Re: [OPE-L] Marx and philosophy

From: Paul Cockshott (wpc@DCS.GLA.AC.UK)
Date: Mon Nov 05 2007 - 04:41:06 EST

It is true that some modern darwinists like Gould emphasise chance and contingency, but it is not clear that this was appreciated in the 19th c and many current darwinists are critical of Goulds position ( cf Dennet)
Paul Cockshott


From: OPE-L on behalf of GERALD LEVY
Sent: Sun 11/4/2007 2:30 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Marx and philosophy

>In the languages of continental philosophy and science (as contrasted with
>British empiricism), the expressions "laws of motion", "developmental
>laws", or "lawlike regularities" are quite normal and ordinary expressions.
>They need not explicitly refer to physical sciences, though sometimes they
>do, also "by analogy". Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Kant and Hegel all used
>such concepts or similar concepts to state the causally necessary
>occurrence of relationships, states, processes, or events.

Hi Jurriaan:

If you are saying that the above-name philosphers referred to such terms
only "by analogy",
I think that is misleading.  Hegel's understanding of nature, for instance,
forms (for him) an
essential component of his overall conception of Spirit (see the 3-volume
_Philosophy of Nature_,
the Second Part of the _Encyclopaedia_).  Philosophers of the time,
including those you
mention above, also tended to view  physical, natural and social philosophy
as all inter-
related and integrated.  When Marx refers to "law of motion" and things like
there is a suggestion of something more than argument  and rhetoric "by
analogy": I
think it is best interpreted as a genuine conflict and tension in his

>It is true that Marx said he aimed to depict "the economic formation of
>society" (meaning the expansion of social relations through trade, and the
>transformation of nature - both human nature and physical nature - by
>industry) as a necessary evolutionary process of "natural history", but he
>is thinking more of Darwin, than of Newton, i.e. of an organic system,
>rather than an inorganic one.

Even if he was influenced more by Darwin, the science of evolution is a
natural science,
isn't it?  One difference, though, is that in Darwin's thought there is a
big role for
contingency and accident in shaping the variation that occurs in the
evolutionary process.
It is a consequence of natural _history_ and not merely the consequence of
regularities. This conception is missing as essential components of some
other natural sciences.

>The application of theorems in physics and engineering to the social
>economy often leads to the > depiction of the economy as a sort of "engine"
>(discussed by Ronald Meek in "The rise and fall of > the concept of the
>economic machine", Leicester University Press,1965).

Yes, that's a big problem.  I'm not sure that it's a paradigm that Marx
_completely_ broke
with, however.  Again, note comments on "inevitability".

>Marx was well aware that he could not scientifically "prove" his concept of
>economic value in any absolute way. However, he argues that using his
>concept of value enables a non-eclectic theory of capitalism, i.e. using
>this concept you can coherently integrate the explanation of capitalism and
>its history in a unitary theory - "the truth is the whole", i.e. the
>coherence of the whole theory, and its correspondence to the whole of the
>reality to which it refers.

The influence of Hegel is quite apparant in terms of the conception of
Marx's which you
refer to above.

However, if "the truth is the whole" where is "the whole" in Marx's writings
on economics?
There are obvious pieces of the whole which are missing.  So long as one
keeps one's focus
on the real subject matter (rather than merely Marx's perspective) and
thinks of the process
of presentation in terms of layers of abstraction, then most of  the
"missing pieces" become

In solidarity, Jerry

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