Re: [OPE-L] abstraction and surprise

From: michael a. lebowitz (mlebowit@SFU.CA)
Date: Wed Nov 30 2005 - 10:28:41 EST

At 08:21 30/11/2005, Paul C wrote:
>Andrew Brown wrote:
>  Nobodying is 'sneaking' anything in! The point is that premises *are*
>necessarily interrelated to the
>rest of the world. We can learn something new by fathoming their
>This is not sneaky, it's true.-
>I think it might help me here if you were to give an example of a premise
>that was necessarily interrelated to the rest of the world, and show
>how this is different from the method of successive approximation.
>I admit to having been prejudiced against dialectical logic after
>reading Hegels book on it years ago. In the context that you are
>using it may mean something different.

This may be overly simplistic, but begin with the commodity. Now,
after thinking about the commodity, we could introduce now as a
closer approximation to the world-- money, thereby allowing us to
consider non-barter transactions, the possibility of postponing
purchases after sales, etc. And, similarly, capital....
         This process of successive approximation is precisely what
dialectical logic and Marx rejects. His point is that as soon as we
proceed to interrogate the commodity, we discover that LATENT within
it is the concept of money. We are driven logically to the category
of money, and thus we understand the inner relationship between
commodity and money (and can never lose sight of it). Similarly, to
understand money, we must see that it flows from the commodity, that
the contradictions of money are in fact the contradictions of the
commodity. Commodity and money can never be externally juxtaposed (as
they are, for example, in Ricardo). Here we see the distinction
between Hegel's dialectic and the thesis-antithesis-synthesis of Kant
which Hegel rejected precisely because the second term in the latter
can be conceived of as external to the first term (whereas it can
never be in dialectics). Similarly, in this logic, we never leave
terms behind as pristine starting points--- ie., the concept of
commodity (our understanding of it) constantly alters as we proceed
to money to capital to capital in the sphere of production to capital
as commodities seeking money, etc.
         What drives this process forward in Marx? Something similar
to the process of successive approximation in that it is the defect
in the theory relative to the real world that demands logical
progress. However, dialectical logic requires that, rather than
dropping new categories from the sky (in what could be an arbitrary
and idiosyncratic manner), the body of theory must be shown to be
defective, one-sided, demanding its Other (which cannot be an
arbitrary addition). Thus, we construct a logical seamless web.
         Successive approximation is so much easier (and, as we know,
has often been the way Marx has been translated) but could you
develop a comparable understanding of the richness of the concrete?
To quote Hegel's Logic here: 'cognition rolls forward from content to
content. This progress determines itself, first in this manner, that
it begins from simple determinatenesses and that each subsequent one
is richer and more concrete.'
         in solidarity,

Michael A. Lebowitz
Professor Emeritus
Economics Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, B.C., Canada V5A 1S6

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