[OPE-L:8115] Re: philosophy and political economy

From: Andrew Brown (Andrew@lubs.leeds.ac.uk)
Date: Wed Dec 04 2002 - 11:09:55 EST

Hi Rakesh,

Re your 8103:

> >
> >Perhaps we differ as regards our conception of the degree to which
> >matter is passive or active. If, as you seem to suggest, we consider
> >matter as somewhat analogous to the wood that constitutes a table
> >then there seems nothing inherent within matter to develop specifc
> >form. However, on my view, the totality of matter does have inherent
> >propensities to develop specific forms. Such forms provide the
> >objects of physics, chemistry, biology and also matter develops the
> >forms of thinking and sociality, as studied by social science.
> I am puzzled here by the idea that there is something "inherent 
> within matter" that leads it to develop specific form. I shall just
> share the questions which came to mind, again questions to which I
> wish that I had reasonable answers.
> 1. Does this idea imply a kind of animism or what Kant would call
> hylozoism (?; Michael, etymological help would be appreciated) which
> would seem to violate both the law of intertia and the second law of
> thermodynamics since matter seems to be arranging itself into complex
> forms of its own accord in your interpretation? 

I don't know what you mean by animism or hylozism. You suggest 
that the notion that matter does things 'of its own accord' breaks 
the laws of physics. I would suggest the opposite: the notion that 
something other than matter does things to matter contradicts 
these laws. What 'other' could there be? 'God' or Cartesian 'Spirit' / 
'mind', or what? What are the origins of the laws of physics, if not 
matter? Is there something external to matter which 'causes' these 
laws? I suggest that materialism consists in a negative answer to 
this question. Idealism, on my view, entails the answer that 
'thought' constitutes this 'other'.

 How did Schelling
> respond to Kant on this point in his Naturphilosophie? Was Marx
> influenced by Schelling's answer to (or treatment of) the mind/matter
> problem? John Bellamy Foster sees Schelling as a representative of
> anti Epicurean idealism that Marx rejected, but I would like to know
> more.

I'm afraid I am too ignorant to ask, let alone answer, these 

> 2. Should the focus be here on matter or energy? There is for example
> the idea that the stream of energy in the form of heat and radiation
> as it's impinging upon our inorganic earth with its specific chemical
> make up can or even must generate higher forms of molecular and
> structural organization.  The explanation here (though I cannot follow
> the explanation) is that the flow of energy through a system organizes
> that system because the build up of complexity promotes entropy
> production and energy dissipation (a common example being the
> honeycomb pattern of convection cells)? I wish I understood the new,
> very ambitious attempts to show how the evolution of complex form can
> be explained on the basis of thermodynamics. Haven't read Wicken or
> Depew and Weber.

I don't think that energy and matter are separate. Matter is 
inherently in motion; it doesn't need an external impulse to 
'energise' it (i.e. to generate movement). I wish I wasn't so very 
ignorant about the science of self-organising systems and the like. 
Probably, something like the scientific developments to which you 
refer do indeed resonate with materialist dialectics.

Many thanks,


> Yours, Rakesh

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