The Long Awaited Materialism thread

May 2024 Forums General discussion The Long Awaited Materialism thread

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  • #100277
    LBird
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    Simply, the 'mind' is not the 'brain'. These are differing philosophical positions, DJP, between what we're saying.

    Yes that is correct. But mind is not independent of brain..

    No-one is arguing that it is, DJP.Just like Marx argued that value is not independent of commodity, for example, a 'tin of beans'.But value cannot be reduced to a 'tin of beans'.It's the 'tin of beans' in a specific social relationship.To  reduce a 'structure' (mind, value) to its components (brain, commodity) is an example of 'reductionism'.When components are in a particular, specific, relationship, they can form a structure. This structure can then produce emergent properties, that are not present at the level of the individual components of the structure.So, if firefighters pour oxygen and hydrogen on a fire, it causes on explosion.But if those firefighters take the elements oxygen and water which have been previously chemically combined into a compound called 'water' (there is no special 'wetness' added, it is a product of the structural combination), and pour that on the fire, the fire is extinguished.'Wetness' doesn't exist at the elemental level; 'value' doesn't exist at the tin of beans level; mind doesn't exist at the 'brain' level.Wetness, value and mind are all products of a particular combination of their components, but the structure doesn't exist, as you say, without the components. But it can't be reduced to those components, either.The key concept, for us as for Marx, DJP, is relationship.

    #100278
    DJP
    Participant

    Yes but to say minds supervene on or emerge from brains doesn't answer the question of how that can be so. What is it about a particular configuration of physical stuff that enables it to be a mind?All aproaches in philosophy of mind have problems and like I said I am holding off making a judgement for the time being. But my preference is to try to go for an explanation that does not involve the kind of property dualism that emergence seems to entail. All that you are doing is pushing the problem one step back rather than explaining it.Emergence seems to work very well when describing the structure of concepts and properties created by minds but not so well as an explanation of how minds can be in the first place…

    #100279
    LBird
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    Yes but to say minds supervene on or emerge from brains doesn't answer the question of how that can be so. What is it about a particular configuration of physical stuff that enables it to be a mind?

    This is the same as asking, "Yes but to say water supervenes on or emerges from hydrogen/oxygen doesn't answer the question of how that can be so. What is it about a particular configuration of physical stuff that enables it to be water?".In the ideology of Critical Realism, things that don't exist at the component level emerge at the structural level.So, water emerges from elements that are dry, and mind emerges from brains that are material. It's what nature does, according to the theory.

    DJP wrote:
    All aproaches in philosophy of mind have problems and like I said I am holding off making a judgement for the time being. But my preference is to try to go for an explanation that does not involve the kind of property dualism that emergence seems to entail. All that you are doing is pushing the problem one step back rather than explaining it.

    Well, you're 'not holding off making a judgement'. You're making tentative judgement based on the philosophy and ideology that you're using to understand these issues. We all have an ideology; it is inescapable for humans. The good news is, being conscious, we can reason and choose our ideology! But we can't be without one.If you want to continue to employ 'reductionism', that's fair enough, but at least accept (and preferably be open about) the fact that you are using a theory of reductionism. There is no 'objective point of observation' in the universe, according to physics. We all have a standpoint, in physics and in society.As to 'property dualism', I know a man who starts a book with a section entitled 'The Two Factors of the Commodity: Use-value and Value'. Perhaps you know the book, comrade?

    DJP wrote:
    Emergence seems to work very well when describing the structure of concepts and properties created by minds but not so well as an explanation of how minds can be in the first place…

    Being and consciousness, now eh? You are delving deep today, DJP! But I think we'll leave that alone for now, eh? We've got enough to digest about what's been said on this thread already!

    #100280
    twc
    Participant

    Marx and Engels — MaterialistsEngelsEngels explains their common agreed-upon understanding of the term materialism.

    Engels: Ludwig Feuerbach, Part. 2 (1888) wrote:
    The great basic question of all philosophy … is that concerning the relation of thinking and being….The answers which the philosophers gave to this question split them into two great camps.  Those who asserted the primacy of spirit to nature … [e.g., Hegel] … comprised the camp of idealism.  The others, who regarded nature as primary, belong to the various schools of materialism.These two expressions, idealism and materialism, originally signify nothing else but this; and here too they are not used in any other sense.

    MarxMarx’s materialist conception of history is materialist in this original sense of “nothing else but” the primacy of being over thinking.

    Marx: A Contribution, Preface (1859) wrote:
    “In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production.  The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness.  The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life.  It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.”

    One of Marx’s clearest expressions of his avowed materialism, in the original sense of “signifying nothing other” than the primacy of being to thinking, is.

    Marx: Capital, Vol 1, Ch. 15 (1859) wrote:
    “Darwin has interested us in the history of Nature’s technology, i.e., in the formation of the organs of plants and animals, which organs serve as instruments of production for sustaining life …“Technology discloses man’s mode of dealing with Nature, the process of production by which he sustains his life, and thereby also lays bare the mode of formation of his social relations, and of the mental conceptions that flow from them.  Every history of religion, even, that fails to take account of this material basis, is uncritical.  It is, in reality, much easier to discover by analysis the earthly core of the misty creations of religion, than, conversely, it is, to develop from the actual relations of life the corresponding celestialised forms of those relations.  The latter method is the only materialistic, and therefore the only scientific one.”

    Materialists in the Original SenseI am not claiming that Marx’s materialism is identical in content — only in stance — to old-time materialism.My limited aim, for the moment, is to establish that the mature Marx of Capital explicitly adopted the materialist stance, and explicitly repudiated the idealist stance.  In other words he remained a materialist despite — and in full unswerving cognizance of — his devastating Hegel-inspired critique of “all hitherto existing materialism”.Marx [and Engels] operated in life-long opposition to Hegel’s idealist conception of history.  As materialists they always opposed the primacy of ideas over social being throughout their entire intellectual and practical lives.The Socialist Party likewise takes its stance on the same side of the divide as Marx and Engels, and so lines up on the opposite flank to holders of all varieties of idealist conceptions of social being.The case for world socialism is materialist, and our Declaration of Principles and our eagerly-sought Object make sense only from a standpoint that is materialist in the “original significance” of the expression [as described generically above by Engels, built upon the foundation described specifically above by Marx].With them, we hurl against the capitalist world their materialist science — “social being determines consciousness”.

    #100281
    LBird
    Participant
    twc wrote:
    My limited aim, for the moment, is to establish that the mature Marx of Capital explicitly adopted the materialist stance, and explicitly repudiated the idealist stance. In other words he remained a materialist despite — and in full unswerving cognizance of — his devastating Hegel-inspired critique of “all hitherto existing materialism”.Marx [and Engels] operated in life-long opposition to Hegel’s idealist conception of history. As materialists they always opposed the primacy of ideas over social being throughout their entire intellectual and practical lives.

    [my bold]Marx was not a 'materialist'; he was an 'idealist-materialist'. Marx argued for theory and practice.

    Marx, Capital, Chapter 7, wrote:
    Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement.

    [my bold]https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htmThe stance that Marx was a 'materialist' stems from Engels, who was an amateur and did not understand philosophy.This is clear from the Theses on Feuerbach, where Marx praises (parts of) idealism and condemns (parts of) materialism. He produced a theory that combined the insights of idealism with the insights of materialism, which was a philosphy of theory and practice.

    Marx, Theses on Feuerbach wrote:
    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.

    [my bold]The 'active side' of humanity is thinking, human ideas and creativity.The stance that we are 'materialists' is a regression to Feuerbach, and is an idea that was created by Engels, under the enormous pressure of 19th century positivist science, and its apparent successes.Einstein and relativity in physics shows us that it was only an 'apparent success'.Humans have known this for 100 years now, and yet some Communists are still trying to pursuade the human race that we should stick our heads in the sand, and return to 'materialism'.Marx knew better, and so should we.

    #100282
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
    twc wrote:
    My limited aim, for the moment, is to establish that the mature Marx of Capital explicitly adopted the materialist stance, and explicitly repudiated the idealist stance. In other words he remained a materialist despite — and in full unswerving cognizance of — his devastating Hegel-inspired critique of “all hitherto existing materialism”.Marx [and Engels] operated in life-long opposition to Hegel’s idealist conception of history. As materialists they always opposed the primacy of ideas over social being throughout their entire intellectual and practical lives.

    [my bold]Marx was not a 'materialist'; he was an 'idealist-materialist'. Marx argued for theory and practice.

    Marx, Capital, Chapter 7, wrote:
    Labour is, in the first place, a process in which both man and Nature participate, and in which man of his own accord starts, regulates, and controls the material re-actions between himself and Nature. He opposes himself to Nature as one of her own forces, setting in motion arms and legs, head and hands, the natural forces of his body, in order to appropriate Nature’s productions in a form adapted to his own wants. By thus acting on the external world and changing it, he at the same time changes his own nature. He develops his slumbering powers and compels them to act in obedience to his sway. We are not now dealing with those primitive instinctive forms of labour that remind us of the mere animal. An immeasurable interval of time separates the state of things in which a man brings his labour-power to market for sale as a commodity, from that state in which human labour was still in its first instinctive stage. We pre-suppose labour in a form that stamps it as exclusively human. A spider conducts operations that resemble those of a weaver, and a bee puts to shame many an architect in the construction of her cells. But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality. At the end of every labour-process, we get a result that already existed in the imagination of the labourer at its commencement.

    [my bold]https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch07.htmThe stance that Marx was a 'materialist' stems from Engels, who was an amateur and did not understand philosophy.This is clear from the Theses on Feuerbach, where Marx praises (parts of) idealism and condemns (parts of) materialism. He produced a theory that combined the insights of idealism with the insights of materialism, which was a philosphy of theory and practice.

    Marx, Theses on Feuerbach wrote:
    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.

    [my bold]The 'active side' of humanity is thinking, human ideas and creativity.The stance that we are 'materialists' is a regression to Feuerbach, and is an idea that was created by Engels, under the enormous pressure of 19th century positivist science, and its apparent successes.Einstein and relativity in physics shows us that it was only an 'apparent success'.Humans have known this for 100 years now, and yet some Communists are still trying to pursuade the human race that we should stick our heads in the sand, and return to 'materialism'.Marx knew better, and so should we.

     Karl Marx was the philosopher, it was not Engels,( and at the beginning Engels was the economist )  and it was Engels who reduced Marx to a simple vulgar materialist philosopher. In some way Engels had the same stand of Lenin who did not move away from the 18th  Century Philosophy of their time.  

    #100283
    LBird
    Participant
    mcolome1 wrote:
    In some way Engels had the same stand of Lenin who did not move away from the 18th Century Philosophy of their time.
    Lenin, Materialism and Empirio-Criticism, p. 14 wrote:
    …ideas and sensations are copies or images of these objects…

    Popper condemned this as the 'bucket theory of mind'. That 'nature' simply 'pours itself' into the passive receptacle known as humanity.Compare Lenin's unhistorical, naive realism with Marx's rich account of 'social senses', of the historical development of our human, social senses:

    Marx, EPM, wrote:
    On the other hand, let us look at this in its subjective aspect. Just as only music awakens in man the sense of music, and just as the most beautiful music has no sense for the unmusical ear – is [no] object for it, because my object can only be the confirmation of one of my essential powers – it can therefore only exist for me insofar as my essential power exists for itself as a subjective capacity; because the meaning of an object for me goes only so far as my sense goes (has only a meaning for a sense corresponding to that object) – for this reason the senses of the social man differ from those of the non-social man. Only through the objectively unfolded richness of man’s essential being is the richness of subjective human sensibility (a musical ear, an eye for beauty of form – in short, senses capable of human gratification, senses affirming themselves as essential powers of man) either cultivated or brought into being. For not only the five senses but also the so-called mental senses, the practical senses (will, love, etc.), in a word, human sense, the human nature of the senses, comes to be by virtue of its object, by virtue of humanised nature. The forming of the five senses is a labour of the entire history of the world down to the present. The sense caught up in crude practical need has only a restricted sense.> For the starving man, it is not the human form of food that exists, but only its abstract existence as food. It could just as well be there in its crudest form, and it would be impossible to say wherein this feeding activity differs from that of animals. The care-burdened, poverty-stricken man has no sense for the finest play; the dealer in minerals sees only the commercial value but not the beauty and the specific character of the mineral: he has no mineralogical sense. Thus, the objectification of the human essence, both in its theoretical and practical aspects, is required to make man’s sense human, as well as to create the human sense corresponding to the entire wealth of human and natural substance.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1844/manuscripts/comm.htmClearly, 'sensations' are not simple 'copies' of reality, for Marx. Different societies experience the same things differently.

    #100284
    DJP
    Participant

    LBird Why on earth do you think theory is idealist? Do you think the mental floats about in a different realm to the physical world?Unless you believe in some kind of spirit world or think that everything is in the mind you will be a physicalist or materialist (which is pretty much the same thing)http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    #100285
    LBird
    Participant
    DJP wrote:
    LBird Why on earth do you think theory is idealist?

    I'm afraid it's the 'materialists' who think 'theory is idealist', DJP!For example:

    DJP wrote:
    Do you think the mental floats about in a different realm to the physical world?Unless you believe in some kind of spirit world or think that everything is in the mind you will be a physicalist or materialist (which is pretty much the same thing)http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism

    I'm not a 'physicalist or materialist'. Are you? If so, 'why do think theory is idealist?'You haven't got the hang of Marx's critical realism, yet, have you? His 'idealism-materialism'.

    #100286
    DJP
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    I'm afraid it's the 'materialists' who think 'theory is idealist', DJP!

    Surreal stuff.Materialism is just the assumuption that all things (including the mental and therefore theory) are physical stuff or supervene on physical stuff in some way.

    LBird wrote:
    You haven't got the hang of Marx's critical realism, yet, have you? His 'idealism-materialism'.

    There can be no such the as 'idealism-materialism' any more than there can be round squares.Critical realism is a physicalist theory as your said it takes minds as supervening on brains.

    #100287
    LBird
    Participant

    But this ‘materialist’ assumption of yours is wrong, DJP: ‘theory’ is not ‘physical’. ‘Critical Realism’ is not ‘a physicalist theory’.I’m trying desperately to explain this to you, DJP. This is not your fault for not understanding, but my fault (and the fault of those other communists who claim to understand Marx’s ideas on ‘value’) for not explaining properly.This lack of explanation has, in my opinion, been the root cause of the failure of Communists to persuade other workers that we have a better method for understanding the world, than the one that workers are taught by bourgeois society: that is, individuals and their worth as money, explains the origins of society and its present workings. Telling workers to ‘read Capital’ has never worked, isn’t working now, and never will work. It’s the task of Communists (ie. class conscious workers) to explain, through propaganda and education, how the world works. Simple ‘experience’ of that world will not simply produce ‘class’ consciousness. Workers have to work at it, both to learn and to teach, which is a two-way street: the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the class itself. Rocks won’t emancipate us, nor ‘material’ conditions. Humans are the active factor, not ‘matter’ (sic).I’m trying to explain why the ideology of ‘physicalism’ and ‘reductionism’, which you presently use to try to understand the world, is of no use for us Communists. Using bourgeois science theories to understand reality is like using neo-classical economics to understand the market. The underpinning ideology of the links you’ve provided seems to be Anglo-American analytical thinking, logical positivism, and thinkers like Carnap, Hempel (the pre-war Vienna school), and further back, David Hume. On the contrary, Marx’s thinking is influenced by Hegel, Kant and Aristotle.Now, an attempt at an explanation of the differences.Physicalism holds that everything can be reduced to its ‘physical components’. But for Critical Realists, ‘structures’ (made of components) have emergent properties that don’t exist at the ‘physical’ or component level. Perhaps an example.I have five fingers on my hand. These are ‘physical’. There are five physical entities. But, if I clench my hand, I form a fist. To the physicalist/reductionist, this remains five entities. But to a Critical Realist, I’ve formed a sixth entity. A human, by an act of thinking and will, has created a new entity, that didn’t exist before. If I unclench my hand, a real structure has disappeared! Back to only five entities! So, clench, release, clench, release, sees, in the real world, creation, destruction, creation, destruction.This model applies also to entities that we can’t see, like ‘value’. As Einstein says, ‘it’s the theory which determines what we can observe’. So, ‘physicalism’ can’t explain value, other than by pointing to ‘physical things’, like tins of beans. Any worker can understand this: they can see a tin of beans, and the price label upon it! It’s obvious, innit? But that worker would be wrong, because ‘value’ can’t be ‘seen’, it can’t be ‘read off a label’.

    Marx, Capital, wrote:
    Value, therefore, does not stalk about with a label describing what it is. It is value, rather, that converts every product into a social hieroglyphic. Later on, we try to decipher the hieroglyphic, to get behind the secret of our own social products; for to stamp an object of utility as a value, is just as much a social product as language.

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1867-c1/ch01.htm#S1Value can only be understood as a social relationship, which can’t be seen or touched, because as Marx says, ‘there is no matter in value’. Once we understand that we create value, like clenching a hand creates a fist, so we can understand the mechanism, and stop creating value or clenching our fists.If this doesn’t help at all, DJP, I apologise, and I’ll have to leave it henceforth to another comrade who has better communicative and teaching gifts than I possess. Perhaps that fact that it’s me explaining, is part of the problem, given the many difficult threads that have passed. Perhaps twc can help.

    #100288
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
    This model applies also to entities that we can’t see, like ‘value’. As Einstein says, ‘it’s the theory which determines what we can observe’. 

    I think you are using Einstein out of context. I don't believe Einstein thoght that there could be theory before a brain. Besides wasn't he a bourgeois scientist?You will never convince any worker that you can create 'entities' independent of the physical world by clenching and unclenching your fist. Sounds more like wisardry to me . The 'entities' continue in the realm of the physical world inside of human brains. Are you perhaps taking about 'things' in a Durkheimian way of the 'social'entity.

    #100289
    LBird
    Participant
    Vin Maratty wrote:
    You will never convince any worker that you can create 'entities' independent of the physical world by clenching and unclenching your fist.

    But I didn't say that a 'fist' was independent of 'the physical world', Vin. I said that 'the fingers are physical'. I was using it to show how a 'structure' can be created by humans, and then destroyed.And then I tried to show how this applies to 'value', which is 'independent of the physical world' (if physical means material), because Marx tells us that, quite clearly. He says that there is no 'matter' in value. It's a relationship between things.I don't know to how explain any better; I've tried, but sadly failed.'Physicalism and reductionism' it is then. But no Marx, no value, no Capital, no Communism, no creative workers.Just the rocks.

    #100270
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
    But I didn't say that a 'fist' was independent of 'the physical world', 

     No.  But you state clearly and unambiguously that the five physical entities creat a non physical entity which is not part of the physical world.    

    #100271
    robbo203
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    I don't know to how explain any better; I've tried, but sadly failed.'Physicalism and reductionism' it is then. But no Marx, no value, no Capital, no Communism, no creative workers.Just the rocks.

    Well  I get what you are saying, L Bird, and to me it makes solid sense even if it doesnt to others.  Old fashioned physicalist reductionism  – or identity theory – was overthrown or dethroned way back into the 1960s revolution in the cognitive sciences with the rise of emergence theory or "non reductive physicalism". I dont see how anyone can cling on to identity theory in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary – if that is what some folk here are in fact doing Higher level properties or entities are not only  not reducible to the lower level properties or entities on which they supervene but also exert downward causation on the latter.  Think for a moment  what it means to reject this statement.  For socialists, for example,  it means repudiating any kind of socially grounded analysis.  What individuals do would then become completely explicable in terms of psychological facts alone. This is the Margaret Thatcher view of society – "there is no such thing as society, only individuals and their families".  That is, of course, preposterous but it is a logical outcome of rejecting emergence theory and the notion of downward causation.  Society cannot influence individuals – exert downward causation on them – because society apparently doesnt "exist" according to this view.  Of course society cannot exists apart from individuals – that is true – just as mind cannot exist apart from brain but that is not the same thing as saying that society cannot exist at all in any sense. You might just as well ask, in that case, if individuals exist.  Is the individual no more than just a bunch of  molecules?  What causes the burglar to break into somebody's house and nick their stuff?  "M'lud , I will argue that my client cannot reasonably be held responsible for this henous act  since I  will attempt to show that his motives were nothing but the outcome of  certain chemical reactions in his body over which he had absolutely no control"   Puhleeeze….. Where will it all end,  one wonders? Could the organisation of the working class into a socialist party really be the result of the mysterious antics of sub atomic particles colliding with each other? Must we wait for their fortuitous alignment into a pattern that will ensure the realisation of socialist society?

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