[OPE-L] Fwd: [PEN-L] an ad hominem response

From: Hans G. Ehrbar (ehrbar@LISTS.ECON.UTAH.EDU)
Date: Sat Apr 15 2006 - 11:56:35 EDT

Michael, would you go along with the following modification
and extension of your text?

 Only an inner, logical argument can demonstrate 'necessity'
 whereas an argument ad hominem can suggest relevance and
 supplementary confirmation but not necessity. Thus, the
 'additional material' in *Capital* would indirectly confirm
 Marx's analysis of the contraditions of capitalism -- but
 above all it would show the immediate relevance of this
 theory -- by showing that capitalism is inhumane, the
 illegal behavior of the censors is indirect confirmation
 that censorship itself is bad, and the masses will embrace
 theory if it is relevant for their own suffering.  The
 'additional material' shows them that they must understand
 the inner logic of capital and actively combat the
 illusions generated by the surface appearance of capital.

I don't think Marx meant the word "ad hominem" with a
negative connotation, but I agree with you that there is a
critique of empiricism in all this.  An empirical realist
would expect that theory would grip the masses simply
because it gives a better explanation of the phenomena.  A
depth realist like Marx knows that the goal of science is
not an explanation of the phenomena but the ability to
change them.  This cannot be gained by passively observing
the phenomena but it requires the scientist to go beneath
the surface -- which is work.  The scientist must actively
dispel the self-confirming ideological fog emanating from
the surface of capitalism.  The masses will do this work,
i.e., actively engage in a critique of their own
sense-experience, only if they realize the relevance of it
(or if they are already engaged in a conscious, organized
struggle against it).  Instead of observing and reacting
they have to organize and act, distinguish between reform
and revolution, weed out the opportunists, etc.

While I was writing this, Chris's contributon came in.  The
supplementary materials are not only the proof that
something is amiss with capitalism -- the masses know this
already -- but they are also the promise that the work
involved in following Marx's logic will pay off by enabling
the masses to do something about the outrages documented in
the supplementary materials.

>>> Michael wrote:

> Very interesting, Hans. I wonder if we are not saying the same thing
> but coming at it from our own philosophical/critical readings. What
> you are designating as 'in contradistinction to "immanent critique"',
> I am distinguishing from a logical argument. Ie., that only an inner,
> logical argument can demonstrate 'necessity' whereas an empiricist
> account can suggest probability but not necessity. Thus, that
> 'additional material' would not prove that capitalism MUST be
> inhumane, the experience of the censors cannot prove that  censors
> must act the way they did and the masses (as distinct from
> philosophers?) need the demonstration of the exoteric. In this
> respect, the ad hominem argument is important for the purpose of
> convincing people but, Marx's use of the term 'ad hominem' (with its
> negative connotations) may reflect the perspective that an exoteric,
> argument by reference to empirical events, is in itself logically
> fallacious. This position has philosophical antecedents (Hegel
> certainly but going back at least to Hume).

Hans G. Ehrbar

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