fragmentos (philosophy)

Originally Posted by Comrade #138672 View Post
My question is: are revolutionary politics and cynicism compatible? Is it naive to think that revolutionary politics requires a certain degree of optimism?

I don't think that the most usual opposite of "cynicism" is "optimism". An optimist is a person who tends to expect positive outcomes; the opposite of that is "pessimism", which is the tendency to expect negative outcomes.

Cynicism is a quite different thing. Other than the restrict, phylosophical meaning, it means either a callous disregard for social conventions (in which sence it is the symmetric of hipocrisy), or a characteristically negative appreciation of human motivations in general. A cynical swindler can be very optimistic about the outcomes of his or her criminal activities: he or she thinks that humans in general are stupid and greedy, and grow stupider when dominated by greed, which allows swindlers to bait them into scams and hoaxes.


Originally Posted by Mr. Piccolo View Post
I was recently speaking to a friend of mine who said that he believes that poor people have no excuse for their condition. He used his grandfather as an example. His grandfather's parents were poor immigrants from Europe. His great-grandfather died in an accident so his grandfather was raised in a single-parent household by his mother who worked in a factory for little money. Despite this his grandfather went on to become a physician.

According to my friend his grandfather's story proves that no amount of poverty or hardship should be used as an explanation for individual poverty.

This argument strikes me as weak but I cannot quite put my finger on what formal philosophical error my friend is making. My layperson's response is that it is unrealistic to expect everyone to be able to become a successful professional or businessperson no matter how much hard work they put in. But my friend will have none of it.

So, I am wondering if there is a more formal philosophical response to these types of arguments. The "anyone can make it with hard work" argument is commonly used as a defense of capitalism.

I like the shipwreck analogy.

If the ship wrecks, say, two miles from the coast, the best swimmers aboard will manage to get to the shore. Those who don't know how to swim, or who are lousy swimmers, or are too weak to swim such a distance, will die.

What your friend argues sounds like saying that if one person was able to swim to the shore, then all people aboard could have done so. Why didn't they learn how to swim, why haven't they perfected they swimming abilities some more, why have they boarded ship if they were elderly or just children?

But, as we perfectly know, people are different; some indeed are able to work harder, or to learn more, etc.

The question is, why should one starve or live in misery, just because they aren't brilliant students or Stakhanov reborn?


Originally Posted by RedMaterialist View Post
The connection of this to Menger and the marginalists might be that the capitalist does not do any objective, real work, yet believes that he or she is responsible for the value of the product. What better economic rationalization for the capitalist than the idea that all commodity value is determined by an individual, subjective, non-measurable psychological process?

The point of Menger's work would be to make that "subjective, non-measurable" psychological process exactly measurable. In this, it is quite successful; it allows capitalist planners to plan the production (and pricing) of their companies in a much more efficient way.

The problems with the "Menger refuted Marx" line are different: first, Menger (and the other marginalists) used to think of their theories as "models": it is not that they believed that they had proven Marx "wrong", but that they believed that they had built a model that explained reality, a) better than Marx's; and b) without having to resort for a few concepts that they deemed problematic, especially "value" as an independent variable, that seemed "metaphysical" to them.

Second, and most importantly, their model is unable to "refute" Marx exactly because it refuses to "speculate" about what causes "demand". And so, they must let open the possibility that what dictates demand is "value" in the Marxist sence. Bastiat remarkably conceded that, in stating that "utility is not having to work", which just reintroduces a labour theory of value through the back door, after having expelled it through the front porch.

And indeed Marx demonstrates, in the v. III of capital, how "socially necessary labour" is connected to demand (which is also the reason why mud pies have no value: they are not "socially necessary labour", and "labour" that is not socially necessary, in a capitalist society, is simply not "labour" at all. If people indeed make mud pies, we call that activity a "game" or a "hobby", not "labour", because its products are not commodities).


Anyone who earnestly thinks Menger refuted Marx certainly doesn't understand Marx (and, to be fair, quite likely doesn't understand Menger either, but this is of far less concern).


Originally Posted by The Feral Underclass View Post
This is a definition of philosophical nihilism not political nihilism.

Perhaps. Is there something as "political nihilism", though? Or is this just a demeaning term against anarchists of the "propaganda by the deed" variety?

Does anyone seriously identify as a "political nihilist", or does it take a Dostoevsky to create the label?

In any case, the OP doesn't match either definition of "nihilism".


Originally Posted by Natall View Post
I certainly could be erroneous, but I construed the post as to mean: that society ought not to have an 'endgame'. As perhaps to say or rather by extension an ideological blueprint. That instructs the necessitating stages to facilitate achieving such 'endgame' or the enjoined ideological stage. Instead opting for 'practical politics' - the contingency school as the post contains.

Remedying societal ills with no concrete direction, a society manufactured and operated on by its political foundation firstly. The organisation of its power structure only, a consequence of political philosophy. This may be poorly worded on my part, but think the United States, an explicit political foundation put forth by long dead intellectuals. A blueprint not for what 'ought' to be, but a systematic order for constructing society on the basis of ideology thereafter.

If I am fundamentally misunderstanding, please do enlighten me. I concede, that referring it as Nihilism was incongruous, a semantical error on my part.


The position you described in the OP looks more like some kind of pragmatism.


Originally Posted by Natall View Post
Perhaps the title is a misnomer, though it's frankly the most congruous way of categorizing this form of Nihilism. A nihilism encapsulating -in this case- a political ideological dimension. I.E., those persons who espouse the meaninglessness of political ideology. This is a comment I came across on youtube:

" Dear Mike, 'My' system? I don't think I've advocated one, have I? I prefer 'practical politics' - the contingency school, as it was known. Life is by far too complex a thing, and human nature far too unreliable to be vouchsafed simple dogma, whether left or right. Besides, I'm not too sure maximising freedom is such a worthy lodestone - I certainly wouldn't want to 'maximise' Luis Garavito's 'freedom’. "

I am agog to know what you make of it - what are your thoughts? By the way I am new here and this is my first post.

The bolded text doesn't sound as nihilism, either political or otherwise, at all. A true nihilist would despise political dogma, whether left or right, of course, but s/he would quite certainly despise "practical politics" even more.


Originally Posted by Luís Henrique View Post
It must be a theory that knowledge is a completely passive process: one opens oneself to "observation" (indeed, to contemplation), and reality fills one's mind with knowledge.

Such naïve theory of knowledge, consequently, is absolutely incompatible with historical materialism, for historical materialism is based in the idea that knowledge is an active process, rooted in the material interaction between human beings and their environment.

Historical materialism is not a mere ontological theory about what history is and who or what drives it and how, as ChrisK seems to believe ("history advancing through class struggle"), even though this ontological definition is already problematic and contradictory to the contemplative theory of knowledge that is implicitly juxtaposed to it (if we have no pre-scientific assumptions about reality, then why do we think that there is something like history, why do we think it "advances" (this would be lambasted to infinite boredom as "Hegelianism", "language leading us to misrepresent the world", "animism", and so on and so on, if uttered by a non-positivist)), and more obviously, why do we think there are social classes and that they struggle? All these notions are far from self-evident, cannot be "contemplated" in the actual world, and demand a complex critique of reality, that is impossible under the notion that knowledge gives itself to us without a method, or with a merely contemplative method.

As Marx puts it,

Originally Posted by Marx
The chief defect of all materialism up to now (including Feuerbach's) is that the object, reality, what we apprehend through our senses, is understood only in the form of the object or contemplation (Anschauung); but not as sensuous human activity, as practice; not subjectively. Hence in opposition to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism — which of course does not know real sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects really distinguished from the objects of thought; but he does not understand human activity itself as objective activity.

Historical materialism, consequently, cannot be the mere juxtaposition of "materialism up to now, including Feuerbach" with an ad hoc notion of "class struggle" as a kind of deus ex-machina; if the notion that "class struggle is the moving principle of history" is to be taken seriously, it also implies that human praxis, class struggle included, is the moving principle of knowledge itself, for knowledge doesn't exist in a secluded Empyrean, it is built here in the material world, through our material relations with material reality.

Or, to speak the philosophese dialect usually associated with this kind of thing, no "account of the world can be given" in which "historical materialism" is, a) historical, and b) materialist, and a theory of knowledge is unnecessary.


Originally Posted by Tim Redd View Post
A logical understanding of the theory of historical materialism makes it evident that a materialist theory of knowledge is fundamental to an accurate understanding of historical materialism.

Indeed. But, as discussed above, "having no theories" imply not being aware of one's own theoretical assumptions. Not having a theory of knowledge means one's theory of knowledge is opaque, undetectable to one's own consciousness and reasoning. As such, it must be an uncriticised, acritical, extremely naïve theory of knowledge. It must be a theory that knowledge is a completely passive process: one opens oneself to "observation" (indeed, to contemplation), and reality fills one's mind with knowledge.

Such naïve theory of knowledge, of course, is nothing but an extreme brand of positivism.


Originally Posted by ChrisK View Post
I completely reject all philosophical theories. I do not accept an empiricism rooted in any form of "knowledge". What I advocate is historical materialism understood as history advancing through class struggle.

In a criticism of Nate Silver, Paul Krugmann wrote this:

Originally Posted by Paul Krugmann
You use data to inform your analysis, you let it tell you that your pet hypothesis is wrong, but data are never a substitute for hard thinking. If you think the data are speaking for themselves, what you’re really doing is implicit theorizing, which is a really bad idea (because you can’t test your assumptions if you don’t even know what you’re assuming.)

So we can see that even a bourgeois economist is aware of the obvious: data don't speak for themselves.

Marx, of course, is more succint:

Originally Posted by Karl Marx
If the essence and appearance of things directly coincided, all science would be superfluous.
In "rejecting all philosophical theories", what one does is to veil to one's own consciousness the many philosophical assumptions and "theories" that inform one's thought. The result is the inability to criticise one's own reasoning, and, worse, the inability to criticise the dominant ideology ingrained into one's own reasoning.

That this vulgarity is trumpeted as innovative and profound, or confused with "historical materialism" is a shame.


Originally Posted by Slippers View Post
To me free will clearly does not exist. Others are free to believe otherwise

If free will does not exist, then people are not free to believe in it (or to disbelieve it, fwiw). Those who do believe must be led to such belief by some compelling force.

Which begs the question, "what force?"

If we can't answer that question, then our efforts to dispell the notion of free will rest on shaky foundations.

Reminds me of the tale of fish that always swim backwards, so to avoid getting water into their eyes…


Originally Posted by Luís Henrique View Post
And so, from the fact that both A and ~A are true, we see that there are two different relations at play between value and wealth, which was perhaps not obvious from the start.

And so, tentatively, that value is the form of wealth in a capitalist society, but that the "substance" of wealth is not value at all - though it apparently is.


Originally Posted by AdLeft View Post
Assuming your ADHD isn't genetic, what you really should do ask yourself if any of these things are causing you to have ADHD:

1. Social Environment
2. Diet
3. Exercise routine
4. Sleep pattern
5. Any use of drugs or alcohol
6. Stressors or past traumatic events

If you find that none of them are even remotely possible in causing your ADHD, then give the pill a try. But only take the pill as a last resort. Taking the pill will only temporarily mask the problem.

I'm not a doctor but that doesn't mean I'm wrong. It's up to you.

Let me try your method.

1. Social Environment. Maybe social environment is causing my ADHD. I certainly seem to be more distracted when there is noise in the environment. Like the neighbour upstairs nailing things with his hammer. By the way, I also need to put a nail on the wall to hang my new copy of a Mondrian painting. Isn't Mondrian great? I love all those squares! But of course, they aren't actually squares, they are rectangles; I wonder where people get this tendency to call rectangles "squares"; good thing rectangles aren't sentient, otherwise they would probably get offended by it, and start demanding that we call them rectangles. Or perhaps "four sided shapes with four right angles and different side lengths". That would be troublesome. How would one remember such a complicated formula? And speaking of "remembering", what were we talking about anyway?

2. And on an unrelated note, what are we counting?

Luís Henrique

Edited to add:

Ah, yes. This is what I was trying to say: take your pills before you start "asking yourself if any of these things are causing you to have ADHD", or you are most probably end up with a theory about how many people one can have sex at the same time with, or a new and original take on the differences between Beethoven and Clausewitz, or a plan for setting up a factory of wheel-less bycicles, or a thesis on how the Bolshevik party program should have been modified in order to prevent bureacratisation of the revolution. Or a coherent question about what sharks do when they have a tootache. If they have tootaches. Perhaps the salt in the maritime environment prevents the growth of odontolythic bacteria, and…

Further added to edit:

The above, of course, instead of an insight about your ADHD.


Originally Posted by Kronsteen View Post
Metaphysical assertions tend to have a normative agenda. It's Marxism 101 that philosophical idealism reflects the notions that (1) Intellectual labour is more important than manual, (2) Thinkers are nobler people than workers, and (3) this state of affairs is not only inevitable but good.

It doesn't sound as Marxism 101 at all; rather it sounds like Vulgarity 101.

Originally Posted by Kronsteen View Post
So what do you think is the agenda of someone who keeps banging on about materialism? "Act first, and theory will take care of itself". "All theories are provisional (except this one) so we don't need a programme" etc.

How many "materialists" do you know that subscribe to that semi-fascist view of the relations between practice and theory?

In my experience, people who say ridiculous things such as "act first, and theory will take care of itself" are almost invariably idealists.

And what would be Marxism 101 is Marx's reasoning about the worst architect and the best of bees, which implies a completely different (and properly materialist) view of the practice/theory conundrum:

Originally Posted by Karl Marx (Capital, Vol. 1, Chapter 7, Section 1, second paragraph)
But what distinguishes the worst architect from the best of bees is this, that the architect raises his structure in imagination before he erects it in reality.


Originally Posted by Kronsteen View Post
So you want to decide whether other people exist by asking them whether they exist. And you don't see why that's a circular method?

Here we are back to what Marx criticises in Feuerbach. The vulgar materialist method is that of contemplation; consequently, we contemplate people and decide that they exist. Even if such "contemplation" is verbal instead of visual; we listen to people, instead of looking at them.

What Marx implies is, we believe in people because we interact with them. We greet them, kiss them, exploit them, are exploited by them, take care not to trample them…; in fewer words, we don't pretend that they don't exist.

And this is all the proof we need, and we realise that the solipsist cannot actually live according to his "philosophy". The solipsist tells us that he doesn't believe in an "objective" world, but behaves as if he believed (starting by telling us that the "objective" world doesn't exist; why would he tell us that if he doesn't believe in our existence?)

It is really not that complicated.


Originally Posted by Kill all the fetuses! View Post
As far as I understand it Marx attacks the Fuerbach's materialism as devoid of the active element, i.e. Feuerbach viewed the idea (truth?) as arising out of passive contemplation about the material reality, which simply exists outside one's consciousness.

Yes. To Feuerbach (or, at least, to Feuerbach, according to Marx), knowledge is a product of contemplation. Marx disagrees with that.

Originally Posted by Kill all the fetuses! View Post
Marx, however, thought that even the material reality existing outside one's consciousness is a result of history, i.e. a result of historical practical activity.//

But I think this is mistaken. Marx probably didn't think that existence of the Sun is a result of history, or of human practical activity. What he seems to be saying is, however, that our knowledge about "material reality existing outside our consciousness" is eminently practical, ie, while the Sun exists independently of our practical activity, we only obtain knowledge about the Sun through practical activity (mapping its position in the sky regarding its seasonal ebbing).//

Originally Posted by Kill all the fetuses! View Post
It seems that he furthermore thought that the ideas themselves can only reflect the activity and can only arise through activity (labour).

I'm not so sure of that. Marx says that

Originally Posted by Marx
The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking that is isolated from practice is a purely scholastic question.

so he seems to think that there are ideas ("thinking") that are "isolated from practice"; those ideas, or, rather, the dispute over their reality, he dismisses as "scholastic", but doesn't seem to think "inexistent".

Moreover, I don't think that "activity" can be replaced by "labour"; there are many different forms of activity, of which "labour" is but one; you certainly can get "ideas" from war, love, exchange, research, political struggle, etc. You do not need to manufacture a fascist to understand what a fascist is; beating one (or being beaten by one) will do the trick.

Originally Posted by Kill all the fetuses! View Post
So the idea of price can only come about through an already active (production) process, which then necessitates such an idea;
To the extent that this already active production process is a process of commodity production, I think so.

Originally Posted by Kill all the fetuses! View Post
ideas of simple objects can also come about only through a process of producing these objects etc.

Again, I don't think that is the case. Ideas of simple objects can only come from practical interaction with such objects, not necessarily their production, but possibly their consumption (you understand what a tomato is when you realise it is edible, that it has a given taste, etc.)

However, I am not sure if I get any of this right and I am not sure what Marx means by "objective truth", "practical question", "proving the truth" etc. Maybe someone can help me out with this particular thesis?

My impression is that Marx is not defining "truth", but explaining what the process is to attain what we call "truth". If he is coherent with himself, then he needs to think that we only know what "truth" is in the process of obtaining "truth" - it makes no sence (within the frame of Marx's thought, that is) to start from an abstract definition of "truth" and then proceed to discuss how to reach such an abstraction.

Hope that helps.


Originally Posted by Puzzled Left View Post
First of all, who or what is dividing the society? You sound like if there is an authority that deliberately try to prevent cultural integration.

It seems that there is, isn't it?

Second, if not multiculturalism, what else?

Integration, perhaps? The realisation that jazz isn't "Black" music, but good music for people of any colour? That Mozart isn't just for Whites, but for anyone who likes and understand music?

There are multiple cultures that exist,

……. for instance?

how do you expect them to be spontaneously integrated within a short time.

Five centuries is a short time?

Culture is always evolving, and new culture evolve from the old; it is undesirable and impossible, to expect a society that somehow feature static, homogenous culture.

Sure, and its evolution implies borrowing and mixing; it is not the miscigenation of culture that is static, but exactly "multiculturalism", which tries to pigeonhole people into the culture they are stereotypically supposed to belong.

Third, it is a weird conclusion that multiculturalism give rise to the cultural apartheid. Such apartheid is usually the result of the racial construct within the system.

A social construct of which multiculturalism is part and parcel.

Multiculturalism encourages interaction and communication among the cultures, thus helping individuals to break the social barriers.

Is it? Is there a unified movement of multiculturalism that does such things? That's not what I see; what I see is a foolish stereotyping of people, that naturalises foolish things such as Saint Patrick's day, or, even worse, Columbus day as part of a mythical pristine culture that has absolutely no relations with the past, but is an invention intended to segregate people, to reinforce, not to break, social barriers.

It is of course, not especially successful, as liberals try to implement such policies within a system that reinforce the social constructs.

Or, in other words, that is what multiculturalism actually is: a part of social constructs in which each "race", "ethnicity", and "culture" has its place, which is a place within a quite stolid hierarchy.

I do believe it is the desire to achieve cultural homogeneity that led to such ghetto, as each culture decide to isolate itself and compete with others.

This is contradictory. The decision to isolate and compete cannot be the same as the desire to achieve cultural homogeneity; either the ghetto is the result of the former, or, as it seems much more logical, of the latter, unless there is some hidden subject in your sentence.

Culture is part of an individual's identity

What the hell is that geistly "culture" that makes part of my "identity"? Should I love the tarantella because (some of) my forefathers danced it? Or the milonga because it was the popular music of the hinterland of the area in which I was born, or where some other of my forefathers hunted cattle down?

This is pure nonsense, and if I were to move to the United States, people would expect "Bossa Nova" and "soccer" to be part of my "identity" and try to kettle me into it, even if I happened to distaste both.

any attempt to "mold" cultures together is futile.

It usually happens quite naturally; I don't think any "attempt" was necessary to make me like Mozart or Enya or bekleua or sushi or Pink Floyd or Russian short stories at all.

As an individual, I reject all identities, I build my own culture, which rejects borders and traditional belongings, and I suggest that all of us should be wandering jews and stop pretending we are peasants rooted to ancestral homelands. If for no other reasons, because we actually aren't.


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