File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9802, message 21


Subject: Re: BHA: cause and meaning
Date: Wed, 11 Feb 1998 12:43:46 +0000


Howard raises the issue of what exactly is meant by the Bhaskar quote:

  "It is methodologically incorrect
>to search for an efficient cause of society . . . " (RTS 197). 

As I understand this is a rejection of all forms of reductionism, or final
cause arguments (in a non-Aristotleian sense). It is a rejection of any form
of "in the last instance" argument that wants to posit one mechanism as
responsible at bottom for social phenomena. A rejection of the kind of
economic reductionism which Marx is supposed to have adhered to, although
never actually did. Note the word "an" in the quote. There is no efficient
cause of society because society exists across at least four planes (the
social cube, I would actually want to include a cultural plane, so my cube
would be 5 sided, but hell, who said mathmatics was a perfect science?).
There can't be an efficient cause of society because society has many causes.

However, I would have to disagree with Howard when he writes:
 
>I think the question of reasons as causes of human actions has not
>been developed so finely in CR as to have made clear the maker or
>mover of our actions as a matter of substantive psychological
>science. 

Chapter 3 of PON is a brilliant exposition of the whole notion of reasons as
causes. In this RB takes just about every argument against the 'resons as
causes' position and deals with them sensitively, and brilliantly. This to
me is some of RB's best work. Methodologically tight and very rigorous;
there is none of the off-hand dissmisals of arguments here, that appear in
later works. RB goes into great depth and treats his opponents seriously.
This is a good chapter folks - required reading in fact, only bettered by
the sections critiquing hermeneutic foundationalism later in the same book.

Good question on the real definition of social objects. I think we can
probably use this in the social world, as long as we remember that such
definitions are (i) always made in the transitive realm; (ii) always bound -
by factors other than science - to be disputed; (iii) always going to be
contingent (as a result of the fact that social objects are always
products-in-process);(iv) and anyway are part of ordinary language (not that
I would ever advocate that social science can be reduced to ordinary
language philosophy), that is, that we do distinguish between social objects
in terms of such definitions. Hence we talk of a "real friend"; a "real war"
(as distinct from a phoney war, or phoney friends), etc. The difference
between real and fake money is of course another example, with real material
consequences (unfortunatley! My new colour printer has such possibilities).
Such definitions however are probably going to resemble something much more
like Wittgensteinian family resemblances, rather than logical, semantic
and/or axiomatic sets of statements as the Logical Positivists thought.

Thanks,





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Dr. Colin Wight
Department of International Politics
University of Wales, Aberystwyth
Tel: (01970) 621769

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