[OPE-L] [JERRY] Disagreement or dismissal? [was:commodities/services]

Alan Freeman (a.freeman@greenwich.ac.uk)
Sun, 01 Feb 1998 12:56:35 +0000

Jerry writes (24 January)

"I think it emerged that not everyone likes Marx's definitions, which is a
different matter [from saying Marx's definitions were inconsistent - AF]."

Alan responds:

Indeed it is a different matter and I am perfectly happy with Jerry's
statement. If we can only start distinguishing between disliking an
idea and dismissing it, then we will make real progress.

If I say I dislike your definitions, or disagree with your ideas, we have
two alternative views with equal status. Each can be assessed on the basis
of evidence. That is a fair basis for discussion.

If, however, I say you are inconsistent, I have ruled out the need to
discuss your ideas because it is impossible for you to be right. There is
no point in going further: my logic has already established that no matter
what the evidence, your views can't be true.

If moreover I rule out *your* ideas on the basis of *my* definitions, then
as well as your judge, jury and prosecutor I have appointed myself your
defence attorney, which means not only are you unlikely to win your case,
you are not even going to get to state it.

This is indeed very different from simple disagreement. Though many people
do it without malicious intent, it is the effect that counts, not the
intent. And the effect is the suppression of a legitimate view.

If someone dislikes Marx's definitions, then there is nothing to stop them
proceeding with their own; but this must be mutual. Those who like Marx's
definitions need the same rights.

The problem arises because those who disagree with Marx, which they have
every right to do, systematically cross over a narrow line from merely
defending their own rights, into suppressing the rights of others: they
seek to justify their disagreement by proving that they had no choice.

But if they really have no choice (because Marx was inconsistent, didn't
give us enough guidance, 'missed out' relevant information etc.) then
another choice has been ruled out: the choice of agreeing with Marx.

This is a syllogism too far. In defending the right to disagree, it
overrules the right to agree. Against a relative positive ('Marx has a
reasonable point of view, though there are others') it asserts an absolute
negative ('Marx's view is so unreasonable that *only* the other views
can be considered')

I have studiously avoided ruling anything out or stating that any view
is impossible. On the contrary I made it abandantly clear that many
different constructions of the accounts are possible. I even proposed a
simple etiquette to facilitate collaboration among people whose
constructions differ. All I assert is that *among* these constructions,
Marx's is also possible.

I have no problem with dislike; against dismissal I will fight to the end
of my days.