[OPE-L:6252] Re: RE: Re: RE: Realism regularities and prediction

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Thu Dec 20 2001 - 22:31:13 EST

Rom Harre ("Causal Powers") and Bhaskar are also relevant to this aspect of
the thread (I have not gone back to the original post regarding Lawson).
In contemporary terms the problem of free will presupposes Hume:  either
nothing is determined  or there is LaPlacean determinism -- if I knew all
antecedent causes I could know all the future.  If instead the world is
populated by causal agents like hydrogen, which has the power to explode,
or Socrates, who has the power to walk, stand, etc., then there is no real
issue here.  In other words, we are centers of causal power and what we
cause is not determined before it is caused.  A different issue is posed by
social reproduction -- the reproduction of society's vital conditions.
Theft is incompatible with the reproduction of a market society.  Thus
rules against theft must be efficacious.  But that doesn't mean every theft
will be found out, prosecuted and punished.  A thousand slips between the
cup and the lips, or however that saying goes.  The rules, moral and legal,
have to be efficacious enough to reproduce those vital conditions.  This is
a statistical matter.  There is a gap between individual agency and social
structure, not an exact fit.  Anything we do presupposes social forms and
their reproduction (or transformation).  But the social forms presupposed
do not determine what we do.


At 06:24 PM 12/20/01 -0000, you wrote:
>In #6249, Chris A wrote (responding to my suggestion that Quetelet may not
>be the best resource for those who advocate a Marxism that not only is
>quantitative but also admits the possibility of free-will)
>>I think we had this discussion before. Then I pointed to 
>>Marx's New York
>>tribune article in which after preferring the free will thoery of
>>punishment to the utilitarian one, he comes down on the side 
>>of fatalism;
>>only a change of society can get rid of the constant supply of 
>Absolutely, and I had the existence, but not the actual content, of Marx's
>article in mind when writing my original post.
>I've just dug it out again, and I'm not sure that Chris's gloss of it is
>really accurate.
>Marx (having provocatively asked what gives anyone the right to punish *me*
>for the "amelioration or intimidation" of *another*) says that "from the
>point of view of abstract right, there is only one theory of punishment
>which recognized human dignity in the abstract", to whit, Hegel's
>formulation of Kant, to the effect that punishment is the *right* of
>criminals, visited on them by their own request ("crime is the negation of
>right [and] punishment is the negation of this negation").
>But Marx immediately comments "There is no doubt something specious about
>this formula, inasmuch as Hegel, instead of looking upon the criminal as the
>mere object, the slave of justice, elevates him to the position of a free
>and self-determined being."
>He asks "Is it not a delusion to substitute for the individual with his real
>motives, with multifarious social circumstances pressing upon him, the
>*abstraction* of 'free-will'...This theory...is only a metaphysical
>expression for the old 'jus talionis'...".
>Next he points out that "dispensing with all paraphrases, punishment is
>nothing but a means of society to defend itself against the infraction of
>its vital conditions *whatever may be their character*"  [emph. added]
>before going on to commend Quetelet's statistical discoveries -- he
>explicitly commends Quetelet's alleged successful *prediction*, in 1829, of
>the numbers of various types of crime for France in 1830!
>First, I'm not sure that all this amounts to "preferring the free will
>theory of punishment to the utilitarian one"; it's true that he pours scorn
>on the idea that punishment "works" (there is "the most complete evidence
>that since Cain the world has neither been intimidated nor ameliorated by
>punishment"), but he *doesn't* say that punishment can't defend society (as
>opposed to improving the world).
>Second, it is only the abstract Hegelian notion of free-will about which he
>expresses scepticism. Given Marx's usual view that there's a lot in Hegel,
>provided that one reads him upside down, I take this as suggesting that a
>non-abstract, materialist notion of free-will would be possible and
>In particular, it is the idea of free-will as self-determination free of any
>outside influence that he is attacking. This is not the same as the more
>reasonable "could have done otherwise, even given the circumstances" sense
>of free-will which Allinn discusses in his commentary on Lawson.
>Thirdly, while he praises Quetelet, it is for demonstrating that "crimes
>observed on a great scale" show "the regularity [and by implication the
>inevitability, in the given conditions] of physical phenomena". This may be
>fatalism, but not in the sense implied in the 19th C debate on "statistical
>fatalism" -- which referred to crimes, etc., observed on a small (i.e.
>individual) scale.
>I suspect that Marx's views on all this were pretty similar to Engels', who
>attacked both the idealist notion of free-will and the determinism of
>mechanical materialism.

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