Re: Money, mind and the ontological status of value

From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Thu Jun 17 2004 - 03:47:49 EDT

Hi Paul,

----- Original Message -----
From: "Paul Zarembka" <zarembka@BUFFALO.EDU>
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 5:21 PM
Subject: Re: [OPE-L] Money, mind and the ontological status of value

> Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM> said, on 06/16/04, answering
> >... But my assumption is that exchange
> >value is a form of manifestation of value only, so the argument is
> >if EV, then V
> >EV exists
> >Therefore V
> >which is a pretty normal form of valid argument. ...
> Howard,
>   Why is the above "valid"?  You are still presuming your conclusion, in
the most obvious, direct way => "EV exists, therefore V exists"; as in: EV
is reality, therefore V is reality.
>   I notice that you haven't answered (or did I miss them?) either the
posting by myself or Fred M.'s, both on Jun. 7, concerning theory v.
>   I now offer "if EV, then Xenobiopsy; EV exists, therefore Xenobiopsy
exists".  Except for its unfamilarity, what wrong with my logic?  I believe
it is no more better, nor worse, than your own.  That is, both are empty of
content (neither V or "Xenobiopsy" add one iota to knowledge once EV is
known to exist), UNLESS V or "Xenobiopsy" is independently established.  Why
is this point so hard to understand?

An argument is valid when the premises lead necessarily to the conclusion.
You are right.  Your argument is valid.  There is nothing wrong with your
logic.  The difference between your argument and mine goes their respective
theoretical and factual contexts.  If the argument I offer is valid it can
make a (fallible) claim to truth.  Yours can't.  Here's why:

My argument rested on two theoretical background propositions and one
factual observation.  I appealed to Marxist theory for the proposition that
exchange value is a form of manifestation of value.  I took that as
established by Marxist theory.  I also took as given the statement by Marx
that "as a slave a worker has exchange value."

My argument is only as good as those theoretical propositions of Marx.  Do
you disagree with either one?

I then added the factual observation that slaves existed in the ancient
world.  Given the premises, the fact and the fact that the form of argument
is valid, I can claim that my argument is true.

You can't because there is no theory you can appeal to that establishes any
connection between EV and Xenobiopsy.  It is of course logically possible
for you to think of an infinite number of theoretical connections.  But none
will be persuasive because none is situated in the context of a coherent
discipline or matrix of connected theoretical propositions supported by
experience.  Marxism, on the other hand, is a disciplinary matrix persuasive
to many members of the OPEL list.  In addition, as you yourself have told
us, as a factual matter Xenobiopsy does not exist.  Therefore, though your
argument is valid, it can make no truth claim.

In your post of June 7 you ask how we know that a theoretical concept refers
to a real object.  Of course, this depends on practice and the theoretical
context used to evaluate practice.  In a different way I spoke to that point
in my own post from that date.  Given that real objects are causally potent,
Fred asked whether the same isn't true of Marx's theory.   Yes, theory
becomes a practical force when it is gripped by the masses.  We transform
the world by engaging it causally. What is less noticed is that real objects
engage us the same way, as Ian pointed out in an earlier post.  This
reciprocal causal relationship goes some way to answering the Theses on
Feuerbach question you raised.

The other question I did not address from Fred's June 7 post concerned skill
multipliers.  Fred wrote:  "my point was that the lack of an explanation of
the skill and intensity multipliers does not significantly effect the
explanatory power of Marx's theory (theory of surplus-value, endogenous
technological change, endogenous conflicts of the working day and over the
intensity of labor, etc.)"

  I think I don't get the significance of this question to points you have
raised.   I do agree with Fred's post of a few days ago that skill
multipliers are not directly observable.  In this respect perhaps there's a
connection between two of the threads running in tandem on the
list.  As Fred intimated, it is a residue of positivism to suppose that
science can be done without making use of unobservables.  The natural
sciences realized this a good long while ago and that recognition accounted
for the collapse of logical positivism not long after midcentury.
Life support continues in the social sciences.  Suppose
we say, for example, that a thing can be said to act only when it is
actually acting.  Value for example doesn't exist in production, but only in
exchange where it is realized as such.  Would we say that a person can speak
french only when they are actually speaking it?  We're uncomfortable with
the idea that things, including social relations, have powers even when
they're not exercising them because an unexercised power is not empirical or
directly observable.

The connection with skill multipliers is this -- the insistence that
everything be empirically observable tends to send us to the realm of
production where we can observe labor that is simple and, because simple,
substituable, the one for the other -- you can run the machine or sweep the
floor.  So we feel more comfortable locating abstract labor exclusively


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