[OPE-L:1764] Re: Definitions and subject matter

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Sat, 13 Apr 1996 15:17:31 -0700

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Paul C in [OPE-L:1760] wrote:

> He also asks if it was only Marx's mode of presentation
> that was idealist. Was Marx's mode of investigation
> not as well?

That's not what I asked, Paul. I believe that neither Marx's mode of
presentation nor his method of investigation were idealist.

> Today we have a lot more tools available to us, so
> we should not demand that such hegelianism persists.

Of course, it is true that Marx was heavily influenced by Hegel and the
Hegelian tradition in German thought. However, your blanket condemnation
of "hegelianism" needs further explanation. We evidently differ on the
meaning of that term and its merit for "scientific" investigation.

> Insofar as it exists today, it is a second hand
> reflex of Marx's own training revealed in his work,
> an affected anachronism that all too often disguises
> an ignorance of the conceptual tools of the modern
> scientific world view.

... *or* perhaps it is based on a misunderstanding of Hegel's writings,
Marx's critique of Hegel, and the mode of investigation that Marx used.

> This is somewhat ironic given
> the meticulous care that Hegel himself took to acquaint
> himself with the sciences of his day shown in his
> Philosophy of Nature.

I think that Engels, more than Marx, was influenced by both the
_Philosophy of Nature_ and by the tradition in 19th Century philosophy of
developing a unified theory of natural and social phenomena. Indeed, some
Marxists today still believe that the same methods of investigation
appropriate for the natural sciences can be applied to the social realm.
Yet, while the social realm is a part of the natural realm, it does not
follow that society is governed by the same type of objective laws which
rule the natural world. To give one example, human beings have the
capacity to transform both nature and social organization through their
individual and collective will and consciousness. Rocks do not have this
capacity. Yet, people are not rocks.

In OPE-L Solidarity,