The Long Awaited Materialism thread

June 2024 Forums General discussion The Long Awaited Materialism thread

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  • #100305
    Ed
    Participant

    You're nothing but consistent L Bird, I'll give you that.This comes back to the other thread where you say that ideas are the primary motivating factor in societal progression. As opposed to ideas being the consequence of material necessity. I seem to remember calling you out for being an idealist in that thread. You've admitted it in this thread.The Electric Light bulbThe electric light bulb was created because……A) Someone had a spontaneous and brilliant idea for a new invention.B) Scientists pursued the creation of an alternative source of light to extend the working day in order to maximise profits.In a nut shell idealism vs materialism. Idealism = ideas being the primacy of ideas over any other driving forces at work. In this sense it is antithetical to materialism.Robbo asks "can you touch, smell, taste capitalism"I'd answer yes you can. In everything you taste, in everything you see and hear you experience the social relations of capitalism whether it is apparent or not.Is it physical? No. But can ideas manifest into physical reactions. Yes. Ideas or as I prefer and think makes it clearer knowledge (knowledge=ideas) are in themselves material conditions. Perhaps this is L Bird and I agreeing…. Perhaps what I am saying is his idealist-materialism. However where he is severely mistaken and what makes him an idealist is his belief that ideas alone create conditions rather than the other way around.Necessity is the mother of invention comrades……Not individualist geniuses

    #100306
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Marx defined ideology as the distortion of reality, and Engels called it false conscience. What type of ideology are we talking about when there is only one prevailing ideology ? Are we saying that a socialist has in his mind a distorted reality, or are we saying that he or she has a bourgeois mentality ? 

    #100307
    LBird
    Participant
    Ed wrote:
    You're nothing but consistent L Bird, I'll give you that.

    Thanks, Ed! That's because I've thought Marx's ideas through, not because of any personal quality I have.

    Ed wrote:
    This comes back to the other thread where you say that ideas are the primary motivating factor in societal progression. As opposed to ideas being the consequence of material necessity. I seem to remember calling you out for being an idealist in that thread. You've admitted it in this thread.

    Yes, humans are the 'primary motivating factor in societal progression'. Marx thought this, too. Neither Marx nor I think that the 'rocks' are the 'primary motivating factor'.But, neither of us are 'idealists', or 'materialists', we're 'idealist-materialists', as Marx argued in the Theses on Feuerbach. The third, unified stance, from both earlier trends, the unity of 'theory and practice'. Rocks neither 'think'  nor 'practice'.

    Ed wrote:
    In a nut shell idealism vs materialism. Idealism = ideas being the primacy of ideas over any other driving forces at work. In this sense it is antithetical to materialism.

    Why do you oppose 'idealism' to 'materialism', Ed? Marx didn't. He unified them into something new. The thinker who opposed them was Engels, not Marx.The 'need' for 'light for longer days in factories' was 'present', but it didn't create any form of 'light', never mind 'the light bulb'. Humans did that. Humans are creative. Humans have ideas. The application of new ideas (which don't exist in the 'material conditions') to human-defined problems in nature, where the human practice changes nature, is not some version of 'materialism'. Marx condemned the 'mechanical materialists', like Feuerbach, precisely because they ignored the 'active side' of human creativity, ie. ideas.

    Ed wrote:
    Is it physical? No. But can ideas manifest into physical reactions. Yes. Ideas or as I prefer and think makes it clearer knowledge (knowledge=ideas) are in themselves material conditions. Perhaps this is L Bird and I agreeing…. Perhaps what I am saying is his idealist-materialism.

    Yes, 'idealism-materialism' is Marxism. 'Materialism' is Engelsism.

    Ed wrote:
    However where he is severely mistaken and what makes him an idealist is his belief that ideas alone create conditions rather than the other way around.

    But you've reverted of Engelsian Materialism here, Ed. 'Material conditions' don't create ideas. Humans create ideas. When those ideas are put into practice in the real world, humans find out the correctness or not of those ideas, through their active practice.This is the method of 'theory and practice'.To argue otherwise, as the human race realised during the 20th century, is to argue that 'rocks talk', and tell us what to do. If you've heard a 'material condition' talk, Ed, you've had experiences I haven't!In fact, workers don't hear rocks, and thus need someone 'special' to translate their imperceptible whispers. That is the role of 'The Leninist Party'.

    Ed wrote:
    Necessity is the mother of invention comrades……Not individualist geniuses.

    So there must be a 'father', too? If 'need' is the 'mother', then 'active humans' (both in thinking and practice) are the 'father', in this schema.And this is nothing to do with 'individual geniuses', which is yet another 'materialist' red herring. Humans are social, science is social, ideas are social, practice is social.But the rocks aren't…

    #100308
    robbo203
    Participant
    Vin Maratty wrote:
    If you don't think society is physical then meaningful conversation is impossible. Moreover,  you are completely twisting what I am saying. I could equally say that it is you  agreeing with Thatcher by saying society doesn't exist. because it is not physical!! What other things in the world  does not have a physical existence?If I smell anything it is a rat. 

     But I ask again , Vin , how is society physical – in what sense? How ? Oh I agree that society is dependent,  or supervenes, upon physical entities called human beings – you cannot have a society without human beings –  but that is NOT the same as saying society is a physical entity.  If it was a physical entity it would share the same quality as individual human beings and thus be empirically apprehensible via sense perception along with human beings.  In short , it would be something separate from specific human beings which you can identity alongside those human beings and in the same way as you might identify other  individual physical human beings But you cannot separate society from human beings in that sense. It is the pattern of relationships that human beings develop between each other..  Therefore by a reductio ad absurdum argument society cannot be physical This is why I argue that society is an emergent property of  inrteracting human beings and why emergence theory is the only viable way of looking at things.  Society is not reducible to the constituent entities that comprise it but is not independent of those entities either.  It exerts "downward causation" as the expression goes – that is to say we as individuals are influenced  by this "thing" called society  (which is proof of the existence of this "thing").  But this  "thing" is not actually a physical thing – if it were it would exist outside of individuals and be apprehensible in just the same way as individual phyical human beings can be apprehended, which is nonsense. Nevertheless it has a quasi objective existence which is the point that Durkheim was getting at with his concept of social facts. Social facts have an objective coercive quality about them and Durkheim demonstrated this in his work "Suicide" in which he argued that certain individuals are more predisposed to commit suicide than others  depending among other things on their religious beliefs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_%28book%29) I think the basic problem here is that you are equating objectivity with physicality when really they are not quite the same thing.  We talk about the objective laws of capitalism but they are not actually physical laws – are they? – even if they do have physical consequences and engage physical actors in the shape of you and I

    #100309
    LBird
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    If it was a physical entity it would share the same quality as individual human beings and thus be empirically apprehensible via sense perception along with human beings.

    Yes, for reductionists/physicalists/materialists being "empirically apprehensible via sense perception" is what constitutes 'existence'.This is what the Critical Realist Margaret Archer calls "the perceptual criterion of existence".She opposes to this "the causal criterion of existence", which allows humans access to imperceptible reality.Ref: M. Archer (1995) Realist social theory, p. 23Observation cannot be the criterion of existence, because this is empiricism, a copy theory of knowledge, naive realism, Humean 'constant conjunctions'.For Marx, 'value' is not directly observable, only its effects. But it is the cause of those effects, it really exists, it's not just 'in the grey matter of individuals', as some comrades have argued.Much of 'nature' (or 'the real') cannot be empirically observed. Unless we employ a 'causal criterion of existence', which gives us theoretical access to reality, then we can't understand much of the workings of nature.Further, many of these philosophical problems go back to Aristotle, whose work influenced Marx.According to Bhaskar, 'mechanisms' exist at the level of 'reality', which humans access through theory, not at the levels of the actual or the empirical.Ref: Roy Bhaskar (2008) A Realist Theory of Science, p. 13

    #100310
    robbo203
    Participant
    Ed wrote:
    Robbo asks "can you touch, smell, taste capitalism"I'd answer yes you can. In everything you taste, in everything you see and hear you experience the social relations of capitalism whether it is apparent or not.Is it physical? No. But can ideas manifest into physical reactions. Yes. Ideas or as I prefer and think makes it clearer knowledge (knowledge=ideas) are in themselves material conditions. Perhaps this is L Bird and I agreeing…. Perhaps what I am saying is his idealist-materialism. However where he is severely mistaken and what makes him an idealist is his belief that ideas alone create conditions rather than the other way around.Necessity is the mother of invention comrades……Not individualist geniuses

     I think you contradict yourself here, Ed.  If you agree that capitalism is not physical then how can you touch smell or taste capitalism?  What is not physical cannot be apprehended through our sense perceptions.  What you can do is infer capitalism from what it is you touch smell and taste but that is a mental process.  Yes, it depends on a brain but still it is not something reducible to the brain. Identity Theory hasnt got a leg to stand on – figuratively or literally I think this whole dichotomy between ideas and matter is a false dichotomy, anyway.  Im not too sure if I would go quite as far as L Bird in talking of "idealist materialism" if by "idealist" is meant the primacy of ideas over material conditions.  But I think what he is getting at, and which I support,  is really the inseparability of ideas and material conditions.. You dont have "material conditions" at one point in time and then "ideas" come along at the next point in time having been "produced" by said material conditions.  This is totally misleading and in fact amounts to a kind of mystical version of history in which the meaning of history is immanent and unfolding.  Ironically , the mechanical or crass materialists join hands with the pure idealists in this regard . Mechanical materialism is in fact a species of idealism in my book For as long as human beings have existed ideas have existed. Ideas have always been  there right from the start, shaping history and being shaped by history. It is not that social being determines consciousness in the strict sense of causality  but that social being incorporates consciousness.  How could we even be social without being conscious of it in some way?

    #100311
    LBird
    Participant
    robbo203 wrote:
    I think this whole dichotomy between ideas and matter is a false dichotomy, anyway. Im not too sure if I would go quite as far as L Bird in talking of "idealist materialism" if by "idealist" is meant the primacy of ideas over material conditions. But I think what he is getting at, and which I support, is really the inseparability of ideas and material conditions.

    Just to confirm that we agree on these points, robbo.You're right, 'idealism-materialism' doesn't mean the 'primacy of ideas over material conditions'. As you say, it's 'a false dichotomy'. We could just as easily say 'materialism-idealism', again with the same caveat, that this is not 'the primacy of material conditions over ideas'.I'm merely using the phrase 'idealism-materialism' to polemically counter the myth of Marx's 'materialism'. I do this because it fits better with Marx's proper views, of 'theory and practice', or 'men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing', etc. That is, the 'human' is the creative element (theory), and the 'conditions' are limiting or enabling factors (practice). So, 'idealism-materialism', with no 'primacy', just necessary interaction. Or, as you say, 'the inseparability of ideas and material conditions'.[edit]

    robbo203 wrote:
    Ironically , the mechanical or crass materialists join hands with the pure idealists in this regard . Mechanical materialism is in fact a species of idealism in my book.

    Yes, this has been said by all thinkers who've addressed this issue. And the Leninist Party provides the necessary 'idealism' which, for humans, is the inescapable counterpart to 'materialism'.They just pretend it isn't. But if workers don't do the thinking for themselves, someone has to do it. Step forward Lenin! Or the 'central committee'.

    #100312
    robbo203
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    robbo203 wrote:
    I think this whole dichotomy between ideas and matter is a false dichotomy, anyway. Im not too sure if I would go quite as far as L Bird in talking of "idealist materialism" if by "idealist" is meant the primacy of ideas over material conditions. But I think what he is getting at, and which I support, is really the inseparability of ideas and material conditions.

    Just to confirm that we agree on these points, robbo.You're right, 'idealism-materialism' doesn't mean the 'primacy of ideas over material conditions'. As you say, it's 'a false dichotomy'. We could just as easily say 'materialism-idealism', again with the same caveat, that this is not 'the primacy of material conditions over ideas'.I'm merely using the phrase 'idealism-materialism' to polemically counter the myth of Marx's 'materialism'. I do this because it fits better with Marx's proper views, of 'theory and practice', or 'men make history, but not in circumstances of their own choosing', etc. That is, the 'human' is the creative element (theory), and the 'conditions' are limiting or enabling factors (practice). So, 'idealism-materialism', with no 'primacy', just necessary interaction. Or, as you say, 'the inseparability of ideas and material conditions'.

     Ok,  I see what you are saying. It was just a somewhat minor pedantic point on my part to avoid confusion by using some other phrase than "idealism-materialism" which could seem like a contradiction in terms.  But as long as we understand each other….

    #100313
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
    You're right, 'idealism-materialism' doesn't mean the 'primacy of ideas over material conditions'. As you say, it's 'a false dichotomy'. 

     Eureka!!

    #100314
    Anonymous
    Inactive
    LBird wrote:
     'the inseparability of ideas and material conditions'.

      Pure gold!!

    #100315
    LBird
    Participant

    I take it Vin now accepts that he's not a 'materialist'? Or a 'physicalist'?

    #100316
    DJP
    Participant
    LBird wrote:
    I take it Vin now accepts that he's not a 'materialist'? Or a 'physicalist'?

    LOL. It's you that should accept that you are an adherent of (non-reductive) physicalism.

    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy wrote:
    Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, or as contemporary philosophers sometimes put it, that everything supervenes on, or is necessitated by, the physical. The thesis is usually intended as a metaphysical thesis, parallel to the thesis attributed to the ancient Greek philosopher Thales, that everything is water, or the idealism of the 18th Century philosopher Berkeley, that everything is mental. The general idea is that the nature of the actual world (i.e. the universe and everything in it) conforms to a certain condition, the condition of being physical. Of course, physicalists don't deny that the world might contain many items that at first glance don't seem physical — items of a biological, or psychological, or moral, or social nature. But they insist nevertheless that at the end of the day such items are either physical or supervene on the physical.http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism/

    Perhaps now we should talk about monism 

    #100317
    DJP
    Participant
    Vin Maratty wrote:
    LBird wrote:
     'the inseparability of ideas and material conditions'.

      Pure gold!!

    I agree.

    #100318
    LBird
    Participant

    I'm still not convinced that Vin and DJP have got the hang of this sort of 'idealist-materialist' (or 'realist') thinking, yet. I've tried to think of a test which will bring to the foreground our differences. If they agree with what I'm about to say, then clearly I'm mistaken, and Vin and DJP are 'realists' ('idealist-materialists') and not 'physicalists' or 'materialists'. Here goes!God is real.I think a 'materialist' will disagree with that statement, but a 'realist' will agree with it.The materialist, using a 'perceptual' theory of existence, will say that 'god' can't be 'touched/seen' as so does not exist. So, god is not real.The realist, using a 'causal' theory of existence, will say that 'god' causes humans to take various actions, and so does exist. So, god is real.For a critical realist, humans create god, because humans are active, creative beings and have the power to bring new entities into existence. But once they create entities, often for the best of motives, these entities have powers which can dominate humans, often to the detriment of humans. This is the case with god and value, and is best captured in the story of Dr. Frankenstein and his monster, or Disney's The Sorcerer's Apprentice.For 'idealist-materialists', as the name suggests, there is no longer a hard-and-fast divide between the so-called 'material' and 'ideal'. Marx was aware of the difficulty of maintaining this divide, in the 'real' world, in which we live.

    Marx wrote:
    …theory also becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.

    http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1843/critique-hpr/intro.htmWhen the human-created theory of 'god' 'grips the masses', it has become a 'material force'. Thus 'god is real'.Marx was what we would now call a critical realist (or, in 19th century terms, an 'idealist-materialist'), not a simple, mechanical 'materialist', or a bourgeois 'physicalist'.Over to Vin and DJP.

    #100319
    LBird
    Participant
    Vin Maratty wrote:
    LBird wrote:
    Or do you think 'value' doesn't exist, because 'there is no-thing outside or beyond matter'? Marx clearly thinks 'value' is 'outside' of 'matter'.

    Does he?  Without getting out and dusting down my copy of capital I think Marx refers to 'Value' as a  relationship between people expressed as a relationship between things. The relationship is in all our heads and has a material existence within our grey matter.

    [my bold]A further question for you, Vin, relating to your earlier post from page 2.If 'value' is in the 'grey matter' of individuals, 'all in the head', why doesn't everybody in capitalist society know about 'value' just by thinking about what's in their heads?It's clear that the vast majority of our society don't know about 'value'. For everybody, it only becomes clear when it's openly discussed, when people have read Capital (and often not even then!), when they realise that an external mechanism is at work upon them, that compels them to act in certain ways, or to die otherwise.Value is real, and causes humans (of all classes) to act in ways which are detrimental to all of humanity. In the short term, the ruling class might appear to be benefitting from their exploitation, but they are not freely, consciously, choosing to exploit, but are prisoners of a social mechanism which exists outside of them as individuals.If value is left to continue to exercise its powers, it will destroy humanity. It's not merely an opinion 'in our heads', comrade.

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