Re: [OPE] Odyssey and the Peruvian treasure

From: Jurriaan Bendien <>
Date: Wed Feb 11 2009 - 10:31:05 EST

The Cartesian (pre-Kantian) system of philosophical discourse is based on a few fundamental propositions, which are held to be absolutely certain and beyond doubt, and then from this basis an attempt is made to deduce all kinds of other propositions logically. In other words, there are certain first principles (assumptions), which provide a rational foundation for certain knowledge, and all other propositions must be consistent with these first principles. Descartes himself writes about his procedure in his discourse on method:
The first was to never accept anything as true which I could not accept as obviously true; that is to say, to carefully avoid impulsiveness and prejudice, and to include nothing in my conclusions but whatever was so clearly presented to my mind that I could have no reason to doubt it. The second was to divide each of the problems I was examining in as many parts as I could, as many as should be necessary to solve them. The third, to develop my thoughts in order, beginning with the simplest and easiest to understand matters, in order to reach by degrees, little by little, to the most complex knowledge, assuming an orderliness among them which did not at all naturally seem to follow one from the other. And the last resolution was to make my enumerations so complete and my reviews so general that I could be assured that I had not omitted anything which provides a rational basis for certain knowledge.

The Vatican bureaucracy developed a taxonomic classification of all the forms of good and evil, plus the correct response to them, with the ultimate pretension to completely define the moral and spiritual universe of human beings (every kind of human behaviour and motivation in this respect can be allocated to a moral/spiritual category). The idea is the you have a categorisation scheme which is exhaustive and complete, and therefore provides a cosmological system which is eternal and immutable; all conceivable and observable human phenomena must somehow be allocatable to one or another of the categories in the system, and the different categories can be inferred from each other. Official Marxism operates in a similar way: it offers a grand cosmology of dialectical materialism and an encyclopedia of concepts to cater to every aspect of human experience.

There is perhaps a superficial similarity here with the method of classical political economy which Marx describes, which also moves from simple to more complex concepts, aiming for a systematic understanding of the whole, but in fact the reason for this approach in political economy is different - it is that in economic life, almost everything is related to everything else in cyclical processes, and to understand the main causes and effects we must begin with some basic relationships in abstraction of all the factors that could modify them.

Jerry is so deeply convinced that he has the correct definitions and that I don't, that nothing I can write can alter his definitional faith :-)



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Received on Wed Feb 11 10:35:08 2009

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