Gnostic Marxist

July 2022 Forums Socialist Standard Feedback Gnostic Marxist

Viewing 15 posts - 346 through 360 (of 447 total)
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  • #216492
    robbo203
    Participant

    LBird

    How on earth is that Marx quote relevant to, or in contradiction to, what I earlier said about the need for a brain to think with and experience consciousness? As usual, you are not making yourself clear at all. Consciousness did not create the brain; on the contrary, it presupposes a brain. Unless it is the case you believe consciousness can exist apart from or outside of the brain and so gave rise to the brain. Do you?

    I repeat again in case I am once again misinterpreted – that does NOT mean the brain “determines” what you think. Mental events are NOT reducible to physical events (neurons firing) even if they entail physical events. What makes them non-reducible is the fact that they exert “downward causation” along with being subject to “upward causation”

    It’s the same with society and the individual. There is ALWAYS a two-way interaction taking place these different levels of reality

    #216494
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Yes, Robbo, quite irrelevant. Marx was arguing there against a creationist and used the philosophical argument that if you say “man and nature” need to be created you are implying that they are “non-being” (don’t exist in their own right), adding that this means that you are too. Marx doesn’t seem to think that his opponent found this rather Hegelian argument convincing as he has him come back to say: “I do not want to posit the nothingness of nature. I ask you about its genesis.” So Marx changes tack, to argue that humans’ sense experience shows that they created themselves through labour in nature and that this shows that “man and nature” exist independently, by themselves.

    All very Hegelian, too Hegelian in my view. “Human consciousness” in the sense that has been used here is a Hegelian concept. As far as I can understand Hegel (and I don’t claim to understand too much as his language is impenetrable), for him it is a manifestation of the Absolute Spirit, or God. So he was a creationist. The Young Hegelians, of which Marx was one for a while, threw out God and gave “human consciousness” the status of being the creator of the world.

    If you take this position then you argue that the way to change the world is to change consciousness. Marx disagreed and broke with the Young Hegelians to argue that the way to change the world was to change the material conditions of life that gave rise to content of the consciousness.

    If what human consciousness creates is by definition “true” then there can be no “false consciousness”. The trouble is that there is no uniform human consciousness (as what all humans think). Which means that there will be all sorts of “truths”. So, as twc has pointed out, if you take this road you end up in the dead-end of post-modernism.

    One way to avoid this to decide by a majority vote of all humans what “the truth” is. The problem here is that those who voted against what is carried are then the carriers of a “false consciousness”. But unless you say they should be forced to accept “the truth” (I am not sure anyone has) then the vote changes nothing. So what’s the point, as you’ve asked many times, Robbo? Democratic social post-modernism is also a dead-end.

    #216506
    LBird
    Participant

    ALB wrote: “The Young Hegelians, of which Marx was one for a while, threw out God and gave “human consciousness” the status of being the creator of the world.

    If you take this position then you argue that the way to change the world is to change consciousness. Marx disagreed and broke with the Young Hegelians to argue that the way to change the world was to change the…

    So far, so good, ALB.

    But, “… material conditions of life that gave rise to content of the consciousness.”

    As you agreed earlier, by ‘material’, Marx meant ‘social’ (as in ‘social being’, ‘social consciousness’), so this latter claim can’t be correct.

    For Marx, ‘material’, as you’ve agreed, encompassed ‘ideas’ and ‘things’, and so it is wrong to claim that these ‘give rise to the content of consciousness’, because the ‘material/social conditions’ already contain ‘content of consciousness’.

    You’re still trying to claim that ‘consciousness’ is produced by ‘material’. Not for Marx it wasn’t. For Marx, human social theory and practice produces changes in ‘material’, ‘social’, ‘being’ and ‘consciousness’.

    Self-change, self-emancipation. The ‘self’ Marx refers to is ‘humanity’.

    We produce and change our ‘material’ and our ‘consciousness’.

    The only way out of this, is to claim that matter/being/stuff/things changes consciousness.

    But, as Marx pointed out, because this is untrue (and it’s really human conscious activity which produces all changes), those who make your claim are going to be the ones who provide their ‘consciousness’, and pretend that ‘matter’ itself makes the change in consciousness for everyone else.

    Thus, those who claim that “material conditions of life that gave rise to content of the consciousness” have to divide society into two parts – them, a minority (who hide the fact that its their ‘consciousness’ that’s producing the practice in ‘theory and practice’), and the majority, who are kidded into waiting for ‘material’, rather than the majority themselves, to ‘give rise to content of the consciousness’.

    Who educates the educator?

    #216508
    ALB
    Keymaster
    #216526
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    I wonder if you can take a hint, LBird

    #216527
    LBird
    Participant

    Nice one, alan!

    The sooner that the SPGB says ‘Goodbye-ee’ to materialism, the better!

    Have you kept up with this thread, and decided to side with Marx?

    Or are you still refusing to say ‘Goodbye-ee’ to the ridiculous notion that your ‘consciousness’ is determined by inanimate matter?

    If so, you’ll have to explain how ‘stuff’ made you a socialist, in the absence of you thinking about it. You’d have to be a clockwork machine, and to be telling other workers that the ‘clockwork mechanism’ made you a socialist, and it will do the same for them!

    I can see them stifling their laughter already! Then they’ll get on with their lives, entirely ignorant of any ideas about democratic socialism, because you insist that ‘the material conditions’ will make them socialists.

    It’s not Marx’s view, alan.

    #216528
    LBird
    Participant

    ALB’s link to Marx: “The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. ” [my bold]

    As ALB has already agreed, by ‘material’, Marx meant ‘social’ (ie. both consciousness and being). So, the above passage could just as well say:

    The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the social activity and the social intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their social behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc.

    It’s nothing to do with ‘matter’ producing ‘ideas’.

    Marx’s fundamental concept is ‘production’. Human production. Social production. “Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc”

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by LBird.
    #216530
    robbo203
    Participant

    The sooner that the SPGB says ‘Goodbye-ee’ to materialism, the better!

    Have you kept up with this thread, and decided to side with Marx?

    I wish you would stop misrepresenting what you call the SPGB’s “materialism”. You know very well by now it is emphatically not the 18th-century mechanical materialism espoused by the likes of Lenin and co

    The SPGB/s materialism IS Marx’s materialism. It recognises that the
    mind supervenes on matter/brain but is not reducible to the latter insofar as it exerts downward causation on the latter. Same with society and the individual. There is always a two-way interaction between these different levels of reality – a point made by Engels who noted how ideas are not simply the product of the economic base but react upon the base.

    Unless you recognise and acknowledge this interactive aspect between different levels of reality, you will be trapped within the limitations of a purely idealist framework. Matter exists even if we can’t directly apprehend it apart from our human cognitive apparatus; we can still infer that it exists.

    Dinosaurs existed and became extinct millions of years before human beings roamed the earth and thought thoughts. Denying this in the face of the fossil record is the height of folly

    Or as the Preface to the German Ideology put it:

    “Once upon a time a valiant fellow had the idea that men were drowned in water only because they were possessed with the idea of gravity. If they were to knock this notion out of their heads, say by stating it to be a superstition, a religious concept, they would be sublimely proof against any danger from water. His whole life long he fought against the illusion of gravity, of whose harmful results all statistics brought him new and manifold evidence. This valiant fellow was the type of the new revolutionary philosophers in Germany.”

    Do you believe we are subject to the law of gravity LBird?

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 3 months ago by robbo203.
    #216532
    LBird
    Participant

    robbo203 wrote: “I wish you would stop misrepresenting what you call the SPGB’s “materialism”. You know very well by now it is emphatically not the 18th-century mechanical materialism espoused by the likes of Lenin and co

    But that’s the entire political and philosophical point, robbo.

    There is a contradiction between the SPGB’s alleged ‘democracy’ and ‘materialism’. One has to give way to the other.

    I’ve asked the materialists within the SPGB (and they don’t have to adhere to materialism, but at present they do) do they accept Marx’s views about democratic social production, or not. Marx was clearly writing about all social production, physical and academic, ideal and material, social and individual. So, a Marxist would expect the answer that all social production within a socialist society would be democratic. Seems simple.

    But you and the other materialists insist that there are areas of social production that are not amenable to democratic production, like ‘science’. Marx famously warned that materialists would do this, that they would claim that within human society there exists an elite of specialists who would determine ‘the material’ for the majority. And this would divide society into two.

    This is precisely the answer that you, as a materialist, give. You deny that democracy is required in certain areas of social production. Lenin did this, too. Thus, the SPGB seems to espouse the same politics as Lenin – that of a ‘special consciousness’ within a cadre, separate from the majority of the associated producers.

    And just as Lenin did, materialists (holding to the ideological belief that there is only two basic philosophies) claim that anyone who argues against this ‘materialism’ that Marx condemned, is an ‘idealist’. It’s not a term of analysis, but simply abuse.

    Marx reconciled both idealism and materialism, into a third philosophy – social productionism (in effect, part-idealism-part-materialism).

    robbo203 wrote: “The SPGB/s materialism IS Marx’s materialism.

    I’ve shown time and time again that this is an untrue claim. Marx was a democrat, Lenin wasn’t. The SPGB currently espouses the same ideology as Lenin did. But… the SPGB can change itself – unlike the SWP.

    #216533
    ALB
    Keymaster

    Herr Vogel

    I am grateful to you for taking an interest in my work. However I am unable to accept your editing of what I wrote. If I had meant to avoid using the word “materiel” I would have done so but that would not have conveyed the meaning I intended.

    I am therefore obliged to respectfully request that you refrain from altering the wording of my articles.

    Yours for the Revolution

    Karl Marx

    #216534
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    This thread is evidence for all those modern-day neo-Bakuninists who wished that a certain Karl Marx had never existed, as comments regurgitate his words as if they are religious canon.

    Socialism for me is not the preserve of any one thinker or activist, no matter how erudite he (or she) might be.

    They only make contributions and none are existential to the socialist idea.

    #216535
    alanjjohnstone
    Keymaster

    And before someone says it, yes i am prepared to throw the baby out with the bath-water.

    #216536
    LBird
    Participant

    alanjjohnstone wrote: “This thread is evidence for all those modern-day neo-Bakuninists who wished that a certain Karl Marx had never existed, as comments regurgitate his words as if they are religious canon.

    Socialism for me is not the preserve of any one thinker or activist, no matter how erudite he (or she) might be.

    They only make contributions and none are existential to the socialist idea….

    And before someone says it, yes i am prepared to throw the baby out with the bath-water.

    That’s an entirely proper political and philosophical position to take, alan.

    But, if one is to reject Marx in parts, or in his entirety, since Marx has been so influential in notions of democratic socialism, one must specify which parts and why.

    It’s clear to me that most materialists are, in effect, ‘realists’ in modern philosophy of science terms.

    But ‘realism’ was dealt a heavy blow by Einstein’s ‘relativity’, and has never been able to recover, and so, under the influence of post-war US physics, has simply stopped the philosophical discussions between physicists, that were fundamental to ‘physics’ prior to the war.

    The ironic thing, for us, is that Marx preceded bourgeois science by 70 years, and his works provided a basis for a 20st century physics, where humanity is central to the philosophy of physics. But, that Marx is not the Marx of the materialists. Materialism is a bourgeois ideology past its time.

    Democratic socialism will require a democratic science, and Marx can give us some pointers how this can be so.

    As for me, I fear that some potential democratic socialists will be “prepared to throw the baby out with the bath-water”. I think that would be a mistake in the 21st century.

    #216537
    LBird
    Participant

    I should mention that it’s very interesting that given a choice between ‘materialism’ and democracy, materialists choose materialism; given a choice between ‘materialist science’ and democracy, choose materialist science; given a choice between ‘materialism’ and Marx, it seems, will choose ‘materialism’, if I read alanjjohnstone correctly.

    Why the commitment to ‘matter’? It’s like a religious devotion, and any questioning of it is condemned as ‘evil’ idealism.

    What’s worse, is that it’s very clear that many materialists have never even read any philosophy of science, never mind philosophy, and yet feel the need to defend the honour of ‘matter’, even though they haven’t a clue what the discussion is really about, which is why, like Lenin, they soon turn from discussion to abuse.

    Well, whilst ‘matter’ wins, democratic socialism won’t.

    #216547
    robbo203
    Participant

    There is a contradiction between the SPGB’s alleged ‘democracy’ and ‘materialism’. One has to give way to the other.

    Here we go again. Yet more misrepresentation from LBird. Are you ever going to stop with this relentless misrepresentation?

    There is nothing “alleged” about the SPGB’s adherence to democracy both in principle and practice. As an organisation, the SPGB is unrivalled in the way it runs itself along democratic lines: Leaderless, no secrets, all it’s business conducted in the open, the rigorous control exercised by the membership as a whole over the Party via Conference, ADM and Party Polls …..

    Democratic control is also fundamental to our objective – socialism – as stated in our literature: The establishment of a system of society based upon the common ownership and democratic control of the means and instruments for producing and distributing wealth by and in the interest of the whole community.

    Just because we don’t go along with your ludicrously impractical and pointless suggestion that tens of thousands of scientific theories should be subjected to a democratic vote by the world’s population does NOTmean we reject democracy

    Where did you get the silly idea that

    Democratic socialism will require a democratic science, and Marx can give us some pointers how this can be so.

    What are these pointers indicating that Marx suggested scientific theories should be subjected to a democratic vote? Name a single one.

    According to you

    Marx reconciled both idealism and materialism, into a third philosophy – social productionism (in effect, part-idealism-part-materialism).

    So that presumably means you advocate part-materialism alongside part-idealism. But if there is a contradiction between materialism and democracy as you claim then your advocacy of “part materialism” implies by your own reasoning that you too must accept there is some limit to the scope of democratic decision-making in any society, including socialism. Or do you expect a global socialist society will have a vote on what I can eat for breakfast or what I can wear to work?

    I would argue that you are not even “part materialist” but are an idealist through and through.

    Marx was critical of the kind of views you express. In his Theses On Feuerbach, he attacked the kind of mechanical materialism to which the SPGB is also opposed, as follows

    The chief defect of all hitherto existing materialism – that of Feuerbach included – is that the thing, reality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object or of contemplation, but not as sensuous human activity, practice, not subjectively. Hence, in contradistinction to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism – which, of course, does not know real, sensuous activity as such.

    The reference to idealism here precisely sums up your position. You make no allowance for the influence of material factors. They don’t even exist from your standpoint. There is no sense of a two-way interaction between brain and mind, or between individuals and society. Dinosaurs for you don’t exist outside our idea of them even though the fossil record tells us that dinosaurs preexisted human beings and their ability to think human thoughts, by millions of years. For you the fossil record means nothing.

    Actually, the construct you have come up with – idealism-materialism – is what would sum up the position of the SPGB. Although the terminology is misleading I get what you are trying to say. Except that you actually reject “idealism-materialism” in favour of pure idealism since you do not allow the “materialism” part of this construct to have any role or influence whatsoever. It’s a purely one-way relationship in your view – from ideas to matter (which becomes itself just another idea)

    The SPGB view is quite different. As our Historical Materialism pamphlet notes:

    The Materialist Conception does not deny the influence of ideas on history. In fact, there would be no revolutionary changes if ideas did not play a part. What it does is to trace the source of the ideas, but to deny the power of ideas alone

    Note that last word, “alone”

    You assert in response to my comment that the “SPGB’s materialism IS Marx’s materialism.”:

    I’ve shown time and time again that this is an untrue claim. Marx was a democrat, Lenin wasn’t. The SPGB currently espouses the same ideology as Lenin did. But… the SPGB can change itself – unlike the SWP.

    This is about as wrong as you can possibly get and, no, you have not once shown my claim is untrue. I recently came across an interesting review of Anton Pannekoek’s Lenin as Philosopher in the Western Socialist (Fall 1976), a previous journal of our companion party in the United States, which was actually written by ALB himself whose views you have been constantly misrepresenting

    Pannekoek talked of there being two kinds of materialism – 1) the mechanical or middle-class materialism endorsed by some of the early advocates of capitalism in their struggle against religion and the aristocratic state and 2) the historical materialism of Marx and others. The review article very clearly comes down on the side of Pannekoek in his critique of Lenin’s middle-class materialism

    Your own brand of idealism, LBird, is the exact mirror image of Lenin’s mechanical materialism. You both have an over-deterministic view of the relationship between “ideas” and “matter” seeing it as an essentially one-way movement rather than interactive. The difference is that whereas Lenin saw matter determining ideas you see ideas determining matter, (despite you pretence at adopting a part-materialist stance). The “materialism” part in your formulation is completely stripped of any determinative power

    Marx and the SPGB would unquestionably oppose both you and Lenin!

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