[OPE-L:251] Re: MegaPost Part II of III

Paul Cockshott (wpc@clyder.gn.apc.org)
Thu, 12 Oct 1995 12:22:23 -0700

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I am not convinced that there is a fundamental distinction
btween natural and social laws, or at least a distinction
of the type that Alan proposes.

To reduce things to absurdity, if I as a
thinking being were able to formulate laws governing my own
actions, I could negate those laws simply by disobeying them.

If they were laws, you would not have the option of
disobeying them.

If my theory predicts I will go to Brighton on 6th May I can
falsify it by going to Birmingham instead. This is simply a
property of the nature of thought, which no thinking being
can avoid. Only an agency which I am powerless to resist can
compel me with the force of a law; such an agency is by
definition a Natural, not a Social Law.
You deploy the concept of agent in an inconsistent way here.
The theory you hypothesise would be a theory of what it
consists to be a thinking agent. This would enable predictions
to be made about the behaviour of such agents. In the sentence
"Only an agency which I am powerless to resist can
compel me with the force of a law..." you split yourself into
two the "I" and the "agency", but in the previous part of the
argument, the agency and the I are one and the same thing,
thus the I is the agency that compells the I to behave in a
certain way.

If one makes more plausible predictions about the agent
Alan Freeman - that he will chose not to undertake to fast
every Friday for the rest of his life, or that he will chose not
to put himself forward as the Conservative Parliamentary
candidate for Greenwich, then his apparent freedom of
choice can be seen as more illusory.

Thus the fact that capitalists are human agents, does not
entitle them to collectively `decide' to run their firms at a
loss. The Laws of capitalism, that constitute them as
agents of capital - albeit with the form of human beings,
prevent it.

What distinguishes social from natural laws, is not some
special spiritual character of the human organism, but the
relatively narrow and specific conditions of existence under
which they operate. The law of the declining rate of profit,
requires highly specific conditions for it to operate - at the
minimum - the existence of capitalist economy. The law that
entropy tends to increase, whilst not absolutely universal,
applies to all but a vanishingly small fraction of possible