[OPE-L:7210] Re: Marx on solving human problems

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sat May 18 2002 - 11:01:56 EDT

In [7l96] Hans wrote:

> Jurriaan and others,
> In my view, Marx's oraculous pronouncement, that mankind
> only sets itself such tasks that it it is able to solve,
> stems from Marx's belief that all relevant contradictions
> are internal contractions.  This is one of the legacies from
> Hegel which he didn't manage to rid himself of sufficiently.

I discuss the question of  Marx's perspective on internal 
contradictions below, but I want to note I don't think that
for Hegel there was this divide between "internal contraditions"
& "external contraditions".  Indeed, one can see in the structure
of the _Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences_ that
the study of nature and the physical sciences was a component
(and I think from Hegel's perspective -- essential, given his
religious perspectives) of his world view.  There was, for 
instance, a  *necessary* connection that he sought to establish 
between nature and Spirit (Michael John Petry in his 
"Introduction" to _Hegel's Philosophy of Nature_, Volume I,
p. 62 suggests that the transition from 'Nature' to 'Spirit'
involves 'death' and 'soul'.  It is also, Petry suggests, a 
qualitative change from particularity to singularity.)  Thus, 
from Hegel's perspective, Nature is a sub-subject that is
internal to the larger subject of Spirit and consequently all
Natural contradictions are _internal_ contradictions.

Moving on to another question:

> Unfortunately, things are much more sinister if you are
> talking about external contradictions.  Marx did not believe
> that capitalism would be brought down by external
> contractions.  He thought capital would be able to resolve
> all external contradictions in its favor and then would
> succumb to its internal contraditions.  But the limitedness
> of the resources of our planet, which is now an external
> barrier to capitalism, is a task which has arisen *without*
> the means of its solution.  Dolphins and rain forests do not
> have political clout, and those who would have political
> clout, the working class, do not suffer immediately enough
> to be stirred into a fight.

Well, I hear what you are saying, Hans, and I agree with
some of it.   I think it is misleading to frame the question in 
terms of "internal contradictions" vs. "external contradictions"
because we are _part of_  the natural world  and we interact
with the rest of the natural world and each other.  Clearly,
Marx understood this point even if he did also assert that
solutions for the problems that humankind sets will 'inevitablty'
arise.  This is related, of course, to another big issue of debate
among Marxists (i.e. the conception put forward by Engels 
in _Dialectics of Nature_) which I don't want to get into here.  
However, I don't think that anyone -- certainly not Marx --
would claim that the laws of nature can be suspended by
capital.  What I don't think Marx, however, comprehended
satisfactorily (and this was a reflection of the state of scientific
knowledge in his time) was the immense *complexity*  and
*inter-relatedness* of  all matter on this planet.  That is, 
I think Marx recognized that there was complexity and 
inter-relatedness, but I don't think he comprehended  -- 
in the way that we should  grasp it now at the onset of the 
XXI century --  the *extent* of that complexity and inter-
relatedness *and* the recognition, which we understand more
today,  about what we *don't know*  about those subjects. It
is, of course, true that dolphins and rain forrests don't have
a political voice, but that's not the only problem here. I think 
that Greens make a valid point when they assert that humankind 
(and classes) often have a very incomplete grasp of the 
consequences of their decisions and actions.

In solidarity, Jerry

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