[OPE-L:2166] Re: echt Deutsch

From: C. J. Arthur (cjarthur@pavilion.co.uk)
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 16:43:55 EST

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Dear Mike
The first sentence I think can only be read as asserting a necessary
condition, viz. before thinking we have to eat; this make make no
difference at all to what we think of course unless some further constraint
consequent on our mode of production is filled in. It is such a constraint
that Marx seems to be adverting to in the second sentence. Judging by the
Dictionary the term bestimmen is not deployed in causal contexts but rather
in logical/mathematical/linguistic contexts approximating 'definition' for
example. The sense is like when a variable is determined, i.e. specified or
defined/fixed. So here we have the social conditions giving a definite
shape to consciousness, not meaning that it provides the entire content of
course but that it more or less pervades a person's consciousness as when
we say he approaches everthing like a bourgeois.
Despite the root meaning not being causal the fact Marx goes to the trouble
of streessing directionality strongly suggests he is thinking in some such
terms, but the relation may just as well be functional I suppose.
Chris A

>Some of you may be interested to comment on the following query (second
>message, From Warren Schmaus) that came up on the HOPOS list.
>If there is anything of substance that arises, I will cross post it to HOPOS
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Daniel Cohnitz
>To: HOPOS-L@listserv.nd.edu
>Sent: Friday, January 14, 2000 1:50 PM
>Subject: Re: echt Deutsch
>Hi Warren,
>I think the English translation is really misleading. "Bedingen" is
>obviously used in an other way than "to condition". "A bedingt B" is "A ->
>B". So, we have in both sentences the same direction of the conditional. The
>connotation of "bedingen" is sometimes to emphasize a necessary condition
>("Wenn wir das Bankgebaeude in die Luft jagen wolle, bedingt das natuerlich,
>dass irgendjemand den Sprengstoff besorgt.") but the direction of the
>conditional is in both sentences the same. "Bestimmen" is probably really
>close to your "to determine". I see no poblems with necessary and sufficient
>conditions in the German quote. I would understand in both cases that there
>is a causal relation.
>Daniel Cohnitz
>Philosophisches Institut
>Universitaetsstr. 1
>40225 Duesseldorf
>Department of Philosophy
>-Philosophy of Science-
>University of Tartu (Estonia)
>mail: cohnitz@ut.ee
>[A] little philosophy turns one away from religion,
>and more philosophy makes one a pain in the neck.
>John Perry
>----- Original Message -----
>From: Warren Schmaus
>To: HOPOS-L@listserv.nd.edu
>Sent: Donnerstag, 13. Januar 2000 16:42
>Subject: echt Deutsch
>Would someone whose German is better than mine please help me with
>I've been invited to write an encyclopedia article on social and economic
>determinism, I assume because of my work on Durkheim. I hadn't looked at
>Marx seriously for some time. I was surprised to see him saying in the
>famous Preface to the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:
>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.
>I couldn't believe that the Great Man would slide from necessary conditions
>in one sentence to sufficient conditions in the next, so I checked the
>German (www.mlwerke.de etc)., which has the verbs "bedingt" in the first and
>"bestimmt" in the second sentence. I checked a few dictionaries, and I
>found that "bedingen" has the sense of _stipulating_ conditions, as in a
>contract, while "bestimmen" means determine in the sense of decide or
>ascertain rather than cause. In short, the German seems to be in the
>language of negotiation, while the English translation seems to be in the
>language of causal explanation.
>Of course, one could go too far with this. After all, the English word
>"cause" has a meaning that derives from presenting a case at a court of law.
>So my question is, what is the connotation for Germans of the words
>"bestimmen" and "bedingen"? Are they used to express causal relationships,
>like "bewirken"?
>Warren Schmaus
>Dr Michael Williams
>Economics and Social Sciences
>De Montfort University
>Milton Keynes
>fax: 0870 133 1147
>[This message may be in html, and any attachments may be in MSWord 97. If
>you have difficulty reading either, please let me know.]

P. S. Please note that I have a new Email address,
but the old one will also run until next summer. (To be doubly sure load both!)

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