[OPE-L:1803] Re: subjectivity

glevy@acnet.pratt.edu (glevy@acnet.pratt.edu)
Mon, 15 Apr 1996 18:43:24 -0700

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Replying to Paul C's #1801:

> Not withstanding this,
> they are pretty closely tied to what is, in the last half of
> the 20th century, one of the key battlegrounds between idealism
> and materialism - the possibility of a materialist theory of
> human thought and behaviour.

I would say instead that the issues are more closely related to debates
*within* the materialist perspective, especially, the critique of
Soviet-style materialism since the 1930's.

> For [OPE-L:1769], the
> relevant input symbol would have been the message that I was
> replying to [ope 176x], and my current state would be the
> cartesian product of the states of my individual neurones.

You are not only a being of the natural world, and thereby subjected to
the factors which determine natural process, but you are also part of the
social world (a sub-set of the natural world). For us to *fully* comprehend
the events that lead to the writing of [OPE-L:1769], we would have to
know all of the ways in which natural and social forces and factors have
shaped your development and helped to establish your identity and

> The approach of treating the brain as an automaton
> has engendered a productive research program.

Brain chemistry is certainly a factor, but I sincerely doubt that such a
research program will allow us to comprehend why you wrote
[OPE-L:1769]. Moreover, although a research program may yield insights
it can not substitute for a materialist perspective which takes into
account all of the factors in human development, including (dare I say)
psychology. [And psychology is not necessarily the domain of idealism].

> In contrast, 'will' will take us nowhere. It closes of
> discussion.

There is no reason for this assertion. On the contrary, the discussion of
"will" should lead us to more precisely consider the factors, natural and
social, that affect that subject.

> I have a 3 year old daughter, and today as we sat down to supper,
> she pointed to the pie in the middle of the table, and asked us
> 'who is that?'.
> We explained that this was the wrong question, she should have
> asked 'what is that'. A who question, demands a person as an answer.

A nice story, but I don't think it's particularly relevant.

> "who transforms the world?"
> Why, the Great Helmsman, il Duce, those supermen who bestride history
> like colossi.
> Ask instead, what tranforms the world, and other answers spring up:
> maize, smallpox, gunpowder, the automobile, capitalism.

People as well as nature can transform a mode of production, no? People
are a collection of "whos", not just "whats".

Even Plekhanov seemed to recognize a larger role for individuals in
history than you allow in your post.

In OPE-L Solidarity,