Re: [OPE-L] Hume

From: Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM
Date: Sun Jan 23 2005 - 05:57:21 EST

----- Original Message -----
From: "Jurriaan Bendien" <>
Sent: Saturday, January 22, 2005 8:31 PM
Subject: Hume II

 As regards social causality, I think the basic type of explanatory approach
 suggested by Ernest Mandel was of a parametric type - simply summarised as

 (1) in principle, at any point in time, certain courses of action are
 possible, and others are ruled out. This makes social behaviour

 (2) Decisions are made about courses of action, within that determinate
 framework, and a course of action is pursued.

 (3) By that fact, other courses of action become ruled out, and new
 possibilities are created.

 Such a framework includes both determinism and free will - history is
 viewed  an open-ended process, yet also subject to determinism, insofar
 as not anything can happen and some things are more likely to happen
 than others. A  great deal then depends on the realism of the assumptions
 made about what is  possible (at least the most likely possibilities) and
 what is ruled out. In turn, that realism depends a great deal on historical
 understanding, the historical-temporal context, i.e. the domain of what we
can more or less  definitely know. This defines perceptions of what can be
 changed, and what cannot change.

 An interesting early comment by Lenin on this topic:

 "Materialism provided an absolutely objective criterion by singling out
 "production relations" as the structure of society, and by making it
 possible to apply to these relations that general scientific criterion of
 recurrence whose applicability to sociology the subjectivists denied.
 So long as they confined themselves to ideological social relations
 (i.e., such as, before taking shape, pass through man's consciousness
  - We are, of course, referring all the time to the consciousness of
 social relations and no others - they could not observe
 recurrence and regularity in the social phenomena of the various countries,
 and their science was at best only a description of these phenomena, a
collection of raw material. The analysis of material social relations (i.e.,
 of those that take shape without passing through mans consciousness: when
 exchanging products men enter into production relations without even
 realising that there is a social relation of production here)-the analysis
 of material social relations at once made it possible to observe recurrence
 and regularity and to generalise the systems of the various countries in
 the single fundamental concept: social formation. It was this
 generalisation  alone that made it possible to proceed from the description
 of social  phenomena (and their evaluation from the standpoint of an ideal)
 to their strictly scientific analysis, which isolates, let us say by way of
 example,  that which distinguishes one capitalist country from another and
 investigates that which is common to all of them. (...) Then, however,
 Marx, who had expressed this hypothesis in the forties, set out to study
 the factual (nota bene) material. He took one of the social-economic
 formations-  the system of commodity production-and on the basis of a
 vast mass of data  (which he studied for not less than twenty five years)
 gave a most detailed  analysis of the laws governing the functioning of
 this formation and its  development. (...) Just as Darwin put an end to
 the view  of animal and plant species being unconnected, fortuitous,
 "created by  God" and immutable, and was the first to put biology on an
 absolutely  scientific basis by establishing the mutability and the
 succession of species,  so Marx put an end to the view of society being
 a mechanical aggregation  of individuals which allows of all sorts of
 modification, at the will of the authorities  (or, if you like, at the will
 of society and the government) and  which emerges and changes
 casually, and he was the first to put sociology  on a scientific basis,
 by establishing the concept of the economic formation of  society as
 the sum-total of  given production relations, by establishing the  fact,
 that the development  of such formations is a process of natural  history.
 Now - since the  appearance of Capital - the materialist conception of
 history is no longer  an hypothesis, but a scientifically proven
And until we get some other attempt to give a scientific explanation of the
 functioning and development of some formation of society - formation of
 society, mind you, and not the way of life of some country or people, or
 even class, etc.- another attempt just as capable of introducing order into
 the "pertinent facts" as materialism is, that is just as capable of
presenting a living picture of a definite formation, while giving it a
 strictly scientific explanation - until then the materialist conception of
 history will be a synonym for social science. "

 Lenin, What the "Friends of the People" Are and How they Fight the Social
 Democrats (1894)

 (This quote was the basis for a little-known work by Johannes Witt-Hansen,
 Historical Materialism: The Method, the Theories. Copenhagen: Munksgaard,
 1960). Witt-Hansen also wrote a number of books about theories in physics).


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