File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1997/bhaskar.9708, message 74

Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar on Adorno 
Date: Sun, 24 Aug 1997 15:33:31 +0100

Once again I can't get into my normal email handler so apologies for unedited

First of all, it seems to me not so much a problem of regrets about
mentioning RB's differences from Adorno, so much as these differences appear 
to be minor or even non-existent (on this issue). Secondly, I'm unsure why
Michael portrays me as defending RB 'up to the hilt' as he puts it. I have many
areas of disagreement with RB, but this is not one of them. What I am defending
here is the argument not its source. I don't care whether RB or
Derrida makes the point (which Derrida actually does), it is the argument which
is at issue. And what is yet to be shown is why the argument is wrong.

> 2/. Ruth's point, as I read it, is that Adorno's position tackles social
> reality as lived experientially, or as I tried to put it "the world we wake
> up to every morning" - relatively to this Ruth is surely right that RB's
> position is to date far more metaphysical and less phenomenological, despite
> his correct appreciation that some form of phenomenological insight
> (preferably the more rationalistic/scientific Husserlian kind rather than the
> more metaphysical variety of Heidegger) is required by most varieties of
> dialectical thought to date.

Well this is surely one area of very deep disagreement. As I said in my earlier
reply to Ruth, I think this may be a correct reading of Adorno, but gets RB 
wrong. For one thing Rb does not neglect lived reality, but he does reject
a phenomenological metaphysics, whether in a Heideggerian or Husserlian mode.

> 3/. Anyone wishing to defend bhaskar "to the hilt" as it were, even to the
> point of denying that his position does indeed give priority to the object in
> subject/object interactions (surely part of the meaning he gives to "realism"
> and "emergent powers materialism"?) can only do so my constructing such a
> smoothly linear and self-consistent account of the evolution of DCR that we
> may as well forget the specifically dialectical aspect of it altogether
> (including its own dialectical evolution via self-criticism as RB puts it),
> and confine ourselves to the earlier works (which of course would then be
> inconsistent, discontinuous, de-totalising, ahistorical, a negation of the
> presence of contradictions, the immanence of theory to a historicallyu
> contradictory social reality etc etc etc. No problem with that?.

Not so. How are we to understand the dialectical moment of critical realism?
I read the dialectical enrichment of critical realism as exactly that, an 
enrichment, not a rejection. In effect, I read the dialectic as making explicit
what was implicit. Also, I simply fail to see (although I know many 
do it) how you can construe RB as advocating giving primacy to the object.
The whole point of emergent powers materialism is to allow for things to be
rooted in a material reality, but to have emergent powers of their own. That is
to put a block on exactly the kind of reductionism that Michael appears to
argue RB must be committed to. 

If I read Michael correct, he is basically positing an either/or relationship
here. That is that there is no way we can avoid giving primacy to one or the
other. Whatever, the merits of this position I reject it, and I am fairly 
sure RB would as well.

> 4/.  The price paid for attempting to make RB's position internally coherent
> on every point and relatively superior to all alternative contributors to his
> current tradition, (he cannot mean X because that would contradict his
> commitment to Y and this, of course, is unthinkable) is more than the
> advantage gained. 

Could you perhaps provide some examples here please. I simply can't engage with
this at this level?

Whilst such interpretative closure might not be the result
> of a distinctly theological mode of interpretation, something of a "family
> resemblance" still troubles me here with Colin's mode of "defence to the
> hilt". The problem with putting any theorist up on a pedestral is the law of
> gravity, then tend to fall down upon us. 

I'm troubled as to the interpretative reading "into" my posts the claim that
I am putting RB on a pedestal. Like I say, I am much more interested in the 
arguments than their sources. If the arguments are unsound then please

As it turned out (or so both Michael and Ruth argued) RB's position is 
identical, or similar to, that of Adorno. Given that Bhaskar's prose was, by his
standards, very measured (have a look at the chapter in Plato etc, on Socrates
and so on, where he throws the whole of western philosophy into the dustbin,
with some very cute, although totally unsubstantiated one-liners, for an 
example of him in unmeasured full flow) I simply fail to see the point, and 
still do. There are however, plenty of examples when RB does seem to do
violence to major thinkers. I just don't think this was a very good example.



Colin Wight
Dept of INT/Pol


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