File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1996/96-05-20.182, message 20

Date:          Tue, 19 Dec 1995 12:50:42 GMT-700
Subject:       Returned mail: Host unknown

Colin asks me to clarify:

>>And what does Critical Realism mean for Dialectics, it seems to me it 
>>is in Bhaskar (explicit) ontological commitment, which differentiates 
>>and perhaps saves it from both (right) Hegelian and (dialectical 
>>materialist) Marxian interpretations.

All i have in mind is that Marx never explicitly spells out an 
ontological commitment, hence the ontological interpretation of a 
materialist dialectic is left open.  

The right Hegelian interpretation (including Hegel himself, the one which 
Bhaskar dubs (Hegel Mark II) has the (Hegelian) dialectic resolving 
contradictions as Bhaskar explains in 2.3 of *Dialectic*, hence, 
leading to a closed system or totality (according to Bhaskar).  
The left Hegelian interpretation (e.g. Bauer, Strauss, and especially 
Feuerbach, along with possiblly Hegel Mark I, and Xegel) understand 
that the contradictions are not resolved, that is human being are 
alienated from their own powers(1), but they seemingly reduce this to 
a problem of understanding rooted in cognition; whereby each 
individual must overcome this cognitive alienation, the greatest 
constraint being the individual hirself.

Diamat (like Marx and Engels of *German Ideology*) accepts 
contradiction to be rooted in the material, or better, real world.
But commits dialectics to an empiricist realism.  Where the three 
laws of *Dialectics of Nature* become empirical generalizations 
(Dialectic p. 151; RR p. 122-3; Plato etc. p. 125).  Whereby, dialectics 
becomes a special case of naturalism, and if Bhaskar's argument in PON is 
correct, dialectics of nature must be reformulated from its current 
'dialectical materialist' form.  For it commits a type of scientism.

Terence Hickey writes:

>>I would appreciate if those who are interested in this topic could
>>start a thread bringing out the implications of 'absence' for
>>Bhaskar's dialectic. 

Colin Wright responds:

>This is a good point, as far as I can see the motor driving the 
>Hegelian dialectic is 'contradiction' whereas, that driving the 
>Bhaskarian one is 'absence'. Now, as I see it, this means that the 
>following is both right and wrong:(Notwithstanding, the fact that I'm 
>not sure what is meant by meontologically):

First, i want to say that 'absence', specifically 'absenting 
absences' seems to be the crucial concept in the Bhaskarian 
dialectic.  And like  Terence would enjoy to see this further 

Second, with respect to Colin's response, absence is is the implicit 
or hidden motor of the Hegelian (and Marxian dialectic); and the 
explicit motor for DCR.

i would agree with Colin's commitments on 'constellationality'; or 
along with absence being ontological, it also refers to an 
epistemological category.  Colin adds: "This can be illuminated by 
considering the 'absence' of certain forms of knowledge necessary for 

Bhaskar says: "Absenting absences, which act as constraints on wants, 
needs or (more generally) well-being, is essentical to dialectics 
interpreted as the logic of freedom" (Dialectic p. 42).

i would like to give an (Marxian) example: in capitalism universal 
freedom or freedom for _all_ (that is -- for everyone) cannot be 
achieved. This is (mianly) because of the capital\wage-labor nexus, 
where, by defination one class of individuals must sell their labor-
power in order to survive in the social system.  Hence, the non-
identity (the 1M category) is the de-ont of freedom in capitalism, 
this generates an absence (within the 2E category) which can only be 
understand in terms of negation (the 2E category, or dialectic 

Now if we commit the epistemic fallacy at this point we understand 
empirically that freedom does not exist.  Thus, causing an alienating 
split in our potential, will, power(1), etc., whereby we come to 
believe that we do not possess the power(1) to or potency for our own 
individual freedom (within the 3L category.  We can come to believe 
that this is how the world, or civil society is or must be (e.g. 
Freud in *Civilization of Discontent*).  This is the axiological 
moment, where we ground, justify, and understand "truth".  Moreover 
this axiological moment will in part determine practice (at the 4D 
and 5C levels).

Further, not only does this dialectic allow an understanding of 
alienation, but gives us a theory of ideology.  Not ideology 
(merely) as falsehood (versus truth), nor ideology as unscientific 
(e.g. Althusser), nor ideology as sociology of knowledge (e.g. 
Mannheim), but ideology as an "upside down" reality, rooted in a 
faulty ontological commitment, leading to a less than adequate 
"theory of truth", and an alienated practice.  

hans despain
University of Utah



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