RE: [OPE] Spirit and self

From: Paul Cockshott <>
Date: Fri Mar 27 2009 - 05:29:49 EDT

It is not a matter of a philosophical rant here, but a review by somebody familiar with the field of cognitive neuroscience
who is saying that Metzingers rejection of the self is not only scientific old hat, but philosophical old hat - going back to the Buddha.
It is also old had from a Marxist perspective too, Althusser was saying essentially the same thing in 'Lenin and Ideology', which
I think is still one of the finest Marxian philosophical works on the topic. We see the foundations of this argument also being
formulated in Pashukanis's critique of the category of subject in bourgeois jurisprudence:

" From a materialist standpoint, Buddhism might be prefered as containing relatively less
theistic superstition or appeal to the supernatural than its rivals. The teaching that the
self or personal subject is ultimately an illusion is something that modern materialists,
including marxists, would agree with. The Soviet legal philosopher Pashukanis (1989)
argued that the subject as currently understood was an effect of commodity producing
society rather than something fundamental to humanity. The French marxist philosopher
Althusser (1971) argued that the subject was ultimately an illusion ’interpellated’ by juridi-
cal and moral ideologies. Current materialist philosophy of mind (Selfridge 1958, Dennet
1991, Norretranders 1998, Churchland 1988, Churchland 1995) also argues against the ex-
istence of unitary subject. This is in striking contrast to almost the whole of bourgeois
economics which is based on the subject as an axiom. Thus philosophically, Buddhist
doctrines of mind are not antagonistic to Marxism."( Cottrell & Cockshott, AMBEDCAR, BAUDRILLARD, BUDDHISM AND SOCIALISM)

From: [] On Behalf Of Jurriaan Bendien []
Sent: Friday, March 27, 2009 6:33 AM
To: Outline on Political Economy mailing list
Subject: [OPE] Spirit and self


Much as though I admire your scientific insight, I don't think we should be overly impressed by the latest forms of bourgeois academic narcissism and reductionism expressed through pop psychology and philosophical rants.

We live in an era in which the elites are in reality profoundly insecure, indefinite, or uncertain about practically everything, and we should therefore not be surprised to find that this insecurity extends to the denial of the self and its identity as "real".

Metzinger's presumption is that the self is "a durable state of being", experienced by an individual and affirmed/projected accordingly. But this is again an instance of methodological individualism; the point is that the self ought to be interpreted relationally, praxiologically/actively and contextually, rather than simply as a mental blip and its projection.

We need strong selves to change our world for the better; if we doubt even the fact that we are really there, we are unlikely to succeed. I wouldn't deny that big ego's can get in the way of change, but without a self no change can be mastered.

The final bourgeois reification is when "the market" contains everything that is human, and we ourselves are nothing at all (other than what we believe ourselves to be, perhaps). What is really hilarious is how the Marxists cave in to the latest bourgeois fashions and trends without so much as a critical digestion of what they mean!

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Received on Fri Mar 27 05:32:54 2009

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