RE: [OPE] science and scientology

Date: Mon Jun 01 2009 - 08:30:26 EDT

> Depending on what the question is, researchers might indeed comb Einstein's
> writings hoping to find an answer to it.
Hi Jurriaan:
Indeed. *If* the question was a history of thought question concerning Einstein
*then* one would have to examine his writings.
> Neverthless I think you should distinguish between the ideological practices
> of bureaucratic Marxism-Leninism in the tradition of Stalin and Mao, and the
> perfectly valid philological concerns of genuine Marxian scholars and
> Marx-specialists, and I think you should also factor in that:
> (1) Marx's revolutionary legacy has been bitterly contested. Hal Draper
> among others has shown how almost all of the academics imputed ideas to Marx
> which he never had, and how almost all the academics falsified or distorted
> his real views. All standards of good scholarship are abandoned when Marx is
> studied. Consequently it becomes necessary to "comb" through Marx even just
> to figure out what he really thought, because both the academics and the
> politico's are an extremely unreliable guide.
> (2) Marx's conceptualizations were often not exact, in the sense of
> empiricist categorization systems, his ideas evolved, and there are many
> unfinished strands of thought. In addition, the majority of what he wrote
> was never published. Again, it may become necessary to comb his writings, in
> order to fix more precisely what he really meant, how that might have
> changed, or what the nuances were.
> (3) Many of Marx's theoretical texts are difficult to understand, even for
> experienced scholars, and rely on interpretation. Even today, there is, for
> example, hardly even one commentary which really does justice to Marx's
> notion of the "law of value" and the "law of competition". Again it becomes
> necessary to comb Marx's writings.
Interpretive questions concerning Marx's writings are perfectly legitimate
if one's concern is hermeneutics. No one would say that history of thought
questions don't have a place in science. Obviously, if one attributes a
perspective to _any_ author then there should be evidence that this was
actually the perspective that the author had. And, where there is
contradictory evidence (e.g. an author might have said one thing at one
time and something apparently contradictory at another time) then different
interpretations should be discussed and debated by scholars in the field.
The issue I was raising, though, was different: suppose a _new_ question
concerning a non-hermeneutic subject matter (e.g. concerning contemporary
capitalism) is posed. In such a circumstance, it is frankly unscientific
and ass-backwards to approach that question by asking what was Marx's
perspective on an (allegedly) related question and to believe that the
answer to the new question will be revealed by reference to Marx's writings.
If we are serious about doing science rather than doing ideology then we
need to ask and answer these type of questions; we need to be self-critical.
Here's another self-critical question: is there any science where so great
a proportion of the time and energy of scholars in the field is spent on
hermeneutic debates concerning a founding authority in the field?
In solidarity, Jerry

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Received on Mon Jun 1 08:37:34 2009

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