From: Ian Wright (iwright@GMAIL.COM)
Date: Wed Jul 20 2005 - 20:19:11 EDT
My half-penny: It was nice to see Marx win the vote. I voted for him. The discussants failed to mention the intimate link between Marx's ideas and the construction of social movements. I can't think of any other thinker whose theory predicts its own appearance and deductively requires its own continuation and promotion, although Marx shares structural similarities with Hegel on this score. It seems to me that Marx started out a materialist philosopher, but quickly understood that the methodology of science when applied to philosophy required that philosophers (particularly political philosophers) necessarily get involved in social movements, as scientific methodology necessarily includes a practical or engineering moment. His philosophy, scientific research and his political activity are therefore entirely united and connected. This contrasts quite sharply with much social science/political research that occurs in universities today, which is often merely empirical, i.e. describing and explaining what is, rather than identifying real possibilities for change, and then trying to actualize those possibilities. I think Marx was a philosopher and did deserve to be on Radio 4's list, not least because his theses on Feurbach redefined the relationship between philosophy, science and social movements. Requiring that philosophers change the world is I think a redefinition of philosophy, an exhortation for it to use scientific methodology, rather than being a rejection of it. (As Ian (Hunt) suggests, most good modern philosophy has a strong connection to the appropriate scientific field, e.g. philosophy of mind connected to cognitive science, philosophy of science connected to formal learning theory etc., so Marx's recommendation, when followed, produces good results.) Last, it seems to me that Marx assumed there was an objective world, independent of our conception of it, that was a complex unity. Hence, all fields of knowledge are potentially unifiable, and there is no ontological reason for the separation of philosophy, science and practical activity, only transient epistemological reasons due to our imperfect and incomplete theories. (Contrast to postmodernism.).So my guess is that he wouldn't be too bothered whether he were considered a philosopher, scientist, economist or revolutionary.
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