Howard : * But when I look in a mirror to change lanes there is usually no positive reason to doubt the laws of optics. Nicky: Why not? Optical illusion is not only possible but a key component of psychological testing. The question is: what relation do you suppose exists between this external law and your *judgement*? Likely your judgement is NOT independent of what you have *learned* in a lifetime about the relationship between yourself, the vehicle, the apparent speed of other vehicles, laws of optics etc. Likely also that nobody else’s experience is exactly the same as yours. On top of this, confounds must certainly enter the field if you have had a few drinks or a fight with a loved one, or you are late to pick up your kids, or even if you are just playfully thinking about your response to Jerry, or simply by virtue of the fact that human vision doesn’t actually correspond to laws of optics. So, on the problem of changing lanes (as on the problem of navigation in general) a moment of doubt seems infinitely preferable to me than blind faith in laws (of any kind). Howard: * Also, reference to authoritative texts by appeal to their authority does not develop science. But applying or extending a theory rich enough to explain the causal structure of some significant part of the world, including the social world, may take complex and sustained argument coherently developed. Fidelity to background theories we judge to represent accurately (approximately) relevant causal mechanisms is not submission to authority. Nicky: Again you are talking about judgement really, aren’t you? So, here’s a thought experiment. Let’s say judgement is required as to the accuracy of any particular explanation of causal structure, yet three people make three completely different judgements, all backed by sustained coherent argument for the preferred explanation of underlying social structure. First, “how” do you decide which of the three has the better appreciation of the underlying causal ‘laws’? More importantly, “who” will decide the criteria for comparative judgement? I can think of lots of answers to both questions, each of them open to challenge. So, ‘de omnibus dubitandum’ – at least until someone can show me how and in what way ‘fidelity’ is actually a better tool. Nicky Howard ----- Original Message ----- From: gerald_a_levy <mailto:email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> Sent: 6/2/2002 9:40:39 AM Subject: [OPE-L:7307] Re: 'De omnibus dubitandum Preface A: re , you're welcome, Rakesh. Preface B: after David Y's plea of "enough of this" in , I was prepared to let David have the last word in this thread and let this topic drop. Since Howard has entered the fray and since I think there are important issues to be addressed, I will -- pace David -- have more to say now. Re Howard's : [ *Digression* -- if uninterested in sailing, scroll down: > Since you are off to sea, suppose a boat at sea and no one on board knows anything about navigation. What do you suppose the contribution will be of "doubt everything" to getting you to land? < An attitude of "doubt everything" is *exactly* what is needed under the conditions you suppose. Countless boats and lives over the years have been lost following a navigational error in which the vessels were steered inadvertently -- often under conditions of limited visibility -- towards a point that the navigator assumed in the presence of incomplete information to be the destination or refuge but which turned out to be another location. The rule under these circumstances is never to commit yourself totally and irreversibly until you *know* where you are (just like you, as a driver of a car, should *never* change lanes until you *know* that there isn't a car in the other lane.) More broadly, "doubt everything" is an excellent perspective for all phases of boathandling and outfitting. At sea one must act as if all 4 of Murphy's Laws are valid: "contingency seamanship' is required. This is a life-and-death question for sailors. - End digression.] Howard continued: > <snip, JL> David is right. The question is whether the purpose of inquiry is to change the world. We don't act on the basis of doubt. Beliefs shape action. Doubt stimulates inquiry. We doubt when something in or relative to the beliefs we work with surprises us. We confront the unexpected in practice. This generates doubt and we inquire to resolve doubt. But to start out by doubt! ing everything is playing with inquiry. It is the luxury of academics (always doubt the consequence of class position!). It is doubt abstracted from practice. In other words, we doubt because we have a positive reason for it, not because we follow a formal maxim. Doubt must be real, living doubt, not just a formal proposition with a question mark at the end. It goes without saying also that being alert to surprise in a far reaching way is critical to success in science and political action.< The point that I was trying to make previously is that anti-authoritarianism was key to Marx's perspective and *should be* key to our own. This is not, as you seem to believe, a judgment which is made in abstraction from practice and history. Quite the opposite. An understanding of the history of Marxism tells us it is a vitally important revolutionary stance. *Accepting authority* has been common practice for many movements that considered themselves Marxist and *arguing from authority* has probably been the primary form in which debates among Marxists have taken place since Marx. Whether the authority figure was Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, or Gonzolo the acceptance of authority has discouraged independent thinking and has been a tool that has been used by authoritarian and beaureacratic elites in organizations and institutions. Indeed, one could argue that, while authoritarianism may not have been the cause of Stalinism, it formed a necessary ideological and social-conditional component which was required to keep the ranks and masses in line. In some cases, the 'authority figure' (e.g. Marx, Lenin) had to die first before the "followers" could re-cast that person's life in those terms. Thus, following Lenin's death -- against Lenin's explicit requests -- statues were commissioned across the USSR and locations were named after him. And, adding insult to injury, invoking his name horrible atrocities were committed by political opponents. Had a culture of anti-authoritarianism been prevalent within these organizations and institutions, it would have been much harder for beaureacratization to occur. Viewed from this perspective, the failure of many "Marxists" to embrace anti-authoritarianism has been a contributing factor to the deaths of *MILLIONS* of people in the XXth Century. It has also been a contributing factor to the cult-like status of many smaller Marxist organizations. Yes, we have been given many, far too many, causes for "real, living doubt". A good case could be made for us completely abandoning the term "Marxist". After all, even Marx didn't consider himself to be a Marxist. Justin Schwartz, in fact, recently claimed that "Marxism" was an invention of Bakunin who used the term in a derogatory way (Rubel however suggests that it begins with Engels). At the time, M&E and other 'scientific socialists' refused to accept that title -- in part, for anti-authoritarian reasons (i.e. they didn't think that their perspective should be identified by the name of any one individual). Interestingly, Engels said (according to Schwartz) that M and himself used the expressions "scientific socialism" and "critical socialism" interchangeably. As critical socialists, we should reject all authority figures: 'respect for authority' is a profoundly reactionary perspective. We should have NO heroes. We should build NO statues. We should idolize NO one. We should be the "followers" of NO one. In  David wrote that he found my "comment" from [72l9l] to be "jesuitical". Since David brought the Jesuits into the conversation, let us discuss the practice of the Jesuits. The allegedly "critical" standpoint of the Jesuits can only be comprehended within the context of their *faith*. That is, their faith leads them to accept all in "The Bible" as the Word of God. The question, therefore, from a Jesuitical perspective is not whether the Word of God is correct but how to *interpret* the meaning of the Word of God. In this sense, Jesuitical and Talmudic debates are very similar. They are hermeneutic debates only. The Jesuits, let us also recall, are a part of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and are *profoundly* authoritarian (and have a history of blood-letting in the name of faith, e.g. in the Spanish Inquisition.) In this sense, and in all other senses, I have been putting forward an ANTI-Jesuitical perspective: we should "follow" no one; we should have "faith" in nothing; we should look to the future with our eyes fully open; we should apologize for no one (except, where applicable, ourselves); we should be critical to all -- *especially* those like Marx whose perspective we to a great extent identify with. In solidarity, Jerry --- howard Engelskirchen --- firstname.lastname@example.org --- EarthLink: The #1 provider of the Real Internet.
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