File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1996/96-05-20.182, message 85

Date: Mon, 26 Feb 1996 13:05:05 +0000
Subject: Re: Bhaskar 'concrete singularity'

My apologies is I misled anyone. I did not intend to suggest that the social
relations determine the "core species being". Rather, I was trying to point
out the complex way in which our identities emerge. The point is that each
of us is the result of a complex process of which the core species being is
but one element. This seems wholly in line with RBs notion of emergence and
straitification to me, which would deny the possibility of closure: that is
that the 'core species' being is subject to multiple determinations and we
possibly cannot ever talk of a pristine uncontaminated human nature. With
regards to ethics I simply wonder where this leaves us? 

Consider, the example I gave, that of genital mutilations. There is probably
nothing about being human that requires that this act is committed. But
nonetheless, it is. Can we criticise it? How, on what grounds? What we are
is a complex of core species being, social relations, etc. How does critical
realism help us navigate this dilemma? Does it?

>Bhaskar's development of the concrete singularity is attempting to navigate 
>a fine line between 'the real'; 'the actual'; and 'the empirical'.  How 
>to distingish them in Colin's example i am not sure.

One way might be to suggest that 'the real' is the 'core species being', the
actual, 'manifestations of this but perhaps unobserved' and the empirical
'manifestations which are observed'. However, the attribution of the core
species being as the 'real' is simply question begging and seem no more
resolvable on a critical realist reading than a postmodern one, which might
deny such a core species being.

>But the concrete singularity is a function of many sociological,  
>historical, and material determinations. 

Absolutely, and can we only criticise these by hanging on very firmly to a
notion of a 'core species being. Moreover, if we do so and perhaps criticise
the many sociological, and historical determinations are we necessarily
being ethnocentric? 

>It is the case that social relations influence and can contradict the 
>core species-being, but it does not determine it.  Moreover, it is 
>through these various historical contradictions between social relations 
>and the species-being that we can say something (if just a little) about 
>the core species-being.  

As I said, I don't want to suggest, al la Althusser, that the core species
being is determined, but Hans para above is still question begging, in that
it is the very status of the core species being which is in question. My own
solution is in fact very similar to Hans, I accept that there is a core
species being, my problem is I am never very happy when forced to justify
this doxa/knowledge to some sceptics. And i am not totally convinced that RB
provides any good answers either. Is it simply a case when one takes one's
stand and gets on with it?

>It seems to me that for Bhaskar the core universal human nature (or the 
>Feuerbachian species-being) is not determined, but rather realized 
>through human praxis as a function of individual "stratification of 
>action" as modeled in various writing (e.g. *Plato Etc.* p. 99).

But this is exactly the problem, since there are many examples, especially
today when this human praxis seems realised and in many instances, not too
kindly predisposed to some individuals core species being.

>The problem to me is not to be able to say exactly what is core universal 
>human nature and what is socially determined or specific to concrete 
>singularity (which of course is important); but rather to realize that 
>concrete singularity is 'over-determined'.
>That is we may not have any (or very little) control of core universal 
>human nature (what ever that may be) but we very much have some input in 
>what manifests in each concrete singularity.  Specifically by consciously 
>attempting to institute humane production and social relations, or at 
>least not consciously allowing inhumane production and social relations.

Again, I have no real problem with this resolution, but it is still taking
for granted that which is at question and thus is susceptible to sceptical
critiques: What is humane production and social relations? What counts as
inhumane production?
>So that we can understand ethically: "In seeking to satisfy my desire, 
>I am logically committed to the satisfaciton of all dialectically similar 
>desires.  (This does not depend upon the judgement form, but is implicit 
>in action as such)" (Bhaskar 1994:141).

I have never understood how RB arrives at this position, perhaps someone can
clarify why I am committed. This seems remarkable like a Kantian
'categorical imperative' to me, and is beset by the same problems: I may
well be committed but can I achieve?

>And we must understand (moral) praxis to be in part an experimental process, 
>where the objects of morality are intransitive.  And Bhaskar adds: "Moral 
>irrelaism secretes an implicit reaism, normally the status que ante, or 
>one bit of it, an analogue of the ontic fallacy (more usually in 
>emotivist, decisionist or personalist and/or traditionalist guises), and, 
>as one would expect, a Tina compromise form" (1994:109-10). 

Can somebody please explain RBs moral realism to me, it seems very confused.
If it is to be 'real' moral realism, it must exist independently. 


Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
SY23 3DA




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