[OPE-L:7374] Re: "conceptual" and "real determination"

From: Fred B. Moseley (fmoseley@mtholyoke.edu)
Date: Tue Jun 11 2002 - 00:24:53 EDT

On Sun, 9 Jun 2002, Christopher Arthur wrote:

> Fred writes:
> "I do not
> understand the distinction between "conceptual determination" and "real
> determination".  I thought conceptual determination (i.e. a theory) was
> supposed to explain the real determination (in reality).  If the "real
> determination" was that values determine the physical production
> quantities, then the  "conceptual determination" would explain how this
> happens, and how the specific quantities are determined.  "
>  Perhaps an intuitive illustration will help.
> There are some theorists of banquetting. They weigh guests arriving and the
> amount of food going in. Then they weigh guests leaving. They "determine" -
> i.e. conceptually calculate - the increases in weight and simultaneously
> the total amount of food eaten. There will probably be a discrepency due to
> some food being wasted. So our theorists say 'all this means is that we did
> not need the original amount anyway, that was a 'detour', all we need is
> the rates of weight increase'.
> Is this a theory of the 'real determination' of weight increase? By no
> means. That would involve going into the party, studying how fast various
> people eat, how some elbow others away from the buffet, exactly how some
> food gets wasted etc. The detail of this 'real determinaton' might be
> difficult to quantify but it is explanatory: the first calculation explains
> nothing.
> Chris Arthur

Chris, my question in previous posts had to do with Shaikh's meaning "real
determination" and "conceptual determination" or calculation" in his
response to Samuelson's and Steedman's critique that the labor theory of
value is redundant.  Are you suggesting that your meanings of these terms
are Shaikh's meanings?  Or are you just suggesting meanings of your own?  

The issue at stake in the debate between Shaikh and the critics of Marx is
Marx's determination of prices of production in Part 2 of Volume 3.  I
don't think your example of the increase of weight at the banquet is a
good analogy for this issue.  You define "conceptual calculation" as the
simple calculation of the increase of weight from before the banquet to
after the banquet.  This is not a theory of a causal relation between two
variables.  It is just counting the difference in two quantities of the
same variable (weight) at different points in time.  

On the other hand, the Sraffian critics of Marx argue that prices of
production are causally determined by the physical quantities of inputs
and outputs.  This is not a mere calculation of the difference between two
quantities of the same variable.  Rather, this is a theory of a causal
relation between two different variables, or two different sets of
variables (prices of production and physical quantities of inputs and
outputs).  Therefore, your analogy does not apply to this debate.  

Shaikh argues that these same prices of production could be explained in
another way, by labor-values.  However, the Sraffian critics reply that
the labor-values could also be derived from the given physical quantities
(and Shaikh does not dispute this part), and thus that the labor-values
are redundant in the determination of prices of production.  Again, this
is not a mere calculation of the difference in two quantities of the same
variable at different points in time.  This is a theory of a relation of
causation between physical quantities on the one hand and values and
prices of production on the other hand.  

Shaikh calls the Sraffian theory of causation a "mere calculation".  But
Shaikh is wrong; the Sraffian theory is a theory of causation. 

So I don't think Shaikh's response to Marx's critics is a persuasive
one.  It amounts to little more than unjustified name-calling.  

Chris, do you see what I mean about the difference between calculation and
a theory of causal relations?


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