[OPE-L:2815] Re: positing of presuppositions, or the "scorecard" revisited

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@Princeton.EDU)
Date: Tue Apr 11 2000 - 12:43:52 EDT

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>It would thus seem that nothing can really be known, since everything
>rests on an insecure starting point. But Hegel argues that knowledge
>does NOT rest on the starting point. The demand to "know before you
>know" -- to have a priori proof of the presuppositions -- is like the
>demand to be able to swim before you can swim. You just do it. And just
>as not knowing a priori how to swim doesn't make it impossible to swim,
>not having a priori guarantees of knowledge doesn't make knowledge
>impossible. The *result* is what substantiates (establishes, posits) the
>presupposition. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. If you
>succeed in swimming, knowing, making pudding, replicating Marx's
>theoretical conclusions by means of your interpretation, etc., your
>starting point was right. If you drown, end up a fool, make slop, or
>fail to replicate Marx's theoretical conclusions by means of your
>interpretation, your starting point was wrong.

Andrew, I rather like Moishe Postone's interpretation which focuses on the
epistemological, not systemic, aspects of the posit/presupposition relation
in Marx's thought:

"What appears as an 'a priori construction' is a mdoe of argument intended
to be adequate to its own historical specificity. The nature of the Marxian
argument then is not supposed to be that of a logical deduction: it does
not begin with indubitable first principles from which everything else may
be derived, for the very form of such a procedure implies a transhistorical
standpoint. Rather, Marx's argument has a very peculiar, reflexive form:
The point of he departure, the commodity--which is posited as the
fundamental structuring core of the social formation--is validated
retoractively by the argument as it unfolds, by its ability to explain the
developmental tendencies of capitaism, and by its ability to account for
the phenomena that apparently contradict the validity of the initital
categories. That is the category of the commodity pressupposes that of
capital and is validated by teh pwoer adn rigor of the analysis of
capitalism for which it serves as the point of departure." p141.

 William J Blake also has some very pregnant comments on why Marx chose to
begin with the analysis of the commodity form, and how this allowed him to
develop explanatory concepts that undergirded a superior theoretical
approach than merely summing up economic appearances and counting their
relations. It was the latter approach of course that led positivists like
Karl Pearson to even deny the existence of a gene. See Marxian Economic
Theory and Its Criticism, p.13-14.

Yours, Rakesh

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