[OPE-L:8056] Re: Re: Heisenberg, Marx and the uncertainty principle

From: Rakesh Bhandari (rakeshb@stanford.edu)
Date: Mon Nov 25 2002 - 15:33:36 EST

re 8048

>Why do you call it a "metaphor"? I prefer to call Marx's 'carrying over' an

Dear Michael,
You raise a series of challenging questions.  To discuss Descartes 
and Newton,  I would like to read the chapter "Science Without Laws 
of Nature" in Ronald Giere's Science Without Laws and re-read Joseph 
Needham's chapter "Human Law and the Laws of Nature" in The Grand 

>If the law of value is interpreted in "statistical or probabilistic 
>terms which in
>fact allow
>for uncertainty at the level of individual exchanges", does that represent any
>deviation from Descartes' handbook on how scientific knowledge is to 
>be attained,

I do think the conception of determinism was shaken by the 
probabilistic revolution. Again I would need to make an intensive 
study. Perhaps Marx brought that revolution to political economy?

>or any deviation from how the natural sciences themselves in fact proceeded
>historically in developing statistical and probabilistic methods to 
>cope with more
>and more complex phenomena? Are the "laws of gases" non-Newtonian or simply a
>further development of Newtonian physics within the same paradigm?

This is a very difficult question which I cannot answer. My guess 
again is that the concept of the laws of nature has been emptied of 
theological significance and fundamentally transformed by the mid to 
late 19th century despite their formally similar "quantitative" 
appearance to Newtonian laws.

>  Isn't the
>epistemic drive behind the development of probability theory in mathematics
>precisely to quantitatively grasp the predictable regularity in what 
>is empircally
>given (literally: the data) despite variation in the individual instance?

Well, the limits of prediction have been explored in terms of 
probability theory as I suppose the people at Long Term Capital 
Management had forgotten.

>What I am suggesting aims at questioning whether the phenomenon of commodity
>exchange -- even in an aggregated state -- is graspable at all by a 
>mathematical or
>even quantitative law which would provide a ground for this 
>phenomenon. (This does
>not exclude in the least the possibility of finding regularities in commodity
>exchange data by means of statistical and probabilistic methods. As Aristotle
>already pointed out, the discovery of empirical regularities does 
>not of itself
>amount to knowledge, _epistaemae_.) Such questioning, it seems to 
>me, is important
>in order not to uncritically adopt the (highly successful) natural scientific
>paradigm of the modern age and transfer it to social phenomena.

Again I do not think there is a natural scientific paradigm either to 
adopt or not to adopt.  The sciences are discontinuous and at odds 
with each other. We have not even discussed how Marx may have been 
influenced by Goethe's biological work as reflected in Hegel's 
philosophy and the biological sciences in general and thus possible 
non- if not anti- Newtonian influences on Marx's ideas about 
scientific knowledge.

>Does Leibniz' "grand principle" -- nihil est sine ratio, Nothing is 
>without reason
>-- apply to the elementary social phenomenon of exchange?

I don't think so at the individual level.

All the best, Rakesh

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