File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1997/bhaskar.9708, message 9

Date: Mon, 04 Aug 1997 21:46:39
To: bhaskar-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: Re: BHA: Non-experimental science (was "What must the ...")


You quote me

>>of which science offers (allegedly) a better explanation.  Such a theory is
>>labeled ideological only if acceptance has demonstrable causes unrelated to
>>its truth.

and ask:

>Do you mean there are causes that produce the theory or that the theory
>causes something else?

I am talking about causes of theories, but the question makes sense to me 
only if you omit the last four words from the quote, namely "unrelated to 
its truth." 
>Either way, it's hard to think of any theory whose own production does not
>have causes and that itself does not have an impact on the world.  The
>theory in _Capital_ is a good example.  Does this make it ideological?

No, a theory having a cause does not make it ideological, not did I say so.
Your subsequent statment that "the possibility of causes underlying the 
production and acceptance of scientific explanations necessarily temper any 
claims about science's rationality" leads me to think that you yourself are 
claiming that a theory's having a cause makes it ideological.  Be that as it 
may, I was not speaking of causes of theories generally, rather about causes 
unrelated to the truth of the theories.  

One thing I have in mind is the causal theory of knowledge, which states 
that in order to have knowledge, as opposed to a true belief, my belief must 
have been caused by that part of the world my belief is about (so knowledge 
is not true belief, nor even justified true belief).  I see the same kind of 
thing at work with theories: a theory should  be labeled ideological if its 
production in no way was caused by the way the world is.  There are some 
difficulties here.  For example, what about a true theory that is 
ideological by this criterion, that is a true theory which is accepted for
wrong reasons.  That problem can be handled by distinguishing between a 
theory as a set of assertions and a theory as a social institution or object.

I have trouble with the rest of what you raise, because it seems to me that
it is concerned with the limits inherent in the process of rationality.  We
should not be surprised that our ideas have causes, nor that it may be
difficult to produce rational justifications for (or refutations against)
them that rise above those limitations.  Nevertheless, that is just what
occurs and is what RB's notion of ideology critique attempts to capture.
That is sort of what I was aiming at in speaking of causes of a theory
unrelated to its truth in opposition to causes generally of a theory.

Louis Irwin

>>  Quite conceivably witchcraft in some specific society is not at
>>all ideological, it may simply be they have no better theory and, if
>>presented with appropriate information, would readily drop witchcraft as an
>Re. my earlier remark.  I worry about the implicit rationalism here.  If
>theories and their acceptance have causes, then it may be that people would
>not adopt a theory even if it could be demonstrated to be superior.
>Indeed, going back to _Capital_, all of us engage in the ideology of value
>when we buy bread even though we may know better.  Some kinds of ideology
>are PRACTICES rather than purely abstract thoughts.  We can critique such
>practices with other thoughts (produced through scientific practice --
>i.e., Althusser's theoretical practice?), but we can transform the
>ideological practice only with something more than science (e.g.,
>The whole notion of ideas having causes is perhaps the most thorny issue in
>the structure-agency debates and in any theory of science.  We may be able
>to justify an account of science, but the possibility of causes underlying
>the production and acceptance of scientific explanations necessarily temper
>any claims about science's rationality.  A scientific theory can only be
>rational within the range that its causes allow. When comparing two
>theories, adoption of one over the other may simply reflect its underlying
>causes rather than its relative truth.  Indeed, Marx's whole analysis of
>ideology rooted in material practice would be unintelligible if this were
>not so: e.g., people accept religion because of their material conditions
>of life rather than because of its intrinsic theoretical superiority.

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