15.4. CHANGE IS IRREVERSIBLE
Nothing is perpetual. Quantitative change generates qualitative change. It is mostly on the issue of change that materialism needs to be fed by dialectics because of the strong tendency to address change with a rigid metaphysical approach (cf. Plekhanov on logic).
Debate: ALL IS IN MOTION (using d’Holbach 1970)
15.5. THE MATERIAL WORLD IS IMMANENT
The inner cause overwhelms the external cause. Existence has inner tendencies but no external finalities.
Debate: THE UNTREATED CHAOS (using Voltaire 1972)
16.0. DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM II: GNOSEOLOGY
We have to think dialectically
16.1. KNOWLEDGE IS ALWAYS LIMITED AND ALL CAN BE KNOWN
Objective world pre-exists to the idea we have of it. Objectivity of parallax: the point of view determines our perception of the object.
Debate: IS HUMAN THOUGHT SOVEREIGN ? (using Engels 1966)
16.2. THE CRITERION OF AN OBJECTIVE KNOWLEDGE IS PRAXIS
Praxis is the motor of knowledge. Collective historical praxis is the ultimate criterion of an objective knowledge.
Debate: MARX Vs FEUERBACH ON GNOSEOLOGY (using Plekhanov 1937)
16.3. KNOWLEDGE IS COLLECTIVE AND HISTORICAL
Collective historical praxis overwhelms individual isolated praxis.
Debate: THE INNER CONTRADICTION OF THE “SCIENCE OF THOUGHT” (using Engels 1972)
16.4. THE ANALOGON IS CONTRADICTORY
All models are limited.
Debate: THE CRISIS OF FORMAL THOUGHT (using Hegel 1977)
16.5. IDEOLOGY IS PART OF KNOWLEDGE
What they are and what they do is more important than what they think of themselves. Against the positivistic Althusserian opposition science/ideology.
Debate: THE SOLID GROUND OF IDEOLOGY (using Gramsci 1988)
17.0. HISTORY OF DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM
17.1. THERE IS NO HISTORY OF INTELLECTUAL REPRESENTATIONS
Intellectual representations have no autonomous development. They emerge as the aroma of the material history of social formations. They are like the smoke and material history is like the fire.
Debate: THE VARIATION OF “MARXISMS” THROUGH HISTORY (using Goldmann 1969)
17.2. MATERIAL HISTORY: THE MATERIALIST STREAM
Materialist philosophy emerged out of the techniques and sciences investigating nature which are themselves developing differently depending on the mode of production.
Debate: MATERIALISM AND NATURAL SCIENCES (using Lenin 1964a)
17.3. MATERIAL HISTORY: THE DIALECTICAL STREAM
Dialectical philosophy emerged out of the consciousness of major social crisis which are themselves the reflection of crucial shifts from one mode of production to another.
Debate: THE “PROGRESS” IN PHILOSOPHY (using Pannekoek in Dietzgen 1906)
17.4. THE REVOLUTIONARY SYNTHESIS OF MATERIALISM AND DIALECTICS
From 1848 to 1921 was a period where scientific discoveries and revolutionary movements created conditions that permitted a synthetic connection between dialectics and materialism.
Debate: THE DIALECTICS OF HEGEL “UPON ITS HEAD” (using Marx-Engels 1959)
17.5. AND NOW
From the thirties to the nineties several factors of stabilization of capitalism created condition permitting a resurgence of metaphysics in parallel with the continuing progress of sciences of nature. Metaphysical materialism and metaphysical idealism are today stronger than dialectical materialism. Dialectical idealism seems now to be dead.
Debate: CONTINUITY AND DISCONTINUITY IN THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY (using Oizerman and Bogomolov 1986)
(E) HISTORICAL MATERIALISM
18.0. HISTORICAL MATERIALISM I: COSMOLOGY VS HISTORY
The starting point of the analogon MATTER/SPIRIT toward HISTORY/COSMOLOGY.
18.1. DETERMINING CATEGORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF HUMANKIND
If we take a DUALIST stand on the doctrine of humankind, we will isolate a point of focus or another before (and without) addressing the issue of DETERMINATION. Then, a strong tendency to negate the non selected category will emerge. If the focus is on HISTORY we have HISTORICISM. If the focus is on COSMOS we have COSMOGONISM.
If we take a MONIST stand, two possibilities appear: POSITIVISM or HISTORICAL MATERIALISM.
The positivist position in the doctrine of humankind claims that the laws of the cosmos determine the laws of society and consequently the laws of society are immutable “natural” laws. A stream of thought called “Social-Darwinism” claiming that the struggle for life is a natural social fact shares that option.
The historical materialist position claims that the laws of history determine the laws of cosmos. Cosmos being that part of the universe already in contact with human groups. In that conception the second pole (cosmos) is tightly connected to the first. From that is produced the concept of ENVIRONMENT. Thinker of reference: Marx.
Such a doctrine of humankind reverses the analogon with the materialist stand presented at the level of fundamental categories. We are in analogon with idealism here.
Debate: THE POSITIVIST DEVIATION IN THE SCIENCE OF HISTORY (using Lukacs 1979)
18.2. DETERMINING CATEGORY OF THE DOCTRINE OF NATURE
If we take a DUALIST stand in the doctrine of nature, we will isolate one point of focus or another before (and without) addressing the issue of DETERMINATION. Then, a strong tendency to negate the opposite category will emerge. If the focus is on HUMANITY, we have HUMANISM. If the focus is on NATURE, we have NATURALISM.
If we take a MONIST stand, two possibilities appear: ANTHROPOMORPHISM and MATERIALISM.
If you talk with your cat or consider that birds in cage suffer because they lost their freedom, you adhere to an anthropomorphic doctrine of nature. More seriously, the Nietzschean “eternally cosmic laws of the will-to-power” (supposed to exist even in the internal structure of physical matter) are a philosophical example of anthropomorphism.
The materialist position claims that the laws of nature determine humanity. Humanity being a particular type of ape. In that conception the second pole (Humanity) is tightly connected to the first. From that is produced the concept of SPECIES. Thinker of reference: Darwin.
Such a doctrine of nature maintains the analogon with the materialist stand presented at the level of fundamental categories. Here we are in analogon with materialism.
Debate: THE HUMAN BEING IS DETERMINED BY NATURE (using Volney 1822)
18.3. PHILOSOPHICAL POINT OF FOCUS: HISTORY
Our option is FUNDAMENTALLY CONTRADICTORY: At the same time the human being is an animal species and a social being totally determined by its historical organization. Something reversed itself with that specific animal and a qualitative gap reversed the totality of its determinisms, subordinating an effective long term biological evolution to the faster pace of historical development. An idealist and a materialist analogon dialectically co-exist to describe that situation.
Within that option, the social activist is recommended the following point of focus (selection of priorities, without denial of the importance of the doctrine not selected): DOCTRINE OF HUMANKIND.
The doctrine of humankind supersede or has precedence over the doctrine of Nature, according to the activist’s priorities. In 1856 Engels is on holiday in Ireland and writes a letter to Marx about what he saw…
Debate: ENGEL’S HOLIDAY IN IRELAND (using Marx-Engels 1936)
19.0. HISTORICAL MATERIALISM II: THE MOTOR FORCE OF HISTORY
19.1. EVOLUTION VS DEVELOPMENT
In Politzer 1976 (95-96). Apple Vs Pencil
Debate: THE APPLE AND THE PENCIL (using Politzer 1976)
19.2. MASSES MAKE HISTORY
Masses make History. History is an objective reality independent of the will of individuals or groups. It exists planet-wide. In what way does History obey to the laws of materialism.
Debate: IN WHAT MANNER HUMANKIND MAKES ITS OWN HISTORY (using Hook 1962)
19.3. SOCIAL CLASSES VS ETHNO-BIOLOGICAL GROUPS
Societies are organized in relatively homogeneous groups performing a branch of production: the social classes. Division of labor in a specific mode of production produces specific social classes. The difference between social classes (“blue collar” workers, “white collar” workers, peasants, business bourgeois, industry bourgeois), ethno-biological groups (black, women, youth, gays) and social groups (university students, employees of Coca-Cola, Canadian citizens, Star Trek fans): fundamental consciousness Vs empirical consciousness.
There are three common mistakes concerning social class: 1) to believe that our social class is defined by the volume of our income; 2) to believe that our social class is our social class of origin; 3) to believe that individual strategies can alter our position in a social class.
Debate: THE SOCIETY AND THE STATE, ACCORDING TO THE PRAGMATIST PHILOSOPHER JOHN DEWEY (1859-1952) (using Novack 1978)
19.4. CLASS STRUGGLE VS ETHNO-BIOLOGICAL SEGREGATION AND INTER-INDIVIDUAL COMPETITION
Class struggle is the motor force of historical change. Ethno-biological segregation (i.e. racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, xenophobia) are empirical symptoms of class struggle. How the struggles between nations, peoples, ethnic groups, races, sexes are subordinate to the struggle between classes, like the apparent is subordinate to the fundamental. Class struggle determines competition (from business to war).
There are three common mistakes concerning class struggle: 1) to believe that class struggle is the result of a will, or that to become conscious of it is to control it; 2) to believe that the classes are not in struggle or that class struggle appears only at certain moments of history, just like wars or crisis, or that class struggle disappeared; 3) to believe that class struggle is only the open explicit fight of a unique homogenous ruling class against a unique homogenous oppressed class.
Debate: WHAT IS CLASS STRUGGLE (using Engels 1979)
20.0. HISTORICAL MATERIALISM III: THE GENESIS OF IDEOLOGY AND MORAL
20.1. THE GENESIS OF IDEOLOGY
The activity of production and reproduction of material life determines the rest of human activity, including beliefs and consciousness.
Debate: THE STATUS OF THE “ECONOMIC ELEMENTS” IN HISTORY (using Engels 1936)
20.2. THE STATUS OF DOMINANT IDEOLOGY
The dominant ideology of an epoch is the ideology of the dominant class at that epoch.
Debate: THE DEMONSTRATION OF THE LIMITS OF ALL IDEOLOGIES: UTOPIA (using More 1965)
20.3. IDEOLOGY AS A MYSTIFIED AND REVERSED CONSCIOUSNESS OF REALITY
Ideology is not only the mental aroma of practical life. It is a REVERSED representation of it, like in a CAMERA OBSCURA. The reasons for that are not abstract dialectics but the concrete determinations of the class consciousness of the “ideologist”.
Debate: THE COMPLEXITY OF IDEOLOGY (using Korsch 1972)
20.4. THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF RELIGION
Catholicism is the religion of feodality. Protestantism is the religion of capitalism. Scope and limits of that analysis.
Debate: THE HISTORICAL GENESIS OF RELIGION (using Engels 1966)
21.0. HISTORICAL MATERIALISM IV: THE “HUMAN ESSENCE”
21.1. FETISHISM OF COMMODITIES
In capitalism, the objects are subjectivized and humanized. They become fetishes.
Debate: IDEOLOGY AND THE FETISHISM OF COMMODITIES (using Lichtheim 1967)
21.2. REIFICATION OF HUMANKIND
In capitalism, the social relations are seen as relations between things. Example the PRICE of an object is seen as inherent to that object as its color and shape, when it is actually a social interaction between the links of a long chain of production leading to the retailer and the buyer.
Debate: POSITIVISM AND REIFICATION (using Marcuse 1983)
21.3. WHAT IS “HUMAN ESSENCE”
“The human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations” (Karl Marx 1845)
Debate: THE DIALECTICAL HISTORICAL “HUMAN ESSENCE” (using Marx-Engels 1976)
21.4. RICH MAN, POOR MAN?
Debate: THE IDEOLOGY OF ECONOMISTS (using Marx 1936)
21.5. WHY MUST THE PHILOSOPHER BE A SOCIAL ACTIVIST