[OPE-L:987] Re: Examples and texts

akliman@acl.nyit.edu (akliman@acl.nyit.edu)
Wed, 7 Feb 1996 12:51:07 -0800

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I thank Gil for his reply to my jigsaw puzzle parable. Unfortunately, I
find it less plausible to believe one can solve a jigsaw puzzle by throwing
out pieces, as Gil suggests the TSS interpretation does, than to believe
that pieces can but one another than interlock.

But the main issue I want to address is HOW to solve questions of interpreta-
tion. I say the text says A; the standard interpretation say the text says
B. We can argue till the cows come home about this, and it seems as if
were starting to do just this on ope-l. This is at minimum a very inefficent
way of resolving the problem. We're just not going to agree.

But I do think interpretative issues can be solved, because, as I argued in
several posts a few months back, I think the adequacy of different
interpretations is an *empirical* matter, resolvable in the same way and to
the same extent as other empirical disputes. It always amazes me that the
most "rigorous," "scientific" types often try to make interpretation a
matter of subjective taste.

I think falsifiability is important here. My interpretation would be
falsified if someone discovers statements in Marx such as the following:

"The values and prices of the inputs are by defintion equal to the values
and prices of the outputs."

"The value of a commodity cannot be affected by past deviations of prices
from values."

"The value of constant capital is by definition the same as the value of
the means of production. Constant capital is not dead labor, existing
value, that is actually transferred to the value of the product. It does
not really pass into the latter as a determining factor. Rather, this is
just a metaphor that means a part of the commodity's total value represents
the sum that is needed to replace the consumed means of production used up,
and the other portion is the value added by living labor."

I think it would be helpful if others think about specifying the conditions
under which their interpretations would be falsified. At minimum, this
would reduce the amount of effort spent digging up passages that won't be
convincing or persuasive.

Now, barring the discovery of such passages, how *else* can disagreements
over interpretation be resolved. I say that the most adequate interpretation
is that which best makes sense out of the whole. And I maintain that the
theoretical conclusions of the text are indeed a part of the text. An
adequate interpretation must be able to replicate the text's theoretical
conclusions. There's one exception--the text might be internally
inconsistent. But that must be *demonstrated.* An interpretation which,
using the same conception of value and price determination, again and
again, is able to replicate the text's conclusions shows that it is not
internally inconsistent (with respect to the issues examined). And if it
replicates the conclusions while other interpretations do not, then
it is a superior interpretation.

If anyone disagrees with this, then can s/he propose other criteria of
evaluation that are intelligible to all (and not stuff like the
sun revolves around the earth because everyone's always said so, and
it makes sense to me)?

Finally, I'm sure Gil didn't mean it, but one can infer from his comments
that the TSS interpretation is not a good-faith interpretation of Marx's
texts, that people have discarded evidence, constructed readings they
know don't make sense, in order to get the conclusions to fit. That's
one possible inference of course, not the only one. The only response
I can think of is to deny it. If anyone can think of a more publicly
intelligible (i.e., demonstrable) response, please let me know.

The really weird thing about all this is that the alleged "proofs" of
Marx's internal inconsistency were almost universally accepted without
complaining about the interpretation that led to the inconsistencies.
Now people seem very reluctant to accept the refutations of internal
inconsistency afflicting Marx's value theory. Why are the criteria
for accepting refutations of the "proofs" so different from the criteria
people had employed in accepting the proofs in the first place???

Anyone who is still not convinced that the TSS interpretation has
refuted all the usual proofs of inconsistency and error in Marx's
quantitative value theory, I ask you: what are your criteria for
an adequate refutation--criteria that are falsifiable in principle???

Andrew Kliman