Re: [OPE-L] Overdetermination & Science

From: Jerry Levy (Gerald_A_Levy@MSN.COM)
Date: Tue Jan 03 2006 - 12:54:43 EST

Antonio,  Ian, Howard, others,

Do Marxists whose concern is political economy really have
to take a position on the character of objectivity and
scientific research in physics? Can't we be 'agnostics' on that
question? (relatedly:  can't we be 'agnostic' on the question of
the 'dialectics of nature'?)

*To the extent that*  a particular understanding of the natural
sciences has important social consequences,  then we should
have some grasp of the issues (e.g. the application of laws
of thermodynamics to the environment?).  But, is it really
important  for us to take a position on quantum mechanics?

I'm not asking that the discussion stop; I just want to know
why you think it is important for us.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: we discussed the Heisenberg uncertainty principle  in
November -- December, 2002.

>  The 'strong' argument I will now add (and I'll have
> to preface it by saying that I do not claim the expertise/voice here
> that I hold more confidently with respect to the issue of social
> structures) is that, in my understanding, the notion of objectivity
> that the critics of postmodernism seem (to me) to be using is/may-be
> untenable (or questionable) even when it comes to nature. I am
> referring here not only to Heisenberg's original formulation of the
> uncertainty principle (that you can know either the position of a
> particle or its direction, but not both) but also to lots of other
> experiments/theories since then that seem to question the very
> independence of matter from thought ( a recent article in the science
> section of the December 27 New York Times, "Quantum trickery: testing
> Einstein's Strangest Theory," outlines the theories and experiments).
> In practice, scientists have chosen to ignore this, but it seems to
> me that the existence of
>   these theories/experiments undermines any philosophical defense of
> something "real" in the objectivist (mind independent) terms that I
> have been discussing.  Some scientists do not like the implications
> of these developments (but only on practical and philosophical
> grounds; they can't quarrel with them as a matter of logic or
> experimentation as i understand things); but that's not a standard on
> which to base a defense of "objectivist real" as anything that has
> structure. I myself don't mind it: I don't mind it for Marxism, which
> argued/s that we make the world (not as individuals, of course, and
> not under circumstances of our choosing--for the circumstances always
> involve us in relationships with others we can only partially
> control) but collectively (through dialogue, negotiations, politics,
> class relations, etc. etc.: overdetermination).

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