Re: [OPE] Bhaskar as Marx's method?

From: Dave Zachariah <>
Date: Wed Feb 09 2011 - 15:02:12 EST

On 2011-02-09 14:22, Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> Either an entity is a theoretical entity (it exists only in theory) or it is
> a really existing entity. If we can deduce and reliably predict some
> empirical consequences when we ASSUME the entity really exists, then we have
> provided some "empirical corroboration" for the hypothesis that it DOES
> exist. That is a very reasonable and acceptable scientific procedure.
> What is not reasonable (an empiricist fallacy) is the idea that, if an
> assumption turns out to be a good predictor, that "therefore" the assumption
> is true. Because we have no proof that it is true, and if it is true, why it
> is true - it's just that if it was true, it would explain a lot; which is
> why we prefer the assumption. Point is, the reason WHY the predictor is a
> good predictor may actually be different from what we think.
Unfortunately this binary characterization of entities being 'true' or
'false' is not operational in practical science. Try it on any
successful scientific theory and you run into problems. Did Newtonian
laws of motion no longer 'really exist' when Einstein discovered the
laws of relativity? No, the very idea is a category mistake; they are
all more or less accurate *models* of underlying causal mechanisms. The
very idea that science 'proves' the reality of laws and structures ---
as in logical proofs --- is a meaningless notion. It is the capacity to
*reliably* predict empirical outcomes that enables the agents to infer
that their theories model underlying causal mechanisms.

In my view an old German philosopher got it right when he suggested that
"the question whether objective truth can be attributed to human
thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man
must prove the truth --- i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness
of his thinking in practice".

> In truth Marxists have failed miserably in completing the theoretical
> project of Das Kapital, but how could it be otherwise, if they cannot even
> agree at the most elementary level about how this project should be
> understood, and keep filtering it through alien theories, such as Smithian,
> Ricardian, Sraffian, Bhaskarian, Negriite etc.? Fred Moseley's or David
> Harvey's "literal Marxism" has much to recommend itself in this respect,
> except that they still mix up Marx's idea with Ricardian and Smithian
> economics anyway. That shows you how difficult the interpretation is, and
> why the "ritual" of verifying what Marx's view actually was is actually not
> a bad idea.
Here is a fundamental difference between us: The idea that the primary
goal is to produce some sort of 'unfiltered' version --- unaffected by
'alien' theories --- of the unfinished work of a philosopher. The
philosopher himself could probably not do it!

I think, rather, that one should take the fruitful questions from a
great thinker seriously and advance from them, which includes filtering
some of his/her works and bringing in alien theories. This is what the
serious Darwinians did with great success.

//Dave Z
ope mailing list
Received on Wed Feb 9 15:03:27 2011

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.8 : Mon Feb 28 2011 - 00:00:02 EST