Re: [OPE-L] status equality

From: Rakesh Bhandari (bhandari@BERKELEY.EDU)
Date: Tue Mar 01 2005 - 20:18:22 EST

Dear Ian,
I think you are right and I am wrong about at least a couple of things.

1. I think you have been right to insist on the equality of causal
powers. If by causal powers we mean the capacity for the freedom and
disposition to realize oneself through transformative activity, I
agree (following here to the letter Carol Gould, Marx's Social
Ontology, p. 172-3--an unjustly neglected book, I think) that each
individual has this capacity for self transcendence or self
realization simply in virtue of being human.

2. I was wrong to qualify any claim that genetics accounts for the
universality of this causal power.

We may still have disagreements.

a. I am not sure that bourgeois morality (whatever that is) or
everyday capitalist practice allows for universal empirical and
ethical acknowledgement of this universal human power, this species
essence. What were the conditions necessary for its discovery? Did
Hegel discover it in alienated form?
b. I do not think fungibility is simply the result of human nature. I
have in mind p. 162 of the Grundrisse. True, I can speak a language
a monkey cannot because of my genes. Genes are the cause of variance,
but genes alone do not allow me to speak, so genes are an incomplete
cause of my ability to speak.
c. I think we have disageements about how to think of human
differences and the normative implications thereof For example we
seem not to agree about the ethics of distribution, perhaps about
whether the ideal of mutuality  implies some forms of redistribution
that violate the (bourgeois) principle of equal pay for equal work.

But your posts have been very helpful to me, and have allowed me to
reconsider my position.

Thanks, Rakesh

At 12:48 PM -0800 3/1/05, Ian Wright wrote:
>Hi Rakesh
>Sorry for the delayed response.
>>  But what about an adult?
>Yes, there all kinds of more concrete determinations that prevent
>fungibility, and accumulation of knowledge does slow further learning
>and change. But so what? For instance, there are all kinds of
>mechanisms that prevent the law of value attaining is attractor state.
>Lawful behaviour of natural kinds manifest as tendencies in open
>>  Wisdom in our genes? To me that is a peculiar expression
>I meant that our genetic code embodies a theory of what is required to
>succesfully act and reproduce in a niche. It is no accident that boats
>have fins like fish. Evolution is a big inductive mechanism that
>generates knowledge in the form of species.
>>  >  This
>>  >genetic basis enables the development of highly adaptable animals that
>>  >may be socialised into an existing body of theory and practice.
>>  Again perhaps necessary but not sufficient condition for high adaptability.
>There's no perhaps about it, and I worry about the motivation for
>inserting that "perhaps". Where does it come from? Monkeys don't
>participate in the labour market. A necessary condition to do so is
>some basic machinery, certain innate causal powers. I agree however it
>is not a sufficient condition.
>>  But that's not all that separates us. It may be necessary but not
>>  sufficient; the divide is a historical product. I am interested in
>>  historical accounts of perception, cognition, powers. Isn't this what
>>  Marx called for in his third Paris Manuscript?
>That is fine. But how is it possible that humans can have a history
>and animals cannot? How is it possible to claim that the essence of
>humanity is the ensemble of social relations?
>It is possible because there are genetic differences between us and
>animals. We are genetically and socially determined. Kant discovered
>the necessity of the apriori, but Darwin showed that it had evolved.
>Hence, our cognitive biases are objective relative to a niche, and we
>need not worry about "things in themselves". Subtract evolution and
>our genetic basis from the concept of humanity and our own agency
>quickly disappears: we become mere blank pages that society writes
>upon quite arbitrarily, the postmodern death of the subject. Freud is
>forgotten. Flat ontology etc.

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