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

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Sat Apr 15 2006 - 16:05:54 EDT

Hi Hans (et al)
At 11:56 15/04/2006, you wrote:
>Michael, would you go along with the following modification
>and extension of your text?

Yes, I agree up to the point where I cut it. The part re the goal of
science in general and what the masses do is a slightly different
issue, I think.

>  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.

         A criticism of empiricism as science, yes, but the points
made by Chris and Jerry raise another aspect. All of the 3 usages by
Marx seem to relate to the matter of persuasion. So, maybe the
appropriate distinction is between logic and rhetoric. An argument
using rhetoric (the appeal to sensitivities) may be necessary/useful
to convince masses but it could not be said to imply logical
necessity (as in the case of vorstellung). So, one could say that
Capital provides both a logic and an ad hominem presentation which
could be seen (as Lenin proposed) as testing each step of the way
(ie., supplementary confirmation)
ps. do we need more logic or more ad hominem arguments these days?

>   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

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

Currently based in Venezuela. Can be reached at
Residencias Anauco Suites
Departamento 601
Parque Central, Zona Postal 1010, Oficina 1
Caracas, Venezuela
(58-212) 573-4111
fax: (58-212) 573-7724

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Apr 30 2006 - 00:00:06 EDT