Re: [OPE-L] equality versus equivalence

From: Fred Moseley (fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU)
Date: Sat Jul 14 2007 - 22:13:34 EDT

Quoting Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM>:

> Hi Fred and Paul,
> Paul, you mentioned in an earlier post that Marx's choice of labor (actually
> objectified labor) as a scalar was an assertion and was not logically
> proved.  And Fred you responded (to Andy and Paul, I think) by saying that
> Marx's argument did not constitute a logical proof, but rested instead on
> its empirical explanatory adequacy.  I read your arguments in this post on
> the strength of Marx's argument, but first I want to understand what it is
> you have in mind by insisting that Marx has not offered a logical proof.
> Equally (or is it equivalently?), Paul, I want to understand what you mean
> that Marx's argument about labor is only an assertion.
> Neither of you may intend this, but the argument always seems inevitably to
> sound as if this were somehow a failing of Marx's argument:  that he should
> have offered a logical proof, but failed to do so.
> For example, Paul, is bare assertion the only alternative available to
> logical proof in science?
> And Fred, does anyone offer logical proofs of such things?  Induction, of
> course, doesn't prove.  And deduction proves what is already implicit in the
> premises.  So why do we say that Marx has not logically proved?   Can you
> offer an example of a generalization in the natural or social sciences that
> *is* the result of logical proof?
> Thanks; I've enjoyed the exchange.
> Howard

Hi Howard, thanks for your comments.

I agree completely with what you say, and this has been one of my main
points (sorry if I was not clear about this).  Marx has been
criticized, from Bohm-Bawerk on, for having “failed to provide a
logical proof of the labor theory of value in Section 1”.  (Indeed, the
reviewer in the Centralblatt made the same criticism in 1868, and Marx
replied that this comment reveals "complete ignorance both of the
subject dealt with and of scientific method.")

But NO OTHER ECONOMIC THEORY provides a logical proof of his basic
assumptions.  The bar is always set so much higher for Marx’s theory
than for other theories.  Theory appraisal should always be
COMPARATIVE, so that one could not get away with these debating tricks.

I think that Marx provides a strong argument for the plausibility of
the labor theory of value, from his objective (or materialist) point of
view; but it is not a logical proof, because it depends on this point
of view.  Similarly, arguments for the plausibility of the utility
theory of value are not logical proofs, but depend on the neoclassical
subjective point of view.  The choice between these two theories cannot
be made on the basis of purely logical arguments, but should be based
primarily on the RELATIVE explanatory power of the two theories.  And
the most important phenomenon to be explained in a theory of capitalism
is PROFIT, and all the important phenomena related to profit
(conflicts, technological change, crises, etc.)


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