[OPE-L:623] Re: on unitiated students

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Sat, 2 Dec 1995 09:14:18 -0800

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On Marx and there being no royal road to science: This passage is basically
a paraphrase of one in the Preface to Hegel's _Phenomenology of Mind_, where
he takes up these issues. (So incidentally, "science" here has nothing to
do with "science" as typically used in the *English* language--it has to
do with systematic development of ideas; and it was in this sense that
Hegel said philosophy was a science and asked with what should science
begin. Hegel was basically criticizing the view that science doesn't
apply to philosophy (i.e., no systematic development is possible in phil-
osophy), *and* the view that the science needs a given "foundation." He
says that the categories need to develop themselves systematically, and
thus found themselves, so to speak. This discussion is definirely worth
reading, since Marx faced the same problem and dealt with it in a *somewhat*
similar way--

One main difference was that Marx eventually began with a concretum, the
commodity. He gives up the idea of moving from "the abstract to the
concrete," developed in the Intro. to the _Grundrisse_, and tells us
why he does so in the Preface to the _Contribution to the Critique of
PE_--he did not want to anticipate results, and so the reader who wishes
to follow him at all must pass from the particular (concrete) to the
general (abstract). In his Notes on Wagner, Marx again affirms that
he begins with a concretum, not with concepts (like "value").

Now, why does the starting point SEEM to be abstract? Because the totality
of relations of which the commodity is the "elementary form" are as yet
only implicit, undeveloped. The exposition of the text consists in the
development of the relations which the existence of commodities implies
(this does NOT mean that all of capitalist society can be derived from the
commodity--e.g., capitalist production requires also that labor-power be a
commodity), making what was implicit explicit. The criterion by which to
judge the success of this exposition, Marx tells us in the Postface to
the 2d German ed., is whether the real movement, the life of the subject-
matter, is successfully reflected back in the ideas as a mirror. In that
sense, Marx agrees with Hegel; it is not he who is determining the order of
categories, but--if he is successful--the categories develop themselves.

I'm teaching Vol. I right now--from beginning to end--and I find it does
help to stress that the development usually from what is implicit to what
is explicit. Another way I put it is to caution people about jumping
ahead (the royal road thing), presupposing more than has already been
developed, which brings in extraneous things. People want to latch the
categories onto specific determinations (a key example of the "picture-
thinking" against which Hegel warns), i.e., to *identify* concept A with
phenomenon B. This does not permit the category to develop and this
tendency is thus one I fight tooth and nail.

Andrew Kliman