[OPE-L:1062] Re: Definitions and Tautologies

Allin Cottrell (cottrell@wfu.edu)
Wed, 14 Feb 1996 17:28:17 -0800

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Andrew plays heavily on one point with which I can agree, in general
terms. I'm talking about what philosophers sometimes call the Principle
of Charity: other things equal, the most convincing interpretation of a
given text or discourse is that which makes as much as possible of the
text (or discourse) come out true. The objections that I -- and some
others -- have to Andrew's interpretation of Marx do not involve denial
of this principle. First, we think that this interpretation does
violence to the most natural reading of much of Marx's writing. But
secondly, I think we have to recognize that Marx, despite his many
virtues, was no master of linear algebra. It seems fairly intuitive that
it ought to be possible to come up with a transformation from values
(standard sense) to prices of production that permits both aggregate
price-value equality and aggregate profit-surplus value equality. In
fact it's not, in the general case, but how was Marx to have known that?
And further, on a Morishima-type reading of the situation this
impossibility is not truly damaging to Marx -- the FMT and all that.

Andrew's interpretation allows us to trash the Bortkiewicz critique, but
the cost is too high and the supporting argument -- in effect, that Marx
was sufficiently well-versed in linear algebra that he just couldn't have
made the error that is alleged -- too implausible.