Re: [OPE-L] ad hominem

From: glevy@PRATT.EDU
Date: Sat Jul 15 2006 - 11:05:44 EDT

Hi Jurriaan:

I had a long reply but it took too long to write and hence
vanished.  So, a quick and simple response:

1) I agree that the relation between theory and praxis is more
complex than many believe;

2) I agree that there is a danger in moving from a general
historical materialist proposition to a "very direct, immediate
connection" ... but:

3) *In general*, I think that it is valid to claim that in general
and over time the material practices and conditions of individuals
tends to transform their theoretical conceptions and world-view; and

4) whether this has happened in a specific case has to be addressed
with specifics rather than merely references to the general

5) Yet, individuals -- I repeat -- must be held accountable for their
conduct. This is a matter of radical and progressive  morals and ethics --
what some call "principles".  If someone makes racist and/or sexist
remarks should we simply say -- if this happens at a conference
of Marxist scholars -- "let's not discuss that issue and instead focus on
that person's conception of the 'transformation problem'"? I think not.

6) Does this mean that we should out-of-hand reject that person's
theoretical conception? Of course not.  But, it does mean that
the issue of that person's conduct is legitimate to raise and needs to
be confronted and hopefully overcome.  Indeed, I would say that in this
hypothetical case, it's important to confront the issue of the person's
conduct _before_ going on to discuss matters of abstract theory. First
things first.

7) There are some (but surely, not all) theorteical conceptions
which _require_ and _embody_ a particular relation between
perspectives and individuals.  Humanism is such a conception:
one can not be a 'humanist' if one is anti-people in practice,
can one?  Pluralism is another: pluralists (who are people,
after all) should (and happily, overwhelmingly do) reject the
false conception which says that "pluralism is about people not
ideas" since they understand that pluralism _must_ be about
tolerance (for lack of a better word) for both ideas and the people
advancing those ideas.

In solidarity, Jerry

PS: still in Belfast -- engine problems. Don't yet know when or how
much it will cost to get underway again. Translation: _much_ more time
and money than I would like or can afford. Very frustrating.

>> The relationship between theory and practice is thus more complex I
>> think than easy Marxist verities about the "unity of theory and
>> practice"
>> might suggest, and it easily gets conflated with questions of personal
>> integrity. However, the question of how theory can become separated from
>> practice in the first instance is just as important, which refers to the
>> problematic of "ideology".
>> I think it is typical of ultra-left sectarianism that a very direct,
>> immediate connection is made between very abstract theoretical
>> propositions
>> (that somebody holds) and (their) specific political practices, using
>> the
>> techniques of projection and transference.

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