[OPE-L:5525] Re: Re: William of Ockam's Razor and Political Economy

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Wed May 09 2001 - 08:25:48 EDT

Hi Nicky,

Indeed your original post was not trying to do much. Though it was 
doing a little bit more than your response would seem to imply.
For example in your original post you wrote, '... some of us will 
never be convinced that language/theory/ fact can ever be anything 
other than a construction/ reconstruction in thought...' . Which 
implies presumably that 'some others of us' disagree with you and 
that this disagreement has practical relevance.

Whilst 'on the run' you have clarified that the reconstruction you 
refer to is not a 'reconstruction' of the 'world' (even though you refer 
to the 'world' later on in your original paragraph). Rather it is a 
'reconstruction' of 'Marxian concepts'. The question then becomes, 
so what? What is the point of reconstructing 'Marxian concepts'? 
The only convincing answer I can think of is, 'these concepts 
denote reality'. And denote must mean something like an 
isomorphism of thought (concepts) and reality (the world). At least, 
one way or another, you *must* be presupposing a (close) 
relationship between Marxian concepts and reality, on pain of 

A while back there was a discussion of the philosophy of science 
on this list which seemed to indicate that few people broke 
decisively with the terms of the traditional debate between 
Pooper/Kuhn/Lakatos/Feyerabend. Your comments fit well with my 
view that Hegelian systematic dialectics doesn't either. That's why I 
responded to your original post.

What is lacking from those terms is the recognition of an objective 
world. This is indeed the 'criterion' for concepts, theories, theories 
against theories, etc. As you say below, you 'probably' disagree 
with this statement (with any single criterion for theory etc.). I fear 
scepticism is the inevitable result, thus do not find the vision of 
'many blossoming ideas' a 'nice' one in this context - my 
disagreement with this view was another prompt to repsond to your 

Finally, how it is possible to have a 'theory' of 'thought' of the 
'thinking head' without a theory of mind? When talking about 
anything I presumably have some idea of what it is that I am talking 
about. To talk of water boiling I have a theory of water; to talk of the 
capitalist state i have a theory of capitalism, to talk about thought i 
have a theory of mind. Without this then statements would lack 
any essential meaning. Ok it (the theory of mind) may be implicit, 
but nevertheless it is surely essential. To omit discussion of it is 
not to lack a theory of it, therefore.

Sorry to ask such silly questions whilst you are on the run. Hope 
you would be interested to respond when the chance allows it.

Best wishes,


On 9 May 2001, at 10:19, nicola taylor wrote:

> Sorry Andy, these responses are so short and inadequate - don't mean to be
> curt, but I'm on the run.... So appologies in advance...
> >The 'world' you refer to is that which the thinking head reconstructs 
> >/ appropriates, yes? Thus there is a relationship of 'reconstruction' 
> >between world and thought, it would seem. The notion of 
> >'recontruction' would seem to imply that the elements 
> >reconstructed 'in thought' have a close relationship, an 
> >isomorphism, to the elements of reality that they 'reconstruct'.  If I 
> >'reconstruct' a car, eg in a model of a car, a toy car, then both the 
> >original and the recontruction have 4 wheels, engine, etc. Here 
> >'reconstruction' makes sense, and there is a one to one 
> >connection, indeed an isomorphism (identity of shape) between the 
> >reconstructed model car, its various elements, and the real car (its 
> >various elements). Without some such relation, it would seem that 
> >the term 'reconstruction' is difficult to grasp.
> I don't think I implied any of the above: certainly never said that a
> theory is a 'reconstruction' of reality.  If there is any reconstruction
> going on in value-form theory, it is a reconstruction of Marxian concepts.
> On the ontological front, as you know, Chris A has written several superb
> papers on the connection between Hegelian logic and the inverted world of
> Capitalism, none of which rely upon (a) a concept of 'reconstruction' in
> the meanings you set out, or (b) a theory of mind.  On the epistemological
> front, a theory of how theory is constructed (a theory of logic) is not,
> imo, a theory of mind.
> >You basically agreed with Feyerabend, no? 
> No.  All I did was summarise positions and say, I suppose we could choose
> this criterion, or I suppose we could choose that criterion, or I suppose
> we could be incredibly lazy and choose not to choose.  Never said I *agree*
> with this or that - certainly never said 'obvious' solutions (eg
> Feyerabend's) were the ones anyone should adopt - although it is 'nice' in
> it's intentions - level playing field of ideas, etc (that there isn't a
> level playing field of ideas is just one of the immediate criticisms, of
> course).
> >And you did this via a 
> >discussion of Lakatos.
> I didn't discuss Lakatos at all, just stated a well known position and a
> well known objection to it - didn't say I agreed or disagreed. 
> >What I was inadequately trying to get at is 
> >that you seem to agree with the terms of debate Lakatos and 
> >Feyerabend adhere to. Yet, both thinkers fail to recognise an 
> >objective world against which ideas are judged. 
> Once again my brief set of points stating various positions in philosophy
> of science doesn't constitute a commitment to a position.  The commitments
> you are attributing to me, I haven't made or defended.  
> >My fear is that an 'undogmatic' blossoming of ideas in the absence 
> >of any objective reality is, in truth, its own opposite, a terrain of 
> >dogmatic assertions each sheltered from criticism in the absence 
> >of recognition of the objective world that should be their criterion. 
> I chose but *one* aspect of Jerry's multi-sided original question, (I'm
> oversimplifying, sorry Jerry) - this aspect was the sub-question of whether
> we could *agree* on some set of *criteria* for judging *theories against
> theories* - other than the razor principle, or by reference to empirical
> reality?  The point of my post was just to say 'probably not'.
> Hope this clarifies, albeit inadequately.
> comradely,
> Nicky
> ----------------------------------
> Nicola Mostyn (Taylor)
> Faculty of Economics
> Murdoch University
> Australia
> Telephone: 61-8-9385 1130

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