(OPE-L) Further references to "Vorstellung"

From: Gerald A. Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Fri Feb 20 2004 - 09:19:48 EST

Re: (OPE-L) logical order and historical orderHoward and others: previously I wrote --

[NB: in a post responding to Rakesh, dated 2/11, I mentioned
"Vorstellung".  Note that in the "Introduction" to the 
_Grundrisse_ where Marx explains what is wrong with the
starting point of the population he writes that "this would be a 
chaotic conception [Vorstellung] of the whole .... "(Nicolaus 
translation, p. 100).  There is also a reference to "Vorstellung"
in the _Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right' (Cambridge,
CUP, 1970, p. 69).  In the latter context, it is written as part
of a critique of Hegel's concept of the state: for Hegel "the 
state is a mere representation [eine blosse Vorstellung]" 
(emphasis in original, JL).]

Also: there are also (at least) a couple of places in the 
"Marginal  Notes on Wagner" where "Vostellung"  is written:

1) "But this linguistic designation simply expresses as an 
image [Vorstellung] what repeated confirmation has made an 
experience, namely that certain external things serve to satisfy 
the needs of men already living [language makes this a necessary

2) "If one calls this situation, the fact that men do not treat such 
things practically as means towards the satisfaction of their needs 
but also designate them in their imaginations [Vorstellung] and
later in language ...." (_Theoretical Practice_, Issue 5, Spring 1972,
p 46 for both quotes).

Commentary: in Hegel, "Vorstellung" is a form of "ordinary thinking"
which is a mere mental picture which lacks necessity and universality.
What is wrong with "the population" as the starting point in a systematic
dialectical presentation is that while it represents "ordinary thinking" or
"common sense",  the necessary determinations of the subject matter
(the CMP) can not be grasped using that as a point of departure.
Yet, from the standpoint of "ordinary thinking" what starting point for
comprehending  social organization makes more  "common sense" 
than do begin with people?   In a similar way, from the point of 
"ordinary thinking" what makes more "common sense" when attempting
to grasp a historically constituted subject than to follow the historical
sequence of the development of that subject?  The reason, therefore,
why  the logical ordering is different from the historical ordering is that
if we were to follow the latter "common sense" approach we could not
grasp the essential nature of the subject since that requires abstraction
rather than a mere progression of mental pictures.  Nonetheless, there 
are times in Marx's presentation when the progression of logical categories
seems to mirror the progression of historical forms.  As I asserted before,
which Howard took exception to, this is "OK" but not essential for Marx's
reconstruction of the subject matter in thought.  After all, there are times
when what is presented through the process of abstraction happens to be
the same as what "ordinary thought" and "common sense" tell us, but it
is not essential.  This is also important because there are realities of the
CMP which simply do not make "common sense" and can not be grasped
through ordinary thinking: indeed, there are 'results' which are sometimes 
the reverse of what 'common sense' tells us.  E.g. 'common sense' tells 
us that through the process of exchanging equivalents, there is no 
exploitation.  Yet,  Marx's theory penetrated beyond the surface appearance
to reveal the inner nature of the relation that violates ordinary thinking.

In solidarity, Jerry 

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sat Feb 21 2004 - 00:00:02 EST