Re: [OPE-L] Marx: In Our Time

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sat Jul 23 2005 - 14:02:53 EDT

To understand why it makes sense to think of Marx as a philosopher takes
understanding the relation of philosophy to science.  The way this is best
understood today can be captured by the phrase that 'philosophy is
continuous with science'.   In other words there is no domain of knowledge
that is insulated from the methods of science and claims priority because of
its special assumptions.  Virtually all philosophy of science today is
materialist, the best of it is dialectical in the most basic sense.   These
same trends treat knowledge in philosophy, as in science, as a posteriori
and reject all claim that knowledge rests on privileged foundations known a
priori.  Marx's complaints about philosophy anticipated all this.  When we
say that all our knowledge of the world is theory dependent, this is an
understanding essential to science, but it is not really a proposition of
any specific positive science; it's a point of philosophy continuous with
science.  Ethics isn't any different and it would be a mistake to suppose
that there are some foundational principles that ground our understanding of
the good life independent of the methods and understanding of science.
Ethics, when it is not just social science, also is philosophy continuous
with science.


----- Original Message -----
From: <glevy@PRATT.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, July 23, 2005 1:02 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Marx: In Our Time

> ---------------------------- Original Message ----------------------------
> Subject: Marx: In Our Time
> From:    "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
> Date:    Thu, July 21, 2005 4:18 pm
> --------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Well comrades, don't get me wrong. I am personally not anti-philosophy, I
> *pro-philosophy*; it gave me more intellectual freedom than I ever thought
> possible; consequently I believe in freedom for philosophy.
> Push come to shove, I might even argue that philosophical preoccupations
> part of human nature, to the extent that *all* people ask "general
> about man and world" at some time or other. The more the working classes
> philosophize, the better it is really, in these days of professional
> cretinism, although if that is all they do, then we're not much further
> ahead either.
> Michael Lebowitz's reference to Marx/Dietzgen is apt. But I think I am
> correct in saying, as a generalization, that Marx himself believed the
> of philosophy was drastically reduced and supplanted by the modern
> and empirical/practical investigation. This is proved incidentally by the
> January, 1858 letter by Marx itself, I think it goes like this:
> "...I am getting some nice developments. For instance, I have thrown over
> the whole doctrine of profit as it has existed up to now. In the method of
> treatment, in fact by mere accident I have again glanced through Hegel's
> Logic has been of great service to me--Freiligrath found some volumes of
> Hegel which originally belonged to Bakunin and sent them to me as a
> If there should ever be time for such work again, I should greatly like to
> make accessible to the ordinary human intelligence, in  two or three
> printer's sheets, what is rational in the method which Hegel discovered
> at the same time
> enveloped in mysticism.... What do you say to friend Jones?""
> In other words, there was a problem, and there was something rational in
> mysticism, but it could be condensed in a few "sheets", and whether that
> an instance of *philosophy* is a moot point.
> (As an aside, I recently visited Hegel Haus in Stuttgart; at ground level
> they had these sculptures of women clutching their heads and holding up
> shells to each other, with a curt inscription in German "this is how
> were in Hegel's time" or some such thing :-)). Funny how the mighty
> came from (what looked to me) a very humble home (nowadays tucked away
> amidst shopping plazas).
> I think Marx's original critique was primarily that philosophers of his
> pretended to be able to acquire knowledge by (speculative) philosophical
> methods, which could not be *obtained* by those methods, resulting in
> "twaddle". Rather, the generalisations and inferences from those
> generalisations had to come from conscientiously working over the
> material, i.e. they had to be generalizations *from something*, namely
> experience, observation and experiment, documented or otherwise. There was
> difference between a "Veralgemeinung" and a "Gemeinplatz". A valuable
> generalisation was a *limited* generalisation derived from a disciplined
> study of a real object (the German word is "bestimmt" which could also be
> translated as "determinate").
> I think Engels puts it quite well in his essay on Ludwig Feuerbach:
> "The proof must be derived from history itself; and, in this regard, it
> be permitted to say that is has been sufficiently furnished in other
> writings. This conception, however, puts an end to philosophy in the realm
> of history, just as the dialectical conception of nature makes all natural
> philosophy both unnecessary and impossible. It is no longer a question
> anywhere of inventing interconnections from out of our brains, but of
> discovering them in the facts. For philosophy, which has been expelled
> nature and history, there remains only the realm of pure thought, so far
> it is left: the theory of the laws of the thought process itself, logic
> dialectics."
> Presumably if Marx had written a piece on "dialectics", as he said he
> intended but never did, it would probably have concerned this "thought
> process" in relation to practical existence.
> As a matter of fact, I personally believe Marx and Engels were wrong on
> issue, just as Michael says I am wrong; a very important area of
> philosophical inquiry Marx and Engels did not investigate systematically
> was, for example, ethics. If they had done so, I'll wager it would have
> saved a lot of lives, and prevented a lot of misery. I think ethics is an
> enduring preoccupation in civil society, and that the moral dimension of
> human life merits attention in social science (as long as it does not
> degenerate in moralistic twaddle). That's my "Kantian" or "Spinozist" bias
> if you like.
> For the rest, I think Ian Hunt has pretty much got it sussed; and
> pertinent Hunt's remark, Engels "expulsion" of philosophy was really
> by his own reflections on the "dialectics of nature". Having been bitten
> the bug of philosophy, as it were, Marx and Engels never fully escaped
> it...
> To change the point, we must interpret it, and that can get to be a big
> problem, I can testify to that!
> Jurriaan

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