Date: Fri, 03 Jun 2005 20:52:38 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics! nearing the end game
At 07:17 PM 6/3/2005 -0400, chris wright wrote:
Materialism is not irrelevant, but abstract materialism is not
terribly relevant. Of course, being in the physics stuff it may
be more important. The dominant tendency in biology, sociobiology,
is defiantly materialist, however, and on creationism as utter
nonsense, the sociobiologists and the radicals have no disagreement.
And it needs to be fought, but it is fought on the grounds of
the specific science and the politics behind it is not always
clear to the scientists at all. There is an interesting discussion
of the different attitude towards religious sentiment by the Gould
faction and the sociobiology lot in The Darwin Wars and
it is very interesting. The real problem with the religious stuff,
IMO, is not the theism, per se, but the "why now" kind
Gould was much too soft on religion and philosophically incoherent.
The liberals who fight creationism know that it is right-wing, and
in any case the battle for secularism must be a united front. My
guess is your criticism is that the defenders of evolutionary biology
have no explanation as to why the right is in ascendancy and irrationalism
dominates. However, my guess is that an anti-capitalist rant is
no more likely to be successful than a militant atheist one, in
the USA, at any rate.
I am not confusing them unintentionally. The point of matter
is that some kinds of objectively existing matter only exists
because of us . . . . . . . . Do you expect me to believe that
that transformation took place without human thought? Is the manipulation
Well, strictly, speaking, manipulation of the physical world is
physical. But then, when you bring in human activity, we are back
to the mind-body problem, as to how intelligent action is effected.
That's a different issue, though.
Hardly, this is exactly where the treatment of the objective
material world as "matter" is rather metaphysical. It
tends to involve an infinite regress: what is the fundamental
particle? Where does it stop? If we treat the problem in this
fashion, that is where we end up and that is not very fruitful.
This is a distraction. If the material world = matter + energy,
it is still not ideal or spiritual. The fundamental particle is
not even at issue here. Damn, this sounds like my Popperian friends.
Do they? If so where? And theory would then undergird that theory?
This is where practical reflexivity comes into play, and I think
the point is in line with that idea.
Well, don't both Marx and Hegel recognize that the emergence of
their theorizing at their specific points in time is determined
by social conditions?
But that is a relatively different matter. Is our problem to
have a correct theory of our own to put forward, or to have a
standpoint from which to challenge or critique theorizing? After
all, the limit of Gil's point is that we also critique the abstract
materialists, and just as harshly. Is it a wonder that sociobiology's
materialism itself ends up rather religious in sentiment, following
on the critique of abstract atheism, of which Dennet, for example,
is extremely guilty?
Dawkins is just as bad with his memes. He has an ethical ideal
of human conduct, which for him is contrary to his view of evolution.
There's a dualism there he can't seem to get beyond.
. . . . I don't know what a Marxist critique vs. a generic critique
is supposed to be, unless a Marxist critique provides a sociological
explanation for positivist tendencies.
Yeah, I was aiming to paraphrase what a proper critique of Mach
would do, which would be to develop from the actual relations
of life from the corresponding philosophical forms of those relations.
Again, the only thing this could mean to me is a sociological
accounting for the positivism of the 19th century.
Indeed, but then is Marxism's domain galaxies? No, as you said
above. So our interest in science is not in providing an ontology
for it, but in it as a form of social practice.
I'm not sure if I've forwarded all my critiques of the ridiculous
popular lectures on cosmology I've attended over the past year.
There is an intermediate step you've overlooked, though it's implicit
in your critique of sociobiology. The "social practice"
of science is not a clear term, for it includes everything from
the scientific content to the economic and social organization of
research. But part of critique is critique of cognitive content
when it goes awry. If there is social content to the pervasiveness
of obscurantism, e.g. per Michio Kaku, then that would be an object
of investigation for Marxism, too. I think there is a relationship
between social disintegration and intellectual disintegration. It
is palpable to me every time I attend a lecture.
Indeed, I never claimed they weren't liberals. They are mostly
materialists and exactly of the kind defending metaphysical materialist
critiques of religion and theism of the sort taken up in the article
I posted a link to at the end of all this.
The liberal secular humanist movement has never been able to get
to the bottom of the social roots of irrationality. Their critiques
are valid as far as they go, but they have no social theory.
But are we clear? And on what terms do we differentiate that
reality? The discussion really revolves around what constitutes
idealism versus materialism, and my argument is that a rigorous
objective idealism can be as sanguine about the objectively existing
material world of nature as an abstract materialist. Once we pass
perceptualism and sensationalism, we are into different territory.
As such, to claim Lenin's point as sufficient for materialism
strikes me as actually wholly inadequate except at a rather crude
level. As such, Lenin goes no further than the sociobiology folks.
Well, this depends on the range of Lenin's claims. I don't know
where he does it, but Lenin doesn't hold to strict physicalism.
As for the differentiation of materialism and objective idealism,
the key ontological question is whether the material world is a
product of an ideal realm, or whether ideality is a product of the
material world. The epistemological question is the validity of
the basis of our categorization and conceptual structures of the
entities and relations of the world.
Darwin Wars: The Scientific Battle for the Soul of Man by
Andrew Brown (Simon & Schuster, October 5, 2001).
Date: Thu, 02 Jun 2005 13:14:27 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics!
I'm several steps behind in this thread. But beginning from the
beginning . . . .
The initial "problem" here is the lack of specificity
of the assertion, but it's more of a problem when people don't pay
careful attention to the wording.
Note the double-assertion here:
(1) People distinguish themselves from animals by means of labor
(the essential defining characteristic)
(2) This distinction is "conditioned by their physical organisation."
So actually, labor is not the defining characteristic as a bare
abstraction. The qualification about physiology implies all the
old stuff: Man is distinguished by language, brain capacity, opposable
thumbs, upright gait, menstrual cycle, etc. Indeed, labor for humans
as opposed to beavers is an impossibility without the requisite
physiology, which is a problem for evolutionary biology to solve.
So Charles begins with a correction:
What distinguishes humans from other animials is culture, language
and methods of passing on experiences from one generation to the
This is the essential point. The question about subsistence/foraging
is a subsidiary though important issue. If one uses the concept
of labor loosely, then it legitimately becomes the starting point
for the conception of historical materialism, which ultimately
has to be united with evolutionary theory (Marx wrote this before
Darwin hit the bookstands, let's remember), but which stands on
its own as a methodology of social scientific explanation. The "one
science" Marx cryptically alludes to in the 1944 mss is still
not here, and it will not be the science of history as we know 'history'.
All we have so far is the simple-minded conceptions of sociobiology,
which oversimplifies a systems approach to the interaction of nature
and culture. It also elides the mediating factor of conscious activity,
and its historicity, in the relation of man and nature.
This is the issue I was fighting with Lisa about around the time
of her death. As you may recall, Lisa was an evolutionary biologist.
She was in the process of sussing out Engels' murky dialectics of
nature, which she did not see as terribly productivecorrectlybut
she was also resistant to the importance of consciousness as a distinguishing
characteristic of the human species. I pointed out to her "activity
theory" as a perspective (I had recently heard Ethel Tobach
speak about it at an APA meeting), but she was unsympathetic to
the idea. Her speciality, BTW, was foraging (hunting and gathering)
societies. Anyway, this was one of the last topics we discussed
before her sudden death. Her efforts toward synthesis were, I think,
inhibited by the philosophical naivete of evolutionary biologists
and the scientific naivete of Marxists.
A few remarks now about emergent materialism. Note that Marx does
not develop an ontology in the way that Engels does later on. Marx
engages the mind-body problem and social organization as an emergent
phenomenon to the extent he needs to do so to explain human activity
and the nature of the money economy, in distinction to physical
objectsartifacts which participate in a system of social relations,
which cannot be grasped via the physical properties of the objects
alone). Functionally, physicalism would be entirely useless as an
ontological foundation of historical materialism and the analysis
of political economy. This didn't stop Otto Neurath from adopting
physicalism as the basis of his Marxism, which he attempts to justify
in an essay on sociology anthologized in Ayer's Logical Positivism.
I think it's [nonsense] myself. I've not read Neurath's book on
the subject. But to reiterate, Marx doesn't get to a technical analysis
of the mind-body problem; he begins from the observation that man
is a conscious physical organism and proceeds from a conception
of the nature of human activity historically conditioned by the
social organization necessary to produce and reproduce his material
Remember, by the time Engels' Anti-Duhring rolls around, the intelligentsia
is filled up with pseudo-evolutionist muck-a-muck oozing out of
all its orifices. This is what he has to contend with, and thus
he has to tackle a set of problems that Marx didn't have to worry
much about in the 1840s and 1850s.
Let us also remember that the positivist tendencies of the late
19th century yielded a variety of rebellions, including those of
irrationalism (Nietzsche and lebensphilosophie), phenomenology (Husserl),
and a backlash from the Catholic Church (ultimately Neo-Thomism).
Only Marxismwith all of its defects under the 2nd Internationalheld
the line against both positivism and irrationalism. But 'Marxism',
an artifact of German social democracy, in staking out and defending
its territory, was no more positioned to engage in a total synthesis
of human knowledge any more than mainstream bourgeois thought was
capable of accommodating Marxism. The other conceptual revolution
of the time was in logic and foundations of mathematics, which,
apart from its intrinsic evolution, was co-opted philosophically
by the emergence of the analytical tradition, which adopted logic
as its foundation while drowning in utter confusion on matters ontological,
naively thinking it could simply sweep away metaphysics. The mess
of the late 19th century set the stage for the philosophical developments
of the 20th. We have still not overcome the consequences of fragmentation
because we have yet to complete the reconstruction of intellectual
history as an antidote to the intellectual historical amnesia from
which we are all suffering. In Anglo-American philosophy we have
this phony dichotomy of analytical and continental philosophy. The
overcoming of this split is even phonier; it is predicated on the
incursion of irrationalism into American philosophy on the one hand,
and on the other, the tokenistic accommodation of irrationalism
by the analytical establishment.
At 04:11 PM 5/31/2005 -0400, Charles Brown wrote:
[Quote from Marx:]
Men can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by
religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin
to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin
to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned
by their physical organisation. By producing their means of
subsistence men are indirectly producing their actual material
Actually this isn't quite true. The first human modes of production
are termed "hunting and gathering" because humans
do not produce their own subsistence, but rather gather what
nature has produced without human intervention. , so to speak.
That doesn't happen until tens of thousands of years after the
origin of the human species with horticulture, farming and domestication
of animals. . . .
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 21:58:25 -0400
Subject: Re: Levins & Lewontin (was O, Dialectics!)
Nature: Reflections in Honor of the Twentieth Anniversary of Levins
and Lewontins The Dialectical Biologist" by
Brett Clark and Richard York (Monthly Review, vol. 57, no.1
, May 2005).
A couple of caveats:
Marx, through his studies of Greek natural philosophyin
particular Epicurusand the development of the natural sciences,
arrived at a materialist conception of nature to which his materialist
conception of history was organically and inextricably linked.
I don't like this sentence at all.
These British scientistsHyman Levy, Lancelot Hogben, J.
D. Bernal, Joseph Needham, J. B. S. Haldane, and historian/philosopher
of science Benjamin Farringtonstruggled to retain within
the emerging natural sciences the possibility of dialectical uncertainty,
and within the ecological sciences a materialism that yet allowed
for human action. Much of their work served as a critique of and
challenge to the renewed idealism in the form of a vitalism that
(while godless) was immersed in notions of a predetermined direction
in natural and social evolution. While change was part of this
vitalistic holism, the unfolding of the universe was seen by many
as being guided by an inner purpose or teleology."
I've read of late that Needham was in fact influenced by holist,
organicist, and vitalist philosophies at some point, such as Whitehead,
Teilhard de Chardin, Taoism . . .
Bourgeois ideology, with its opposite poles of vitalism and
mechanism, sought to justify existing social hierarchies, in terms
of domination that was biologically derived and teleologically
predeterminedwhether in terms of racism, sexism, or some
other form. The Marxist scientists in Britain fought against these
distorted developments, and particularly against vitalistic views,
advancing an approach that combined materialism with dialectics,
scientific critique with radical worker education. Their focus
on the dialectics of nature, though undeveloped and still at times
insufficiently dialectical, was thus not a strange, deviant tangent
of science as often alleged. It was central to many of the major
scientific discoveries of the time and a source of critique of
We should learn more about how dialectics was central, and how
it was underdeveloped. I'm not sure the proper term for the opposite
of "vitalism" is "mechanism", but it's certainly
the case that this polarity undergirds much of bourgeois ideology.
The first issue is one of mystification, whether or not specific
instances of either justify existing social hierarchies.
Otherwise, I enjoyed the article, at least as an introduction
to its subject matter.
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 13:57:21 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics! (and spleen)
On the second article referenced: Sociobiology:
The New Religion by Dr. Richard J. Blackwell Department of Philosophy
[presented at the ITEST Conference on The State of the Art in March,
The author lucidly outlines the dilemmas involved in Wilson's
position, but I find his argument inconclusive. Scientific materialism
is not a religion, and if a certain brand of scientist can only
assert it as a form of faith, I conclude that the scientist as well
as the religionist has failed to transcend the philosophical antinomies
of bourgeois society, which come to a head at the point at which
natural science meets the subject-object relation. Marx addressed
this issue philosophically (though not in a full-blown scientific
manner) in the 1844 manuscripts. Engels was essentially engaged
in trying to formulate a non-mystical materialist emergentism combatting
the pseudo-scientific evolutionary confusionisms of the late 19th
century. The author of this article breaks off just at the point
where he needs to begin to analyze why Wilson's attempt to analyze
religion as a branch of genetics cannot succeed.
Date: Wed, 25 May 2005 13:39:20 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics! (and spleen)
Just a note on "Against
Sociobiology" by Tom Bethell (First Things 109 (January
2001): 18-24) (a reactionary Catholic mag, right?). The article
is remarkably lucid, but I want to call attention to a couple of
You might think that the left would welcome the inclusion of
altruism and cooperation in the Darwinian scheme. But sociobiologists
had framed the argument in terms of genes, which seemed too deterministic.
How could a New Society be built if our tiny masters, lurking
inside every cell, hold us (as Wilson said) on a leash?
Such a vision could only discourage the advocates of revolutionary
This misrepresents the intrinsic logic of the problem, though
it may well represent the actual leftist response.
The leftwing animus against sociobiology becomes understandable
once we look at its major defect in a political light. Sociobiology
explains (in a very weak sense of that word) whatever
exists. But as Marx said, the left wants to change the world,
not explain it. The world that exists, filled as it is with injustice,
must be replaced by something better; a world without inequality,
for example. Existing qualities of human naturethe dissimilar
attitudes of men and women toward sexual intercourse, for examplecan
be explained by the usual, unvarying, and unfalsifiable formula.
The trait arose by accident, then was selected for. But the raison
dêtre of the left is to champion states, conditions,
and attitudes that do not existgender egalitarianism, say.
The sociobiologists retort that these things dont
exist either because the requisite genes never did exist, or (fatal
flaw) were not selected for, puts the left on the defensive. So
the whole field of sociobiology suffers from a bias against the
potential and in favor of the actual, and in that sense its
true that it does have a conservative bias.
While part of this argument is sound, there's a fatal flaw: that
the reason for objection to sociobiology is one solely of political
will, not scientific method itself, though this is part of the argument
as well. I strongly object to this statement: "But as Marx
said, the left wants to change the world, not explain it."
It's wrong about Marx, and it's wrong about the issue. As to the
"left", well, we need to get down to cases.
The article shows its Catholic bias by fingering materialism as
the weakness of the leftist scientists who would endanger Darwinism
itself by attacking sociobiology, and thus they must weaken their
own case. (Lewontin taught a class on heritability and scientific
racism I attended in 1975. I have at least one of his books, but
I'm not up to date on him.) Otherwise, the article is quite good,
though the conclusion as to the coexistence of religion and science
Now, if you put together the analysis in this article with the
conceptually confused debates on "dialectics" here, perhaps,
with luck, you will see what the issues really are. As a side benefit,
the article shows up the strengths and weaknesses of Popper, and
also implicitly demonstrates the relationship between testability
and the structure of theoretical concepts. Hegel, Marx, and Engels
addressed the structuring of theories, outstripping the naive empiricist
conceits of the time. Marx addressed the theoretical deficiencies
of German idealism and political economy. Engels furthermore had
to combat the pseudo-evolutionary concoctions of the latter third
of the 19th century in order to defend a coherent historical materialist
sociological conception. Sad to say, the fragmented development
of philosophy in the past 150 years, replicating the fragmentation
of the social world itself, has not fostered a situation in which
the accumulated history of conceptual confusion could be straightened
out once and for all.
Date: Mon, 23 May 2005 23:57:13 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics!
Any of these in turn: false, trivial, elementary. The silliest
examples are those which make little sense: the seed is the negation
of the negation; imaginary numbers are the negation of the negation.
There are better examples which never get beyond the elementary:
water -> steam = quantitative -> qualitative change. I'm not
bothered by this, though Sartre has an interesting counter-argument
in his 1946 essay "Materialism and Revolution." The problem
is, what use is it to prove the truth of a dialectical law by means
of such isolated examples? There has to be some overall systematic
way in which an analysis makes a difference to adopt a dialectical
conception. Most of these examples taken from natural phenomena
are either logically flawed or fairly trivial or both. Hence "silly".
A more productive approach would be to criticize the logical structure
of an interlocking system of concepts as being an inadequate characterization
of a complex whole. But this has nothing to do with putting some
real world event in one-to-one correspondence with some dialectical
The second consideration is the type of phenomenon under investigation.
Engels' unfortunate formulation of a unified system of dialectical
laws governing nature, society, and thought obscures the issues
and vitiates whatever virtues can be found in his version of emergent
materialism, which was historically important in delineating qualitative
distinctions that would show how historical materialismthe
analysis of social organization and its developmentfunctioned
as opposed to the confused logical structure of the vulgar biologism
and ersatz evolutionism that ran rampant in the second half of the
19th century. Biologism and evolution became master metaphors at
that time as mechanics had become earlier, and thus the formation
of a proper unified scientific perspective as biology was added
to the scientific revolutions in physics and chemistry, and social
theory/science (beyond political economy) was in its embryonic stages.
A pure dialectic of nature sans society and mind (which is where
emergent materialism becomes most crucial and remains so) may serve
some function, as a counter to mystification and philosophical confusion,
but the generic issues involved are not so easily formulated in
concrete terms, and the non-sociological (i.e. theological, metaphysical,
epistemological) mystifications matter in a more general world-view
sense. For example, the late 19th century saw a more unified picture
of forms of energy (though I can't recall whether electromagnetism
and kinetic energy fit into a consistent unified system at the timeI've
lost the relevant brain cells), a unity which Engels for reasons
I don't recall felt the need to address. And this was before the
crisis in physics that led to the revolutionary developments of
the 20th century kicked in, though a questioning of basic concepts
was afoot. In what sense can we say that Engels latched onto the
key philosophical dilemmas embedded in the physical world picture?
What mystifications did he address and what conceptual developments
did he anticipate (that involve only physics and chemistryfor
the purpose of argument)?
Let's fast-forward to Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
Lenin attacks the mystifications surrounding of recent philosophies
of science and the nascent mystifications of brand-new developments.
He claims that a conceptual revolution is under way that will radically
change our picture of the physical world and understanding of its
basic elements and their interrelations. These conceptual difficulties
show that a dialectical world picture of the physical world must
emerge. In a vague, generic sense his prediction was correct--the
interconvertibility of mass and energy, the intimate relation of
space and time and ultimately matter/energy, wave-particle duality,
the uncertainty principle, the principle of complementarity. Paradox
upon paradox builds up as physics evolves in the next century.
My point here is: to analyze the structure of whole systems of
concepts and physical interrelationships is a far more sophisticated
endeavor that to take isolated examples of specific entities and
transformations as validating instances of a dialectical law. The
problem is then to match up in a systematic and sufficiently delineated
manner the logical relationships implicit from a dialectical perspective
with the specific logical structures of scientific theories. This
is customarily not done, because the customary practice is to match
up nebulous philosophical sloganeering with empirical or theoretical
scientific examples. Hence dialectics never has more than an intuitive
feel, or, alternatively, bogs down in crudely delineated logical
And remember that so far I am restricting the discussion to physics
and chemistry. "Marxism" has a world-view interest in
what goes on here, even though it lacks a direct scientific competence
in these areas and a mandate to interfere. And of course natural
scientific knowledge is an ineluctable component of the overall
world picture and cannot be sundered from social scientific and
culturological knowledge, though qualitative distinctions are discernable.
And there there is the role of scienceand images of sciencein
the overall ideological life of society, which is where metaphorical
extension and mystification play a part. "Marxism" wants
to know why scientific theory turns into mysticism at the hands
of bargain basement philosophers and popularizers.
Once we get to the more arcane problems of biological entities,
including the emergence of conscious, intelligent lifemind
and societythe urgency of an emergent materialist perspective
(one aspect of dialectics) and the structural interrelationships
within complex phenomena (also codified in the word "dialectics")
becomes more serious and the arguments more compelling.
The basic flaw in the kindergarten arguments to which we are accustomed
lies in a simple minded triangulation of formal logic, 'dialectical
logic', and empirical examples. But, I argue, what makes dialectics
'dialectical' is a categorial overview of conceptual structures
on a systemic scale--the structural interrelationships of systems
of concepts and their interpretation.
Sorry for the profusion of rather abstract, nebulous language,
but I can't find another way to sketch what I'm getting at with
as much brevity.
At 03:50 PM 5/17/2005 -0400, Charles Brown wrote:
[Dumain:] Engels characterized dialectics as the science of
universal interconnection and elsewhere as the process of analysis
and synthesis. He had the right idea, which entails a far more
subtle level of analysis than the infamous three dialectical
laws and hosts of silly examples. Lenin characterized dialectics
as the breaking up of a single whole and the cognition of its
contradictory parts, which, while not very specific, captures
the spirit of the thing.
CB: Serious question: In what sense can an example of dialectic
be "silly" ? Do you mean "elementary" ? "Trivial"
? "False" ?
Date: Fri, 20 May 2005 13:14:08 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics!
Some comments interleaved:
At 12:16 PM 5/20/2005 -0400, Charles Brown wrote:
The demonstration that Mach is an idealist in general is the main
thesis of Lenin's book Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.
I don't know whether a reiteration of the main arguments is worthwhile
One thinks of Marx's comments about the need for abstraction
to make up for inability to directly observe in certain aspects
of science. Marx was talking about political economy, but it applies
to natural sciences. Just as the fact that we cannot as individuals
directly observe the whole of economic life doesn't thwart
a science of it, neither does the indirect inference of the existence
of atoms mean that they are metaphysical concepts. Much of astronomy
involves indirect observation and inference. Basically anytime
instruments such as microscopes and telescopes are used, there
is an inference, not a direct observation.
I don't think it was just the existence of atoms at stake. Mach
was stuck in the rut of phenomenalism. Dodging the materialist position,
Mach attempted to redefine matter as permanent possibilities of
Einstein essentially has the same position as Lenin on the philosophical
dispute Lenin takes up in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism
Our terminology is that Einstein is a "materialist",
with respect to atoms. . . . upholding the absoluteness of space
and time are not part of what defines a materialist position.
Lenin defines materlialism as belief in objective reality outside
of our thoughts, not belief in absolute space and time.
I believe you are correct here.
Never said Einstein had a preconceived ideology. In fact, the
point to be made here is that Einstein's arriving at a materialist
( your "realist") position based on, as you say, the
dictation of science, is pretty powerful independent corroboration
of the Engels-Lenin philosophy of science positions. Without starting
out thinking as Engels and Lenin, the great thinker and scientist,
Einstein, arrives at the same conclusions as Engels and Lenin,
and based on actual scientific work, very high quality scientific
I would word this differently. First, scientific conclusions and
philosophical conclusions are not identical. Einstein in many respects
converged with the (Marxist) materialist position in rejecting empiricism
and inductivism. His early interest in Mach was based on the operationalization
of basic concepts, hence a rethinking of the empirical meaning of
time. Beyond that, Einstein rejected Mach's positivist philosophy.
Einstein himself said that scientists are philosophical opportunists,
taking from various philosophies what is useful to them. But yes,
generically he can certainly be classified as a materialist. Einstein
was a physicist, let's not forget, and while he wrote about economics
and social affairs, and occasionally commented on the mind-body
problem, he never worked out a position and thus never had anything
to say about emergentism that I'm aware of. Engels & Lenin corroborate
Einstein in the generic sense that both realized early on that scientific
developments were going to force a new conception of science. This
has happened in a variety of ways. See for example Milic Capek's
(1961?) book on the philosophical impact of contemporary physics,
as only one example. Now physics and cosmology are in a turmoil,
and physicists are openly admitting the need for a revolutionary
new theory to account for dark matter/energy. They seem to be tremendously
naive philosophically, but the beauty of even the most confused
science are the mechanisms of accountability for making empirical
data cohere with mathematical formalisms, constructing some kind
of physical models, however bizarre, so that science can progress
even when people don't really know what they're talking about.
What scientific theory does Lenin dismiss on philosophical grounds
in M&EC? None. He criticizes empirio-criticism, a philosophical
theory. He doesn't criticize any physical theories, Mach's or
others, in M&EC. He only says the new physical theories
of that period are not a basis for ditching materialism ( your
realism), as Mach does.
I believe you are correct here.
As for Einstein's "realism" it was case by case.
Einstein took no position on "materialism," the idea
that everything in the world is in some sense material.
Lenin's definition of materialism in M&EC is belief in the
existence of objective reality. Einstein believes in the objective
reality of atoms, which he specifically disputed with Mach, who
coincidently was the main target of Lenin's book on the general
issue that the atoms issue is a specific example of.
Einstein made some statements that evince belief in God. That
would be non-materialism.
Lenin terms Mach a Kantian , i.e. dualist, shamefaced materialist,
agnostic. Einstein may have been more dualist, just not on atoms.
I don't recall whether Einstein said it explicitly, but I'm pretty
sure Einstein did think that everything in the world was material.
As for belief in God, Einstein was a Spinozist, and thus his "God"
was a vague impersonal concept. But I don't recall Einstein suggesting
that God was non-material or spiritual in nature. I don't think
Einstein really thought out this position very carefully.
Date: Mon, 16 May 2005 13:25:15 -0400
Subject: Re: O, Dialectics!
My recent encounters with Popperians and others reared in dominant
traditions of Anglo-American philosophy of science, from which Marxism
is excluded, have convinced me that a whole different approach is
required. Indeed, a rapprochement between analytical philosophy
and dialectical traditions is badly needed, but I envision the task
differently from Philipp Frank as well as from the classic expositions
of dialectics of nature.
Dialectics thinks the totality, the relationships connecting categories,
and the structural relations and dependencies of concepts. This
is precisely what bourgeois scientific philosophy lacks, and in
the social sciences, the lack is egregious. The old (Popperian)
saws of testability, criticizability, prediction, etc. are impoverished
canons of scientificity, and we need to dig deeper. What matters
about dialectics is its overall view of conceptual interrelationships,
and for this the old shibboleths of dialectics of nature are kindergarten
But dialectics is also needed to combat the flip side of bourgeois
philosophy, mystical organicism a la Bradley, Whitehead, biosemiotics,
Engels characterized dialectics as the science of universal interconnection
and elsewhere as the process of analysis and synthesis. He had the
right idea, which entails a far more subtle level of analysis than
the infamous three dialectical laws and hosts of silly examples.
Lenin characterized dialectics as the breaking up of a single whole
and the cognition of its contradictory parts, which, while not very
specific, captures the spirit of the thing.
This past weekend our local philosophy group, populated by both
camps of bourgeois philosophy, debated the topic of the relationship
of philosophy and science. I could not be present due to personal
tragedy, but from the synopsis I heard the discussion was pretty
sterile. I can thus see the urgency of combining a dialectical perspective
with serious (but confused and incomplete) mainstream philosophy
of science. Bourgeois thought, including pragmatism, is bankrupt,
but it provides the raw materials for a working over by a more comprehensive
Further comments interleaved:
At 12:08 PM 5/16/2005 -0400, Crosspost :)
It looks like that we are getting on Marxmail, reprisals of some
of the great debates concerning Marxist philosophy. In this case,
debates over the nature and scope of dialectics and whether or
not there is such a thing as the dialectics of nature. Certainly,
we have seen from both sides, arguments more than a little reminiscent
of the ones featured in the debates of the German Social Democrats
of the late 19th century, when Engels and Duhring were duking
it out, as well as later on when Lenin and Bogdanov fought over
the compatibility of Marxism with Machism, and later when the
Mechanists and the Dialecticians fought it out in the Soviet Union
during the 1920s (http://firstname.lastname@example.org/msg00529.html).
It is interesting to note that the logical empiricist physicist/philosopher,
Philipp Frank proposed a rapproachment between Machism and dialectical
materialism in his 1940s book, Modern Science and Its Philosophy.
He was certainly critical of diamat as a philosophy of science,
regarding it as inferior to his own logical empiricism. On the
other hand, like Otto Neurath before him, he was not unsympathetic
towards Marxism, at least in its Austro-Marxist form. In Modern
Science and Its Philosophy, he had a chapter, "Logical
empiricism and the philosophy of the Soviet Union," in which
he presented a surprisingly sympathetic account of diamat; basically
treating it as an allied philosophy with logical empiricism. Indeed,
he seemed to think that dialectical materialists had always overstated
their differences with Machism and that: "In reality, Lenin
took issue with Machism because it is in many respects related
to diamat, and he considered it especially suitable for him to
bring out his own teachings very sharply by means of a polemic
In Frank's view, the two-sided war that the dialectical materialists
were carrying out against both idealism and mechanistic materialism
was the very same one that the logical empiricists were engaged
in at the same time.
This seems like an odd assertion. Carnap completely dismissed
all metaphysical concerns, and I don't recall the others in a war
with mechanistic materialism.
In his view, the dialectical materialists were hampered in this
war by their embracing of Engels' three laws of dialectics, which
in Frank's view carried the "germ of idealism," and
which led necessitated, even within the Soviet Union, a perpetual
struggle against "idealistic deviations."
Well, they were hampered in the way they took Engels' formulations
as holy writ. And those real scientists who embraced diamat were
rendered incapable of rendering their notions sufficiently precise.
They understood the general sensibility, but stuck with the authority
assumed by the USSR, they traded off of ambiguity while tailing
In Frank's opinion a rapproachment between diamat and logical
empiricism was possible to the extent that dialectical materialists
would be willing to deemphasize the three laws of dialectics and
to the extent that they would be willing to avoid describing matter
as something that exists objectively, as opposed to instead of
speaking in terms of intersubjective propositions.
But this is all wrong. Dialectical laws aside, the Marxist position
on matter is the correct one, and Frank is full of beans.
Likewise, logical empiricists, in Frank's view ought to be willing
to admit the usefulness of dialectical thinking.
Meaning what, though?
Both dialectical materialists and logical empiricists should,
for Frank, be willing to endorse what he called the "doctrine
of concrete truth," in which the truth of propositions is
judged in terms of the practical conclusions that follow from
them, with their validity being assessed in terms of their consequences
for practical life.
I don't think this is a valid conception of concreteness. I recognize
an implicit reference to Lenin, but even there the analogy is naive.
Frank noted the similarities of the "doctrine of concrete
truth" to the doctrines of the American pragmatists, and
so he suggested that logical empiricism, pragmatism, and dialectical
materialism ought to be regarded as allied philosophies.
What nonsense. Of course, we have a one-man example of the alliance
of the latter two in young Sidney Hook.
Of course it should be noted that there was a history between
Frank and Lenin. When Frank was only about 24 years old, Lenin
singled him out for criticism in his Materialism and Empiriocriticism,
when he attacked him as a Kantian, for having embraced Poincare's
(There is a story, that decades later during the McCarthy period,
when Frank came under investigation by the FBI for his support
for progressive causes, Frank pointed out this passage to the
special agents who were assigned to speak with him, and that seemed
to leave them satisfied).
On the other hand, it seems to me that the dialectical materialist
tradition addressed certain issues that were not necessarily dealt
with in the most satisfactory manner in the logical empiricist
and analytical philosophy traditions: for example the issue of
emergentism versus reductionism. I remember Ralph Dumain pointing
out . . . that most of the anglophone literature on this issue
neglects the contributions of Hegel, Engels and indeed of the
Soviets, while focusing most of its attention to the British emergentists.
Right, and I also said the standard reference works fail to distinguish
between materialist and idealist emergentism. We have representative
of both in our group. I will add that our main Popperian, following
Popper, rejects "materialism" as a label for his position
based on the very limited way the term is usually applied in this
neck of the woods.
The overall point is that all wings of bourgeois philosophy are
inadequate for fulfilling the synthetic functions of philosophy.
The Soviets had their limits and were severely held back by dogmatism
and repression, but the very fact that they had to show themselves
superior to the dominant ideologies of the west meant that they
could at least criticize the assumptions, structures, and dynamics
of the various schools of bourgeois philosophy. Immersed in the
bourgeois capital of the world, and coming into contact with the
type of intellectuals I do, I can testify to their bankruptcy on
all profound issues. And I'll add I've never met a pragmatist who
was capable of stringing two coherent thoughts together.
Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 11:13:53 -0400
Subject: Re: May 9 book talk: is pop culture making us smarter?
Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making
Us Smarter by Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson's book talk was videotaped and will probably end
up on C-Span. He gave an overview of his book, beginning with an
autobiographical account of a baseball dice game he played as a
child back in the 1970s, before the age of video games, which, although
its content was banal, exercised his mental operations to the point
where he is convinced his intellectual faculties were improved as
a result. His book is an attempt to interject a different viewpoint
into the debate whether key aspects of popular culturevideo
games and televisionare bad or worse. Television reached its
nadir in the late '70s, when network executives programmed dullness
and banality under the assumptions of Least Offensive Programming,
but the market now operates on longevity (syndication, DVD sales,
weblogs, etc.) and capitalizes on the fact that people really want
to be challenged. Television, for example, has become much more
complex and challenging, since the days when Hill Street Blues first
baffled the critics with its plot complexities. In fact, people
have become capable of processing exceedingly complex plot structures
with subtle allusions to past events, and are willing to watch their
favorite shows over and over in syndication or via videotapes and
DVDs to capture all the nuances. An argument can be made that the
interactivity of these media exercise the brain in ways in which
print media cannot. IQ scores are up, and there are other indicators
that people are becoming more intelligent, not less. As for the
socially deleterious fallout from this culturetoo much violence
and exploitative sexan argument can also be made that TV and
video as causal factors really don't really count and that violent
crime is down and moral values have not disappeared.
At the end of the book, and to a lesser extent in the talk, Johnson
also engaged the downside, i.e. the virtues of print culture that
video culture cannot match: the value of books for long involved
logical argument, and the superiority of novels for detailing the
inner life. He talked about the modernist novel and 19th century
Russian novels and his own engagement with literature.
All this was interesting, and, within the parameters of his specific
argument, intelligently argued. However, there was a fundamental
contradiction in his thesis that I pointed out to him in the Q &
A. (Most of the questioners were oldsters and skeptics.) His emphasis
was on the exercise of formal cognitive operations (by which we
exercise and thus develop our intelligence), but he admitted the
sacrifice of content. Beginning with his noncomputerized baseball
dice game, and moving on to the exceeding complexity and problem-solving
requirements of computer games, and then to the complexities of
contemporary television, all of this thrives on being challenged
rather than dull and passive and in this respect develop's one's
cognitive faculties. As with chess, the content doesn't matter,
but rather the complexity of structural relationships. I made a
mental note of this, and when he pointed out diagrams in the book
by which one could compare the social mapping required to follow
the TV series Dallas over two decades ago with the far more intricate
structural relationships between characters in a contemporary TV
series, it all came together for me.
And this is where I challenged him. I told him: you admit that
the complexity of formal operations comes at the cost of content,
but this is precisely the issue. Who cares how complex the formal
structures of contemporary entertainment when the content becomes
more and more infantile and idiotic? And you've left out the factor
of critical thinking, which is exercised less and less. If you go
back to the early 60s when I was growing up, you'll find, in spite
of severe censorship and social restrictions, far better dramatic
writing and developed characters. Television series had more real
people in them, the acting was better and more focused, and the
writing was more literate. The best dramatic series in American
television was Route 66, with the most literate writing,
the most pathos, the most intensity, the most human character, and
that's what you don't have in the cartoonish world of today. Why?
Because people who wrote for television did not grow up watching
television and then got degrees in media studies; they grew up reading
books and then lived real lives. Furthermore, literacy is the only
means by which people have ever developed critical thought and personal
identity. It is print culture that lifted people out of poverty
and gave them individual identity.
While Johnson had no argument with the value of print culture,
he disagreed with me on every other point. Tellingly, he was capable
of referencing only the bad television of the '70s (and it was a
low point, I wasn't even watching), and admitted he wasn't talking
about the 'golden era' of TV in the '50s, to which he added the
early '60s to cover my objection. I'm not sure how old he is, but
obviously he's a good decade younger than me, which means his memory
is shorter and his perspective different.
My guess is that the limitation of his perspective here has some
deep relation with the likely content of his book on emergence.
Both thrive on an uncritical relationship to the contemporary capitalist
marketplace and the overarching political and economic logic of
our time. His claim that we are better equipped to navigate contemporary
complexities of social organization only means, as in video games,
we are better equipped to survive a death-dealing structural complex
without getting shot down, rather than to change it or even critically
question its assumptions. And this is moral bankruptcy of the highest
Date: Mon, 09 May 2005 21:53:36 -0400
Subject: May 9 book talk: is pop culture making us smarter?
I just returned home from the book talk. I'll have more to say
about it later. The author gave an oral overview of his argument.
Most of the Q&A came from the older generation, not completely
buying the argument. I pointed out a fundamental contradiction in
the author's thesis. More on that to come.
For now, I should mention that not only do I not subscribe to
conservative objectors to media/pop culture, but I also don't belong
to the liberal (if that's what they are) fuddy-duddies like Neil
Postman whose complaints about 'amusing ourselves to death' may
contain valid objections but a rather superficial analytical basis.
I know a little about Postman's media ecology graduate program and
the socially responsible yuppies it attracts, and I find something
about it as superficial as the video game culture it criticizes.
But that too requires another disquisition.
Date: Mon, 09 May 2005 13:25:12 -0400
Subject: Re: May 9 book talk: is pop culture making us smarter?
You are referring to Emergence:
The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
by Steven Johnson. I think I have run across this title somewhere
before. Frankly, it looks like hype and drivel to me, which seems
to be what this author is into. I wonder how old he is, because
he exhibits the superficiality so characteristic of the younger
generation, that knows nothing but hype, bullshit, and meaningless
distraction. . . .
. . . The problem I see here is a conflation of two meanings or
applications of the term I tend to think of as different. This book
apparently deals with emergent behavior, or the unpredictable patterns
emerging from complex interactions. I think though that emergent
properties historically referred to more fundamental ontological
questions about the levels of organization of matter, studied by
the sciences of physics, chemistry, biology, and the social and
behavioral sciences. I don't see these two uses of the term 'emergence'
as having the same referents. Emergent behavioral patterns, emergent
entities, emergent laws of natureare these all the same thing?
I have my doubts, apart from the propagandistic dimension that this
book seems to embody.
Date: Mon, 09 May 2005 05:47:57 -0400
Subject: Re: May 9 book talk: is pop culture making us smarter?
Upcoming book talk: Everything
Bad Is Good for You: How Today's Popular Culture Is Actually Making
Us Smarter by Steven Johnson.
Aside from speed, stimulation of brain areas, etc., there are
issues of the level of mental activity, reflectiveness, depth, and
nervous distraction. (I doubt, BTW, that anyone found anything different
about Einstein's brain once Einstein was no longer in it.) The video
game mentality has proven quite useful for bombing civilian populations
into oblivion on behalf of imperialist adventurism.
Otherwise, I see it as a harmful distraction for people rendered
incapable of just being, of savoring their environment and the companionship
of their neighbors, of keeping their minds clear of noise and chatter.
I can still vaguely recall when the first computerized arcade games
came out in the late 70s, at a time when I didn't own a television
and spent time hiking in the woods. I had a bad feeling about this
phenomenon then. I was reminded of Ray Bradbury's The Martian
Chronicles and Fahrenheit 451, which, inter alia, constituted
criticism of just this mentality three decades earlier. But I guess
I missed out on developing lightning fast reflexes suitable for
participating in bombing raids and drive-by shootings. However,
I have been told that I engage in lightning-fast thinking on a whole
What this dumbass author describes is just the problem of the
current "postmodern" generation: all stimuli are on the
same level, there is no coherence, no reflectiveness, or depth,
just navigating uncritically the surface-level logistics of a world
gone psychotic. Really, it's sickening.
At 06:01 PM 5/7/2005 -0400, you wrote:
The same author has also written a book on emergence:
The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software
by Steven Johnson]
Fri, 29 Apr 2005 09:40:10 -0400
string theory lecture
I attended this lecture yesterday evening. The food at the reception
was great, and not just the stuffed grape leaves. Eating too much
of it made me drowsy and I lost consciousness a few times while
listening to Nima Arkani-Hamed's presentation, and he talked overtime
for 20-30 minutes. You should check the web page indicated for an
abstract of his talk. Perhaps another time I'll attempt to elaborate
on what I understood of 'naturalness', "fine tuning', the three
scales, and the nature of the multiverse. Key to all this is the
search for new physical principles to explain what goes on inside
the Big Bang, as space and time are now seen as emergent properties,
and the shift in what needs to be explained by physics overall,
which is not physical laws as of old, but the parameters which govern
I always have doubts about popularizations of cosmologies, as
most are very dubious, but this one was reasonably responsible,
with minimal dipping into the actual science (a few equations).
I remain philosophically skeptical of many claims, but the speaker
emphasized the need for empirical testability of key aspects of
the new string and supersymmetry theories. which will be enabled
by the Large Hadron Collider in 2007. I've written elsewhere of
what bothers me about strict mathematical/observational/experimental
empiricism on one end running off into naive metaphysics at the
other, but this was a more interesting presentation than most. However,
I lost the logic of the discussion near the end when the speaker
discussed the Anthropic Principle and declared himself an atheist
in opposition. In the multiverse, a stable universe like ours is
a rarity, just like intelligent life on a habitable planet is a
rare accident in our universe, not necessarily requiring any deep
explanation to explain its possibility (this is where parameters
come in), so in terms of physical theory, our existence "matters"
even less with the multiverse.
I'm assuming the reason he threw this in was because of the nature
of the series of which this lecture was a part: AAAS Dialogue on
Science, Ethics, and Religion Seminar Series.
The physicist's lecture should have been enough for one evening,
esp. since I was groggy digesting my food, but the second speaker,
James B. Miller, took up the theology angle. While this very fact
alone would have made me furious, he was pretty decent for the most
part, disavowing all arguments for intelligent design and natural
theology (e.g. Paley, 1802). He said this was the cardinal error
of all attempts to colonize science for religion, to look for evidences
of God from facts and theories about nature. Positive natural theology
is a loser. But there is another kind, negative or 'postmodern',
which has a different aim, to use the progress of science to falsify
conceptions about God and the universe rendered obsolete by scientific
knowledge, and to alter the metaphorical landscape of God talk.
But finally he justified being 'religious' (spirituality) as opposed
to 'religion' by indulging in semantic weaseling.
Finally, after all this, there were some questions from the audience.
A former member of Café Philo, who was into Jung and 'ontology'
(part of the 'anti-scientific wing' of Philo in its earlier days),
was one of the questioners. I took off from Miller's tacit confession
that religion has no place in science to question the need for Arkani-Hamed
to even discuss it. Miller weaseled out of his confession with his
ambiguous definition of religion, and Arkani-Hamed explained once
again why accounting for parameters is the cutting edge of science
now. Then, some obnoxious woman sounded like she was a product of
a Great Books program declared herself a philosopher and took too
much time arguing with both the speakers on science and the existence
of God. Arkani-Hamed admitted he could tolerate deism, but as a
pragmatist only cared about the issue insofar as religion treads
on science's turf. I don't think this was an adequate response,
but I also don't think many scientists are profound philosophers,
which brings me to my next point.
If there were to be a dialogue at all, I think a philosopher of
science should have participated, esp. in light of the perpetual
problems of popularization in America, which is rarely divorced
from religious obscurantism. This is a nation of illiterate know-nothing
ignoramuses that need a good kick in the ass rather than a coddling.
I am opposed to any dialogue of any kind between science and religion,
and I take it as an alarming sign of the times when scientific societies
waste their time with such nonsense. But AAAS is hip deep in such
endeavors. There was a literature table outside the auditorium,
on which there were several AAAS books, some just on evolution,
others on science and religion. There was also promotional literature
for the series, including several bookmarks, including a deceptive
quotation from Einstein on the complementarity of science and religion.
(Deceptive because Einstein was a Spinozist, and disavowed any reconciliation
between science and 'religion' as we know it.) This is very dangerous
business and to me represents cowardice in the face of the right-wing
takeover of American society. I saw the same thing at work in the
recent AAAS convention in which keynote speaker African-American
physicist J. Sylvester Gates called for a respectful dialogue with
religionists over evolution given the fact that the majority of
Southern blacks are Baptists and that there should be no conflict
between science and religion in their proper spheres. Behold the
intellectual and moral bankruptcy into which the intellectuals this
society produces has fallen.
At 11:41 AM 4/28/2005 -0400, Ralph Dumain wrote:
Thursday, April 28, 2005
Reception 5:15 p.m.
Lecture and Discussion 6:00-8:00 p.m.
American Association for the Advancement of Science
AAAS auditorium located at 1200 New York Avenue, NW
versus the Superstring Landscape, or, Why Does The Universe Appear
Wed, 23 Mar 2005 09:01:35 -0500 (GMT-05:00)
Emergence, Pierce & pragmatism
Just stumbled onto this paper:
CHARBEL NIÑO EL-HANI and SAMI PIHLSTRÖM
Theories and Pragmatic Realism" (Draft version, February
2002. Comments welcome. Please do not quote.)
Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2005 14:38:54 -0500
Re: Van Heijenoort's critique of Engels
At 10:28 AM 3/9/2005 -0800, andie nachgeborenen wrote:
Lewontin, Kamin, and Rose are all first rate scholars, and the
book is quite good in its substantive parts. But the so-called
dialectics is some sort of ritual chant, and the history is potted
and not altogether accurate.
Vitalism of any sort has been dead dead dead since the mid-late
19th century. Certainly no serious biologist has maintained any
such notion in this century. Everyone agrees that there are no
special vital properties that explain why organisms are alive.
The dispute has been between crude reductionism and variants of
sophisticated reductionism and emergent antireductionism. It is
very hard to tell these positions apart when they are suitably
Well, there was Driesch in the '20s, but I suppose that wasn't
serious. But some of this stuffbiosemioticsis highly
suspect, and I'm suspicious of process philosophy as well.
Well, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. If dialectics
can help, I'm in favor of it, though I have not seen any evidence
that dialectics itself is more than an emergent property of a
certain sort of usefully holistic thinking. I mean, it's a real
enough phenomenon. Hegel, Marx, Lukacs, Gramsci are clearly dialectical
thinkers. But I don't think they came to their subject matters
with an antecedent dialectical method they could apply to those
subject matters. They thought about things in a manner that was
dialectical. Better to try to follow their example in their concrete
analyses than to extract a method from their procedures.
Yes, I agree. I was trying to get at the same thing. And of course
for Marx, Lukacs, and Gramsci, dialectics of natural processes was
Fair enough. But analytical philosophers certainly developed
versions, e.g. Moore's theory of supervenient propertiesthe
good being (he thought) a non-natural property that supervened
on natural ones, such that two actions/people could not be alike
in all natural properties but differ in whether they were good
"Perhaps though another thing to look at is the dominant
schools of bourgeois philosophy in the teens and '20swhat
was the competition doing"
Well, there is what it looks like now and what it looked like
then. And what it to liked to them as opposed to what it looked
like, e.g., to Russell or Dewey or even to Gramsci or Lukacs or
I'm not sure what you mean, but of course there's a different perspective
at that moment and retrospectively. Perhaps the historical research
being done now will help. I think for example of The Parting
of the Ways, which is about Carnap, Heidegger, and Cassirer.
I don't know MacMurray, but the other examples are like the Jones
Junior High vs. the Green bay Packers, just in terms of sheer
candlepower. Bernal was no second-rater, though, at least in his
biology and history.
Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2005 13:17:31 -0500
Re: Van Heijenoort's critique of Engels
I can't speak to The Dialectical Biologist, as I haven't
read it, though it is gathering dust somewhere. The Dialectics of
Biology group produced a couple of interesting books, mostly without
mumbo jumbo, as I recall. . . .
As for dialectics and emergence, I think there is an essential
distinction to be made between emergent materialism and idealist/vitalist
notions. Here a different sort of "dialectical" perspective
will be useful. If you look at my emergence blog, you will see a
criticism of an effort to use process philosophy in a theory of
emergence, with respect to quantum physics. I've been reading some
nonsense about biosemiotics. There's a lot of metaphysical junk
going onat the scientific as well as the popular level, apparentlymucking
up synthetic perspectives of cosmic evolution and biological evolution.
The upshot is that there is something categorically wrong with much
of this material, and here dialecticsby which I'm referring
to the relationships between philosophical categoriesmay serve
to demystify rather than remystify the issues.
Indeed, the half-assed vulgarities of our day are different.
I'm not sure what you mean that the concept of emergence was developed
by analytical philosophers. A lot of different people were in on
this from a variety of perspectives.
Soviet tampering with the various sciences and disciplines is
not news. I just happened to read an interesting article in a festschrift
to Robert Cohen that sums them up historically. Not surprisingly,
philosophy itself was hit the first and hardest of all disciplines.
All the idealist philosophers were shipped out of the country. Having
read Berdyaev, I'd say that was no loss. The problem is, lacking
any institutional experience of methodological pluralism, the Soviets
made a mess by bureaucratically imposing an immature philosophy
as mandatory for everyone, especially prior to the stage of synthesizing
existing results from a variety of traditions, including, of course,
innovations in logic. This was of course tied into the Soviets'
dilemma with respect to "red vs. expert." They felt the
imperative to institute their own hegemony, in a situation in which
the inherited intelligentsia was not trusted. But in the process
of so doing, they induced certain institutional and intellectual
bad habits which already created problems in the relatively loose
1920s, even before the horrors of the Stalin period. Perhaps though
another thing to look at is the dominant schools of bourgeois philosophy
in the teens and '20swhat was the competition doing?
On dogmatism and stagnancy: the examples are legion. The allegiance
to the Soviets, Trotsky, Maothe whole pattern of adherence
to authorityhas wreaked untold damage. Where sympathetic critics
try to refine the concepts, they are constantly beaten back by intellectual
ineptitude and dogmatism, whether it is Bernal against Macmurray,
Novack against Van Heijenoort, Sayers against Norman . . . . The
record is dismal.
Date: Wed, 09 Mar 2005 08:25:02 -0500
Re: Van Heijenoort's critique of Engels
I'm still waiting for your account of biosemiotics. From what I've
found on the web, it looks like crackpot mystical pseudoscience
to me. As for current objectives, one ought to consider refining
one's tools rather than repeating the same old crap from a century
ago. Marxism-Leninism continues to wreak its harm from beyond the
gravewhat a shame.
At 01:18 PM 3/9/2005 +0200, Oudeyis wrote:
As I, hopefully with some success, indicated above, method cannot
be divorced from the objectives. The theory of Natural Selection
certainly works. Combined with population genetics it has become
the foundation of some of the most dramatic and disturbing social
and cultural changes yet encountered by man (including even the
effect of Newtonian physics and 18th and 19th century chemistry
on industrial process in the early 19th century). Yet it is a
very simple (and very abstract) theory that is almost entirely
restricted to explaining the fact of change without any value
for understanding the formal changes in the development of organisms.
It is the very modesty of the objectives of Darwin's theory that
lies at the heart of its gradualism. If you wish to explain how
the relative distribution of populations of species changes over
time, Natural Selection is a more than adequate model. In Natural
Selection theory everything having to do with formal changes or
even in adaptive interaction of life forms with their environment
is relegated to absolute chance and therefore totally outside
the ken of serious investigation. Even the integration of evolutionary
theory with genetics does no more than explain the changes in
the relative distribution of known genes and genetic combinations.
The actual development of anatomical and behavioural formations
is regarded as the function of improbable mutations and of equally
fortuitous environmental conditions completely external to the
useful interaction of statistically measureable inputs and outputs
of the selective process.
I doubt whether punctuated equilibrium alone is an adequate
basis for introducing the dialectic into evolutionary theory.
By and large it is based on the same kind of statistical considerations
that are important to standard evolutionary theory. Dan Dennett
in his Darwin's Dangerous Idea does a fairly thorough job
on Punctuated Evolution (see chapter 11, 3, Punctuated Equilibrium:
A hopeful Monster pp. 282 -298 and 4, Tinker to Evers to Chance:
The Burgess Shale Double-Play Mystery pp 299-312. Rather I see
the potential for a dialectical understanding of evolutionary
process in the research on the mechanisms of adaptation, coevolution,
and organic symmetry (both in anatomical form and in activity).
Stuart Kauffman is the most prominent of theoreticians in this
field, but far from being the only one. Others, including Varela
and Maturana (Maturana uses some dialecticsMarxist dialectics
in his formulations) on autopoiesis, Salthe's (also much influenced
by Hegel) on hierarchies of being and emergent systems, and Mark
Bedau who formulates conditions for artificial life. Despite the
nearly frantic exploration for the theoretical formulation that
will unite the disparate and far-ranging investigations on the
development of life forms, we have yet to see a thinker in this
area on the level of Marx who can produce a satisfactory general
paradigm for the development of life forms. I suspect that the
philosopher of science who will effect such a synthesis has already
been born and may be even well on his way to producing such a
Dennett, always the champion of evolutionary theory, argues
that Stuart's ideas do not really contradict "Darwin's Dangerous
Idea", since the object of his work concerns the restrictions
on the development of organic design rather than the changes in
the relative distribution of genetically defined populations over
time. Just as the gradualist model of the transformation of liquid
to gas doesn't contradict the negation of Magnitude by Quantity,
nor should the gradualist theory of Natural Selection contradict
a dialectical theory of the development of organic form, the practical
objectives of these theories (and the circumstances involved in
the realization of these objects) are entirely different. Lenin's
idea of a unified, universal science is engendered by his failure
to realize that adherence to an uncompromising theory of the material
nature of being was in fact in direct contradiction with Marx
and Engel's view that labour, the unity of thought and activity,
is the paradigm for the understanding of the development of human
activity, collective and individual, in human history. To argue
that all practice must be based on dialectical method is much
like asserting that one needs to adopt the same factory system
for boiling a pot of tea for guests as for the production of teapots
for marketing purposes.
Date: 9 March 2005
Cybernetics, emergence, & mind
Similarly, cybernetics has demystified holism, at least
in a large and important class of cases. There is no doubt that
a cybernetic system behaves holistically. First of all, the goal
states are ordered states, in which correlations are sustained
among parts that frequently are spatially far separated. Furthermore,
the subsystems which make the achievement of goal states highly
probablethe devices for internal representation, monitoring,
and controlare designed either by an engineer or by natural
selection to mesh with each other in intricate ways. Nevertheless,
when one examines specific instances of cybernetic systems, one
often finds non-holistic explanations of holistic behavior. In
the case of mechanical, thermal, and electrical servo-mechanisms,
each part of the cybernetic system operates in accordance with
physical laws, constrained by local boundary and initial conditions,
but the design of the system ensures the proper meshing of these
conditions, so as to eventuate in the cooperative behavior of
the system as a whole. Much more remarkable is the fact that the
holistic behavior of the organic cell is well understood in terms
of the physical interactions among its constituent molecules (Monod,
1971, especially ch. 4; Ptashne, 1986). Molecular biology has
provided very strong evidence against the need for new laws on
a biological level that are irreducible in principle to the laws
of physics. When we come to the holistic behavior of multicellular
organisms, the evidence for the reducibility to physics is less
compelling, just because of the complexity of the systems, but
most biologists see no obstacle in principle to the progressive
realization of the reductionist program until we arrive at the
level of mentality. Many scientists and philosophers (myself included)
are anti-reductionist concerning mentality, since feelings and
thoughts differ in character from the neurophysiological entities
with which they are correlated. The complex discussion of holism
can be summarized by saying that the general conception of a cybernetic
system does not entail that the holistic behavior of the system
is inexplicable in terms of the laws governing its parts and their
interactions; whether the mystery of holism can be exorcized in
a specific kind of cybernetic system depends upon its detailed
character. In physical servo-mechanisms and in simple biological
systems the mystery can be exorcized, whereas in systems endowed
with mentality it seems to me to persist. Whether the holism of
social cybernetic systems is explicable in terms of the laws governing
individual human beings, once their mentality is acknowledged
to be ontologically fundamental, is one of the central concerns
of this paper. A positive answer will be given in Section 5.
Shimony, Abner. "Cybernetics and Social Entities," in:
Science, Politics, and Social Practice: Essays on Marxism and
Science, Philosophy of Culture and the Social Sciences: In Honor
of Robert S. Cohen, edited by Kostas Gavroglu, John Stachel,
Marx W. Wartofsky (Dordrecht; Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers,
1995), pp. 181-196. (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science;
v. 164) Quote: pp. 182-183.
See also: Shimony, Abner. 1993. "Some Proposals Concerning
Parts and Wholes," in Search for a Naturalistic World View
II (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press).
Date: 9 March 2005
Biosemiotics is also related to emergence. However, from what I've
seen so far, it belongs to the obscurantist, idealist metaphysical
wing. You will notive the recurring themes if you do a google search
on this word. Here are a few results. See:
I'm not up on biology these days, but I do know bad philosophy,
and I can easily spot half-based mystical idealism. This article
is such a lame undergrad specimen of cheesy philosophical reasoning
I can't believe my eyes:
Towards a New Synthesis in Biology
The idea that semiosis pervades all of organic life and even all
of nature has got to be mystical vitalism in the end. This isno
pun intendeda bad sign for our civilization.
Date: 7 March 2005
More links on this web site
Karl Popper's conception of Three Worlds is also relevant to the
concept of emergence. I cover Popper in this bibliography:
Vienna Circle, Karl Popper, Frankfurt
School, Marxism, McCarthyism & American Philosophy: Selected
David Dubrovsky's book on ideality also covers emergence. Someone
will put this book on the web eventually. For the moment, see the
table of contents:
The Problem of the Ideal:
Contents by David Dubrovsky
Date: Sun, 06 Mar 2005 15:54:42 -0500
Re: Van Heijenoort's critique of Engels
This is very interesting, but I still do not understand biosemiology.
To me the following is complete nonsense:
. . . the suggestion that symbolic representation is at very
least coterminous with the emergence of life forms and that its
initial functional relation to material conditions is self-replication
suggests an interesting potential avenue of development of Marx's
basic theory of human labour. Rocha's work suggests that it is
possible to build a dialectic of the material foundations of symbolic
representation that is closely connected (at the initial stage
even identical) to the self-perpetuating activity by which Marx
defines life forms and which serves as the fundamental material
foundation of his dialectical representation of the development
of human labour activity.
I see no semiotic meaning in the genetic code or connection to
human labor. Is there anything more to this than the shoddiest reasoning
by analogy, akin to the mystical medieval systems of correspondences?
I see nothing here but empty verbiage. What am I missing?
At 07:23 PM 3/6/2005 +0200, Oudeyis wrote:
Memics and Lysenkian dialectical "theories" of organic
development are both examples of the forced appropriation of objectives
(hence means) to issues very alien to the subjects of theory.
The memecists employ the priniciple of Natural Selection of
Species, invented and developed to represent the impact of a concrete
universal, i.e. Nature, on extant organic forms in order to explicate
the principle of the emergence of particularities in organic life.
While evolutionary theory has been very useful for explaining
the diversification of life forms, but it is a very simple concept
and barely explains, if at all, the the principles that govern
the formal developments of life. Combined with genetic theory,
the theory of Natural Selection has made great advances in explaining
the mechanisms of species divergence and of the mechanical relations
between population structures and the differential distribution
and magnitudes of genetically defined populations. The key word
here is of course, mechanism. Population genetics (the parent
of memism) is a theory only of the relation between independent
parts. Virtually all determinates of form, selection, mutation,
cross-over etc. are regarded as fundamentally indeterminate, their
only contribution to the evolutionary process being the selection,
introduction, and combination of new forms.
Population genetics is fine for Lego breeding and cloning ,
for producing geneologies of extant life forms, and for searching
for fittest solutions to determined problems among a population
of known diversities. Ecologically oriented biologists such as
Stu Kauffman, D. J. Futuyama, and Emmeche find Population genetics
woefully inadequate and even misleading regarding their own objectives
of which not a few involve the determination of principles of
organic form. Their objectives are much more similar, though not
at all identical, to ours, than those of the Population geneticist.
They are more interested in finding those essential relations
that restrict the kinds of interactions life forms may enact with
their environment and how these essential relations, processes,
limit the forms and activities of organisms and, finally, how
these produce conditions relevant to the future state of these
forms and their relations to their environment. The result is
the production of a chain of exciting ideas (some of which appear
to be identical to those of historical science, but are surely
not) such as hierarchy theory, emergence, autopoiesis, coevolution,
and biosemiology (we'll get back to that shortly).
The inability of Population genetics to provide useful tools
for ecology, a sister biological science which shares the same
subject if not the same concerns, should strongly suggest the
inadequacy of Population Genetics models for the science of human
history. One need not be a Marxist or even an Objective Idealist
to realize that the objectives of the social-historical sciences
are to influence the development of the forms of human conscious
activity, and that this is at very least a matter of process rather
than mechanics. Whatever the mechanics involved in the development
of human conscious activity, they are so deeply sublated in process
that an appeal to mechanism to explain historical matters is an
exercise in trivialities as is well demonstrated in Pinker's superficial
products and the so called "reverse engineering" of
evolutionary development of such greats as M Harris (ecological
anthropology) and Dan Dennett (bioorganic evolution).
Lysenko's dialectical representation of organic development
is a crude but instructive example of how the goal of transforming
conscious activity, the formation of a new social order, is conflated
with issues of productive process to the detriment ultimately
of both. The invention of Lysenkoism was preceded by some 15 years
of contention between the Geneticists (called Morganists and roughly
affiliated with the dialecticians led by Deborin) and the Lamarckians
(naturally, identified with Mechanists such as Bogdanov, though
not with Bukharin) and over which theory is most compatible with
Historical Materialism. The Lamarckians even mobilized Engels
writings to support their position (most of this material is based
on Margaret Sheehan's Marxism and the Philosophy of Science1st
edition (1985) see http://www.dcu.ie/~comms/hsheehan/mxphsc.htm).
In 1935 Lysenko, considerably aided by the philosopher, Prezent,
developed what can only be described as a half-assed dialectical
model of the development of the cell in interaction with its environment.
"Together (Lysenko and Prezent,)they announced a new theory
of heredity that rejected the existence of genes and held that
the basis of heredity did not lie in some special self-reproducing
substance. On the contrary, the cell itself, in their view, developed
into an organism, and there was no part of it not subject to evolutionary
development. Heredity was based on the interaction between the
organism and its environment, through the internalisation of external
conditions. They thus recognised no distinction between genotype
and phenotype" (Sheehan, Margaret 1985).
The science of genetics was suppressed as reactionary, bourgeois,
etc. etc. As Margaret writes, "It was held to be contrary
to the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism. Its stress
on the relative stability of the gene was supposedly a denial
of dialectical development as well as an assault on materialism.
Its emphasis on internality was thought to be a rejection of the
interconnectedness of every aspect of nature. Its notion of the
randomness and indirectness of mutation was held to undercut both
the determinism of natural processes and man's ability to shape
nature in a purposeful way".
Practically speaking, Lysenkoism is not a biological theory
at all. It was never effectively demonstrated through experimentation
and never became the basis of standard agronomic practice, mostly
because its techniques relevance to actual agricultural production
were marginal. Its practical value was in its confirmation in
Nature of the alterability of organisms through directed environmental
change, its affirmation that man could transform the world in
whatever way he chose, and in the voluntarism evidenced in Lysenko's
"experimental methods". The result was the effective
liquidation of the institutions and important researchers that
had contributed to the advanced development of genetics in the
USSR and the subsequent decline in the state of agro-technology
in what was one of the most agriculturally promising economies
of the 20th century. Apparently no one raised questions about
the relevance of the theory of the development of human history
to theories concerning the biotechnology of plant and animal breeding
(cloning and genetic engineering were still generations into the
If we regard science as the development of the THEORY IN PRACTICE,
then the unification of the Natural Sciences is a matter of determining
the contribution of developments in different sciences to each
others divergent objectives, rather than the incorporation of
all science into any one science. Theory is a unity of object
and means, and the attempt to transfer the object of a particular
scientific theory, say the genetic manipulation of breeding schedules
to produce larger heads of corn to another such as the unionization
of black workers in Detroit appears to me to be the very height
Now to biosemiology. Biosemiology has been much on my mind during
the last year. I'm acquainted with Emmeche's work, but was especially
impressed by Luis Rocha's work: Rocha, Luis. "The physics
and evolution of symbols and codes: reflections on the work of
Howard Pattee "Biosystems. Vol. 60, pp. 1-4. . "Evolution
with Material Symbol Systems".Biosystems. Vol. 60, pp. 95-121.
LAUR 00-1604. Rocha's papers, as their titles suggest are essays
in the foundation of symbolism in genetic coding and of the explanation
for the material foundation of the genetic code in physical science.
The details aren't too important here, but the suggestion that
symbolic representation is at very least coterminous with the
emergence of life forms and that its initial functional relation
to material conditions is self-replication suggests an interesting
potential avenue of development of Marx's basic theory of human
labour. Rocha's work suggests that it is possible to build a dialectic
of the material foundations of symbolic representation that is
closely connected (at the initial stage even identical) to the
self-perpetuating activity by which Marx defines life forms and
which serves as the fundamental material foundation of his dialectical
representation of the development of human labour activity. As
such it could
1. anchor the the development of processes of self-perpetuation
through transmission and reception of symbolic representations
of various kinds to a material base thus producing an even more
concrete dialectical representation of the development of labour,
than that developed by Marx.
2 provide a material and dialectical theory of the development
of symbolizing activity, a subject that is markedly untreated
in Marxian theory.
3. present a unified theory of the development of labour and
social life founded on the development of the material developments
of replication/perpetuation of form through symbolic representation.
What do you think?
Date: Fri, 04 Mar 2005 23:23:22 -0500
Van Heijenoort's critique of Engels
I'm substantially in agreement with you here. Now, if one wants
to unify the marxist and natural-scientific perspectives, in place
of relegating them to separate perspectives, then one has to rise
to that level of abstraction to construct a unified account of both.
This ridiculous meme theory is a noteworthy example of the failure
of natural scientists to encompass the social. They've still learned
nothing. And Marxists also have their work to do. (I just ran into
Sohn-Rethel's first blunder: his account of Galileo's concept of
BTW, what do you think of this biosemiotics business. . . . I'm
Claus Emmeche. Taking
the semiotic turn, or how significant philosophy of biology should
Also at this url: http://www.nbi.dk/~emmeche/cePubl/2002b.Wit.Sats.html
Note this key passage:
More and more biologists are beginning to understand that the
essence of life is to mean something, to mediate significance,
to interpret signs. This already seems to be implicitly present
even in orthodox Neo-Darwinism and its recurrent use of terms
like "code", "messenger", "genetic information",
and so on. These concepts substitute the final causes Darwinists
believed to have discarded 150 years ago, they have become firmly
established in molecular biology with specific scientific meanings;
and yet they the semiotic content or connotations are rarely taken
serious by the scientists to the extant that there is a tendency
to devaluate their status as being "merely metaphors"
when confronted with the question about their implied intentionality
or semioticity (cf. Emmeche 1999). This secret language, where
"code" seems to be a code for final cause, points to
the fact that it might be more honest and productive to attack
the problem head-on and to formulate an explicit biological theory
taking these recurrent semiotics metaphors serious and discuss
them as pointing to real scientific problems. This means that
a principal task of biology will be to study signs and sign processes
in living systems. This is biosemioticsthe scientific study
of biosemiosis. Semiotics, the general science of signs, thus
becomes a reservoir of concepts and principles when it is recognized
that biology, being about living systems, at the same time is
about sign systems. Moreover, semiotics will probably not remain
the same after this encounter with biology: both sciences will
be transformed fundamentally while gradually being melded into
one more comprehensive field.
While many of the ideas adumbrated in this review seem to be quite
fruitful, this paragraph is the tipoff that something is rotten
in the state of Denmark.
At 05:28 PM 3/4/2005 +0200, Oudeyis wrote:
Have been following your discussion with considerable interest.
Sorry to lurk so long, but I was occupied in finishing up a paper.
I was particularly interested in your earlier discussion on emergence.
I agree strongly with Jay Gould that dialectics; Hegelian and
Marxist alike, describe what I suppose would now be called "emergent
functions". I have many reservations about Engel's representation
of the dialectic and his three so-called "laws" appear
to me to be a snobbish attempt to present "Dialectics for
the Working Class". Certainly Llyod Spencer and Andrzej Krauze's
Hegel for Beginners and Andy Blunden's "Getting to
Know Hegel are" much more successful representations of dialectical
theory. A search for emergentism in Marxism would be better served
by reinvestigating the methods of Hegel (his Logics) and of Marx
(Practice, or, better, labour practice) for the mechanics and
process whereby they derive emergent complex moments from simpler
prior conditions. I suspect that the concretisation of abstraction
through successive negation, unity of labour practice and extant
condition in the productive process, and sublation of prior syntheses
in extant dialectical moments will have more significance for
understanding emergence in human history than the hierarchy theories
of Salthe, Swenson, and O'Neil, the emergent semiotics of Hoffmeyer
and so on. That is not to say that systems, even cybernetic systems,
are not relevant to the investigation, but, we must remember that
despite Engel's (sometimes brilliant and sometimes embarrassing)
adventures in the dialectics of Nature, that Hegel and Marx theoretical
interests were exclusively focussed on human activity and human
history and were only interested in Nature as a derived function
of human inteaction with material conditions. Even Hegel's dialectics
on Nature concerned the Natural Sciences and not Nature as such
(as the subject of human contemplation).
Which bring us to the problem of Natural science and Marxism.
Certainly the Natural sciences are a component of modern history.
They more or less emerge in late Mediaeval Europe together with
the development of powerful urban commercial and industrial institutions.
From the point of view of Marxist theory, the interesting thing
about the Natural sciences is the relation between the moment
of their emergence and the concurrent developments of European
society in all its aspects. For example, the optical and astronomical
discoveries of the earliest Natural scientists were most useful
for the long-range navigation needs of Europe's commercial and
colonial enterprises while the mathematical developments in geometry,
trigonometry and the calculus were important for the development
of improved techniques for the prompt and accurate estimations
of volume, mass, and weight of goods as well as managing cannon
fire. Even the origin of the Social Sciences can be traced to
this period; Machiavelli and de Seyselle's practical analyses
of government as well as the contemporary development of double
entry accounting and . But, note, that the Marxist interest in
these developments is in their practical relations to the needs
growing out of the urbanization and commercialization of human
life and not as representations of contemplated Nature.
Mathematics and the Natural sciences can contribute to the development
of Marxist theory, but only in a form that contributes to the
objectives of the dialectical explication of historical conditions
and events. After all, in Capital, Marx exploits and develops
the practices of contemporary accounting to provide mechanical
mathematical objectifications of the relations between productive
and commercial processes that are critical to the aims of his
theory. Marx also demonstrates considerable interest in the physics
of machine engineering, but not as an objective description of
Nature, but specifically as it relates to the historical development
of human productive and social practice. Marx and Engels also
adapt contemporary thinking on organism and on pre- and proto-human,
behaviour to describe the fundamental material conditions for
the development of human practice.
In short, the objectives of the practice of the Natural Sciences
are distinct from those of Marxist theory, and their products
satisfy needs different from those that engender social historical
theory. Even the methods are different insofar as the natural
scientist enjoys a bit more distance from the subject of his research
(except for quantum indeterminism)than the social-historian. Natural
Science can be the subject of investigation by social historical
scientists and some of its products can, with suitable modifications,
be adopted to the objects of social history, but social history
has no more qualifications for determining the practices (theory
and activity) of Natural science than do the natural scientists
for the determination of the practices of social historical science
(e.g. the silly foray of Pinker and Dawkins into Memics).
Date: Mon, 28 Feb 2005
References collected from others
Karen C. Fox, "Does
Biology Reduce to Physics? A Look at How the Question Has Been Answered
More by R. Keith Sawyer:
Keith Sawyer: Home
Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 09:00:03 -0500
Subject: Hegelian influence on library classification
"Hegel's Philosophy as Basis
for the Dewey Classification Schedule" by Eugene E. Graziano
Date: Wed, 23 Feb 2005 03:22:01 -0500
Vinge on the Singularity
Subject: Posthuman fantasy life [fwd]
This morning I received a circular with this piece attached, under
the subject heading: "Is this a subtle sci-fi hint of Aryan
superiority? What do you think?"
My response was:
As white as the people indulging these escapist fantasies are,
on the inside and out, no, I don't think it's Aryan superiority.
I think it's an alienated evasion of the self-destruction Capitalist
America is inflicting on humanity right now, a fantasy of the
scientific-technical intelligentsia to perpetuate itself attempting
to circumvent the spiraling contradictions of its existence and
the calamities to come. I'll forward you folks some other science
fantasies to give further indication of the sickness at work.
And I forwarded the group a couple other posts, including my review
which I already posted here under the heading: "Michio Kaku,
Parallel Worlds: book talk [Warning: religion in science garbage]"
I posted this posthumanist/transhumanist puff piece with Kaku's
caca in mind, as part of an ideological analysis I'm shaping up.
It was one thing to put up with the naive futurist fantasies of
the Arthur C. Clarkes of the world in an earlier era, whose sociological
illiteracy perhaps can be excused, but this quest for technocratic
immortality in the face of humanity's imminent self-destruction
only reveals what a bunch of morons our scientific-intelligentsia
really are when it comes to seeing one inch beyond their petty tinkering
mentality. . . .