The Long Awaited Materialism thread

July 2024 Forums General discussion The Long Awaited Materialism thread

Viewing 15 posts - 271 through 285 (of 286 total)
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  • #100477
    twc
    Participant

    Challenge #279Sorry, but you are arguing just that —  that the social superstructure is pure bias.  That superstructural content is not scientific or, should you now concede that it is, its scientific status is merely that of pure bias.So, don't shirk #279.  It relates entirely to your expressed concerns.Tangible and PhysicalNo such claims.Materialism need not make any claims about the universe, other than how to explain, or conceive, it.  Ultimately, it only makes claims about how we actually explain the universe, or conceive, it.Materialism is any explanation of thought out of being, and not of being out of thought, which is idealism. [Syncretism or dualism has it both ways.  Ultimately, consistent thinking is the deep issue which outlaws syncretism or dualism.]Materialist ThoughtMaterialism is a thought position, like any theory. It appropriates the concrete world mentally, the only way we can and do, as abstract categories of thought and abstract determinisms of relationships and development.Marx's materialism comprehends thinking, non-philosophically.  For Marx, social thought is something more complex than just social thinking.  It is the social superstructure of our social being [see below].  In this sense, it is unlike any materialism that preceded it.Thought as the Active Side [of Something]Marx never considered the active side of society to be exclusively confined to thinking.  I don't think anyone-else has either.  That is a misreading of the Theses.What  Marx was thinking of in the Theses was the Hegelian theory of the history of human thought.Hegel, by conceiving society as a whole, attempted to explain social transitions from social stage to social stage [from stasis through revolution to new stasis] as determined by the evolution of social thought, in the minds of men, developing — for society conceived as a whole — by itself, out of itself, and into its new self.Hegel explained social development deterministically as struggle (just as Marx of the Manifesto did) and temporary resolution of thought — the temporary resolution being Hegel's famous Aufheben.The activity of thought was Hegel's comprehension of the activity of society = our social history.  But it was our social history, conceived correctly for the first time as a self-developing, self-determined, organism, of which we are its agents or necessary organs.  Hegel conceived it for the first time as a science of society as a unit, a whole, an organism.That was what Marx saw as the active side of thought.For, in a master-stroke, Hegel had solved (from his idealist standpoint) what had defeated the old materialists.  He transgressed into their secular turf and beat them at their game.  Here was a crisis for the old materialism.Marx and Engels were the first to recognize this crisis in materialism, wrought by the Hegelian system.  They initially stood in awe of it.  For Hegel had developed a dynamic theory of human consciousness, as a theory of social evolution.  Young Marx, particularly, recognized precisely what Hegel had achieved but, having grown up on French materialism, he was also deeply troubled by it, and was spurred on to recover the undoubted gains of the old materialism in the face of Hegel's idealist organicism.Marx's Theses are the first ripe fruits of his own struggle to resolve the issues posed by Hegel to the old materialism — that men are the products of conditions —  by the dilemma of the new idealism — that conditions are changed by men.What causes changed men to change their conditions?  That is our own problem — the problem of socialism.Materialist Conception of HistoryMarx's ultimate statement — his scientific manifesto — is written in the Preface to A Contribution to a Critique of Political Economy.  This should be read, and reread, until assimilated. It involves the two abstract theoretical categories of social base and social superstructure.  It proposes a scientific determinism of the form that base determines superstructure.  Social being determines consciousness.The rest of Marx is the working out of the implications of this base–superstructure determinism.At the deepest level of the social base, Marx locates ownership and control of the means of social reproduction.  Under capitalism, ownership and control are private, in the hands of the capitalist class.  In socialism, they are common, in the hands of all society.The only reason we strive for the latter [our Object] is because we comprehend the determinism of former [our Principles]. In short, everything is ultimately about the struggle over ownership and control of the means of life.  The history of the 20th century was largely about dispossessing pre-capitalist folks of ownership and control of pre-capitalist means of life, to make them necessarily dependent upon private capitalist ownership and control.That nasty process of human dispossession was the materialistically necessary foundation for capitalist production, and so for capitalist social thought.  Marx called this awful process "primitive accumulation", in which capitalism "comes into the world dripping in blood".Can anyone seriously explain this awful social transition as the product of active thought — i.e. idealistically.  Can anyone can seriously explain our earlier social transitions from hunter gathering to agriculturalism to civilsation, etc. as the product of active thought — i.e. idealistically.Marx offers a materialist account of the development of society, conceived as a whole, by itself, through itself into its new self — as a self-developing, self-determined, organism — of which we are its agents or necessary organs.Of course, nothing is entirely autonomous, even society as a whole.Our social development is ultimately subservient to nature herself.  But, the degree of irreducibility [non-reduction] to nature is pretty high for society, even though society is ultimately conditional upon nature, the very nature we are capitalistically bent on destroying, and which will exact its revenge upon our contempt of her.So, Marx's materialism is a deterministic science, based upon social being, and it is not a philiosophy, as you conceive it to be. For you, thought is philosophically a prori social.  My god man, of course it's social, since Marx is following Hegel in conceiving social thought — the thought of society as a whole — as an entity in its own right, and so it must be social as consequence, not a priori as you insist.Society is not merely dynamic thought stuff, in Hegel's sense [which is akin to the physicist, who often views concrete nature as an instantiation of non-concrete ideal laws of motion]. It is the social organism itself that is dynamic.We actively create society both in the concrete and in thought and, in so doing, it ultimately creates us. Changed men are the products of changed conditions. Marx's base–superstructure determinism of the social organism is, in that ancient sense of the term, materialist.Written in haste, without necessary correction. 

    #100478
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Written in haste, without necessary correction.

    More like 'written in full, without necessary editing'.So, twc, for you, are 'thoughts' and 'ideas' material?A 'one-line' answer will suffice, comrade.[perchance a 'one-word' answer, but we must be grateful for small mercies, I suppose]

    #100479
    twc
    Participant

    Why does it matter?Marx, Hegel and the local barber know that ideas have a different mode of existence from immediately concrete objects like a tree, a car or money; or mediatedly concrete objects like an atom or quark; or palpable abstract categories of thought like energy and capital, just as each of these has a different mode of existence, and correspondingly different modes of behaviour, or determinism.What is at stake is how we explain ideas in order to comprehend how they may be changed in order to bring about a sustainable human world socialism.In that context ideas could be made of polystyrene, as long as they work the same way as we explain them.ExplanationDeterministic explanation has always been the concern of materialists and idealists. Explanation is what they differ on.Marx developed a scientific explanation, which successfully demonstrates the subservience of social thought to social conditions. That makes him a materialist.Insofar as Marx is a monist (a materialist monist) he can only be thereby reducing consciousness to material conditions, or in slang "reducing ideas to matter", even though ideas have, for him, a mediated abstract mode of existence, while also, for him, what we take to be matter has a concrete mode of existence.Insofar as Marx distinguishes abstract thought from concrete immediacy, thought for him is not concrete matter.  For him, abstract principles are pure, whereas impure determinations derived from pure abstract principles are still abstract, but as he puts it, they are concretely abstract, something that first puzzles folks who seek to comprehend Marx's scientific method.For Marx, abstractions are abstracted from social experience, and ultimately from what is immediately concrete, or measurable stuff. To that extent they are not concrete matter.Can you now see why I am reluctant to discuss such issues.  You demand the royal road, where none exists.Marx gets more complex.  We are an ingenious species. We abstract ideas from the concrete, but we also concretize our ideas in language, art, literature, legislation, institutions, etc. We build a social superstructure.Bashkar's critical realism bypasses this approach, although I may be wrong because I've only glanced at his book.  Its focus strikes me as primarily abstract, but I'm prepared to read it in depth.Relevant to our discussion is Bashkar's foundation assumption — note, not abstraction for him — that practice gives us access to external structure.  This happens to be one of the major conclusions of Hegel's Logic, and conforms with Marx and Engels.Bashkar's foundation assumption blows out of the water your cautious philosophical niceties over our deep inability to access external determinism.Your rejection of this assumption is the primary reason you detest and mistrust scientists for "imposing", what you mistakenly believe to be, their elitist ideological views upon us all — as if science "imposes" its views on anything except upon the practitioners themselves, who must assimilate their theoretical craft in order to progress their science.You have far stronger grounds for detesting and distrusting the philosophers who insist on doing precisely just that — imposing their [for you, elitist] views upon us.  Of course, you won't detest them because you and they share a common philosophically voluntarist belief in the power of persuasion.I'm quite happy to discuss critical realism, but have scarcely the leisure to engage it at the moment. This time, however, if I draw up a structure for critical realism, as I did in the case of Schaff to help out our mutual discussion of him, please stick to it or draw up your own.  Otherwise we go round in circles.Returning to the material foundation of social thought, which philosophy blithely ignores with impugnity, I thought I made it clear that social imposition of thought is an unconscious protracted social process.  Proto-capitalism needed to go through an entire stage of wholescale pre-capitalist dispossession in order that we might now think in terms of capitalist possession, or lack thereof, as a natural mode of thought.Nevertheless, capitalist social thought inexorably followed upon capitalist ownership and control, and proved entirely subservient to it.  That's materialist explanation.

    #100480
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Why does it matter?

    Because I think its important, and so I'm asking you a question, and you're not giving me an answer.Quite frankly, twc, reading your posts is like reading Marx. And anyone who knows my views will also know that is not a compliment.I could draw both conclusions from your post, that 'ideas are material' and 'ideas are not material'.I agree with Pareto's observation about Marx's writings:

    Pareto wrote:
    Marx's words are like bats. One can see in them both birds and mice.

    This is a real problem, because for over a century 'Marxists' have been quoting Marx and Engels at workers, who haven't the foggiest idea what they really mean. It's too easy to draw opposite conclusions from the same texts.Unless we start to answer questions, in the terms and language posed, rather than blathering on about 'dialectics' and 'concrete', we'll remain isolated.I've read Bhaskar, Schaff, et al, and I'd like to critically discuss them (and Lakatos, Kuhn and Feyerabend), but I still don't understand a word you write about them or anything else.

    #100481
    twc
    Participant

    This forum is for socialism.Are you claiming that the SPGB's socialist Object or Declaration of Principles, or the prosecution of its socialist case, stand in need of 1960s critical realism or of 1960s philosophy of science?  If so, make your case.Over the posts, you've changed your cherished position from idealism to syncretism;  from fiercly repudiating anything written by non-Communists [as if anyone could trust Communists] to lovingly quoting them [not just Pareto, but the trio of philosophers of science, Carr, and even Popper of all people, the arch anti-Marxist];  and now Marx, whom you once relied on for irrefutable quotes, is now contemptuously condemned for being irredeemably vague and contradictory.You are the Pareto chameleon.No-one can expect a scientific work as complex as Capital, which attempts to unmask something as complex as the capitalist social system, to be comprehended without some effort on his part.  Comprehension is simply not like that.If you really want to understand Capital, you coud do worse than follow on with David Harvey's lectures, which despite some wacky conclusions aired since he gave his course, don't impede his general approach.  Harvey even suspects, with you, that the materialist conception of history is reductive. You might enjoy him, and learn something easily about Capital.Over many posts, I've tried to explain gently, where appropriate, and to defend scientifically, as needed, Hegel, Engels and deterministic science, but mere mention of these topics, and you hit the roof. That smacks of ignorant bigotry.I fail to see any point in my participation here if you, and apparently others, can't understand a thing I'm writing.

    #100482
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Over the posts, you've changed your cherished position from idealism to syncretism; from fiercly repudiating anything written by non-Communists [as if anyone could trust Communists] to lovingly quoting them [not just Pareto, but the trio of philosophers of science, Carr, and even Popper of all people, the arch anti-Marxist]; and now Marx, whom you once relied on for irrefutable quotes, is now contemptuously condemned for being irredeemably vague and contradictory.You are the Pareto chameleon.

    I've tried to prompt a discussion, twc. And I'm all for workers reading as widely as possible, in their attempts to understand our world, natural and social. But your latest post is just childish name-calling. Carr is even quoted by SPGB members as a useful source of critical thinking, and Popper was one of the earliest thinkers to attack the smugness of bourgeois positivist and inductivist 19th century science. And given that Popper was attacking a straw-man of what he regarded as Marxism (actually Stalinism), his 'anti-Marxist' views can be taken with a pinch of salt. Popper knew nothing of Marx's actual views.

    twc wrote:
    I fail to see any point in my participation here if you, and apparently others, can't understand a thing I'm writing.

    Yes, I'm coming to this conclusion about your participation, too.How some other SPGB members regard you as a useful 'defender of Historical Materialism' baffles me.This, to me, is becoming a wider issue than that of one poor poster. If you really are some sort of 'guru' for the SPGB on these issues, I'm very worried.

    #100483
    twc
    Participant

    Surely, if you were once an object-oriented software developer, you comprehend, in your creative bones, the distinction between classes and objects — between abstraction and concrete implementation.

    #100484
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Surely, if you were once an object-oriented software developer, you comprehend, in your creative bones, the distinction between classes and objects — between abstraction and concrete implementation.

    Ah, now we're getting somewhere, comrade!Yes, 'classes' are theoretical ideas created by humans, in abstraction.Yes, 'objects' are practical things created by humans, in concrete implementation.Conscious, active, creative humans producing their world! Theory and practice!None of that 19th century 'materialist' nonsense about 'objects' telling humans what the 'object' is, because 'classes' are a 'reflection' of 'objects' (as for Lenin, and, sometimes, Engels).Yes, I was a DEVELOPER. A socialised human, stuffed full of social theories of software development (like Jackson Structured Programming) , handed computer terminals, servers and mainframes created by society, and my creative role was to produce software, which didn't exist prior to my producing of it! By theory and practice, using social knowledge and social tools!I never once had a piece of hardware which spoke to me.You're so lucky, twc!

    #100485
    twc
    Participant

    Absolutely lucky!  Jackson is ancient history.  Being forced to submit to it must have been hell.  No human creativity in that.On the hardware front, try Siri.

    #100486
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    Absolutely lucky! Jackson is ancient history.

    Michael Jackson? In music, computers and military!http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_A._Jacksonhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_JacksonIf anyone needs a link to the first, I pity you.

    twc wrote:
    Being forced to submit to it must have been hell. No human creativity in that.

    Without theory, computer programs are like spaghetti. Creativity without theory is meaningless. I know, I've had to unravel the shite; fuckin' "GO TO's", they destroy logic.I don't work in computers anymore, so 'Siri' will remain a mystery to me, thankfully, comrade.

    #100487
    twc
    Participant

    Your single pseudo-code destroys your logic:http://www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/forum/general-discussion/pannekoeks-theory-science?page=28#comment-8529Bluster as you may…No serious developer writes  “s****; f***** "GO TO's", but instead shuns them like the plague, even when writing pseudo-code.No socialist programmer could fail to take the bait (for, against or non-committal) of my object-oriented analogy of Marx’s ascent–descent method.Jacksonian regimentation was designed to weed out creativity at the software implementation level.  It’s you I pity.Human creativity resides in the algorithms and data structures.  Methodology is for channeling that creativity and, in large projects, taming it for the general goal.If you didn’t believe in the general goal, then you must have chafed under the general regimentation.

    #100488
    LBird
    Participant

    We're going round in circles, twc.You still haven't said whether you think 'ideas' are 'material'.As for your assertion that "no serious developer writes GO TO's"… it makes me wonder if you live in our world.As for your 'object-oriented analogy', you haven't answered my point that humans create both 'objects' and 'classes'.But then, you don't do discussion, do you? Just keep moving the goal-posts, throwing in a load of irrelevent references to other issues……you introduced programming, and have failed to respond to my points. As usual.

    #100489
    twc
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    humans create both ‘classes’ and ‘objects’   (1)

    Statement (1) expresses a conclusion drawn from experimental observation of the practice of object-oriented programming.  It is an empirical fact.Empirical facts cannot be their own immediate explanation¹  If they were, we would remain forever trapped inside the world of concrete experience.  All experience would then be self evident.Empirical facts are part of the raw material of their own explanation, but they cannot explain themselves.  To explain anything we must leave our ‘outer’ world of concrete experience and enter our ‘inner’ world of abstract thought.Explanation of the empirical ‘outer’ world, or that-sidedness, can only be mediated, non-empirically, in our ‘inner’ world, or this-sidedness.Unconscious MaterialismYou forget that, by appealing to statement (1) as evident proof of idealism, you are appealing to the crude materialism of an empirical fact speaking for itself.  This is a trap for all folks who think that concrete facts hold self-evident content, as you are here implying, without appealing to theory, as you’ve hitherto sometimes said.This forum was invaded last year by (to put it kindly) a thoughtful racist, exploiting the same illusion that a fact was its own self-evident explanation; in his case, the fact of voluntary segregation was sufficient proof of racial incompatibility.The world of our immediate concrete experience is only half our world, and stands in need of explanation in the world of our abstract ideas, where mediated explanation resides, whether you’re an idealist or a materialist. So much for your dismissal of the categories concrete and abstract.By itself, statement (1) proves nothing.GOTO Considered HarmfulWith a contemptuous snort, you defend GOTO programming, five decades after Dijkstra² considered it harmful.Recent computing languages like Java, JavaScript, Python, etc. outlaw it.  The dominant desktop programming languages derived from C [C++ and Objective C] historically permit it, but deprecate its use, and provide structured alternatives like exception handling, etc.Anyone can use GOTOs where they are available, as Donald Knuth defended, for special cases.  But that master of the Art of Computer Programming, and father of modern algorithmic theory, writes what he calls, quite correctly, literate programs in his macroprocessor Web language, that ultimately typesets them, automatically cross-referenced and indexed, so that they may be read for literary and scientific pleasure, as well as generate executable code.  That’s human creativity.Notes¹ You formerly observed that concrete facts lack theoretical content, but put it, inexpertly, by pronouncing that your exemplary “proletarian” scientist distinguished himself from the bourgeois one by “changing facts to suit his theory”, a pronouncement so casuistic as to distort, and ultimately destroy, any possible correct meaningful content you intended to convey.² Dijkstra considered “the use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence”.

    #100490
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    With a contemptuous snort, you defend GOTO programming, five decades after Dijkstra² considered it harmful.
    LBird, post #280, wrote:
    I know, I've had to unravel the shite; fuckin' "GO TO's", they destroy logic.

    I'm beginning to think that you're unhinged.

    #100491
    twc
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    As for your [twc’s] assertion that "no serious developer writes GO TO's"… it makes me wonder if you live in our world.

    If that ain’t endorsing the use of GOTOs by serious programmers, I don’t know what is.It might have been wiser to let sleeping dogs lie.

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