File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1998/bhaskar.9807, message 9

Date: Fri, 3 Jul 1998 15:10:49 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: BHA: bhaskar and the aristotelian scheme

I collected these earlier this year, but never got around to
posting them.
* * * * 
are to avoid the absurdity of the supposition of the production of
(new and changing) knowledge ex nihilo (on which more anon) and to
sustain the material continuity of the process of cognitive
transformation, this process must be conceived as iteratively
dependent upon the employment of antecedently existing cognitive
resources, taken from the same or some other domain (Bachelard's
'scientific loans').  These resources comprise the transitive
objects of knowledge; their transormation is the transitive process
of knowledge-production; and its product, knowledge (of an
intransitive object or topic), in turn supplies resources for
further rounds of inquiry.  This imparts to the cognitive process
a quasi-autopoietic character, with the production of knowledges
accomplished by means of (anterior) knowledges.  And it immediately
suggests the possibility of provisionally characterising, or
modelling, science in essentially Aristotelian terms (though this
was not in fact the way in which Aristotle most charcteristically
viewed science).  Its material causes (or transitive objects) would
then consist in pre-existing cognitions used as models; its
efficient causes in the theoretically-guided research activity of
(wo)men; its final causes in the achievement of adequate
explanations and its formal causes in knowledge of the intranstive
objects of inquiry.  On such a model, science is a social process,
possessing material causes of its own kind, anterior and
irreducible to any individual acquisition, oriented to the
production, via the dynamic exploitation of whatever cognitive
resources lie at its disposal, of the knowledge of the mechanisms
of the production of the phenomena in nature."
B.   RECLAIMING REALITY, 77-78:  "Now if society pre-exists the
individual, objectivation takes on a very different significance. 
For it, conscious human activity, consists of work on given
objects, and cannot be conceived as taking place in their absence. 
These objects may be material or ideational.  And they may be
regarded as the results of prior objectivations.  Now this suggests
a radically different conception of social activity, an essentially
Aristotelian one: the paradigm being that of a sculptor at work,
fashioning a product out of the material and with the tools
avaialble to him or her.  I shall call this the transformational
model of social activity.  It applies to discursive as well as to
non-discursive practices; to science and politics, as much as to
economics.  Thus in science the raw materials used in the
construction of new theories are established results, half-
forgotten ideas, the stock of available paradigms and models,
methods and techniques of inquiry; so that the scientific innovator
comes to appear in retrospect as a kind of cognitive bricoleur.  To
use the Aristotelian terms, then, in every process of productive
activity a material as well as an efficient cause is necessary. 
And social activity consists, then, at least paradigmatically in
work on and the transformation of given materials."
C.  SRHE, 122-123.  The following passage introduces the TMSA in
"The T.M.S.A., which may be motivated either by transcendental
argument from intentional agency or by immanent critique of the
antinomies of social theory, may be regarded as an attempt to
articulate the formal conditions for substantive object-
constitution in the social sciences via a definition of what must
be the case for a sui generis science of social objects to be
possible.  It has already been displayed at work in the shape of
the quasi-autopoietic conception of scientific development spelt
out in Chapter 1.5.  The principal historical forebears of the
model, as I understand it, are Aristotle and Marx.  Its central
features are the definition of human intentional agency as
criterial for the social, as distinct from the purely natural
sphere; and the characterisation of the onto-logical structure of
human activity or praxis as essentially transformative or poietic,
as consisting in the tranformation of the pre-given material
(natural and social) causes by efficient (intentional) human
agency.  The criterion for differentiating the
social from the purely natural material causes is given by their
property that, although necessarily pre-given to any particular
agent and a condition for every intentional act, they exist and
persist only in virtue of human agency.  If there are social
explanations for social phenomena (i.e. if a social science of
social forms is to be possible), then what is designated in such
explanations, the social mechanisms and structures generating
social phenomena, must be social products themselves; and so, like
any other social object, they must be given to and reproduced in
human agency. . . . Human activity, then, is dependent upon given
materials (means, media resources, rules), which it transforms."  
D.   SRHE 119.  Earlier in the same section in the course of
adressing "the susceptibility of social and natural phenomena to
explanation in essentially the same way":
"Rather it is only in virtue of an independent analysis, such as
will be aired in a moment, that a paramorphic relationship between
the natural and the human sciences can be set up capable of
vindicating the idea that there are (or at least may be) knowable
structures at work in the human domain partly analogous but
irreducible to (although dependent upon) those discovered in
nature, whereupon the material causality of social forms and the
efficient causality of beliefs emerge as conditions of intentional
agency and discursive thought respectively."
E.   POSSIBILITY OF NATURALISM (1st ed. 122).  (I just found a
hardback copy, unmarked!, of the first edition of PON in an old
bookstore for $6.95!):
"Reasons, then, are beliefs.  And the fact that beliefs can be
specified, as it were, disinterestedly, that is in isolation from
any desire, partly accounts for the systematic ambiguity in the
notion of a reason as both a ground for a proposition and an
explanation for an action, and for the familiar contrast between
reasons for and reasons why.  But this account of the matter seems
to leave a problem as to why beliefs should ever become attached to
desires.  Now the Newtonian Revolution in psychology consists in
coming to see that people do not have to be pushed, prodded or
stimulated into action.  They act spontaneously.  Or one could say
that they are active by nature.  The irreducibility of
intentionality means that it is not that, but rather what people do
that is problematic. . . . For whereas decisions are discrete, and
often lagged, in time, action or better activity occurs as a
continuous stream, in which the volitional element can never be
analyzed away, so that there is no more mystery about why beliefs
become wants (causally efficacious) than
there is about how wants issue in actions.  For the desires that
transform beliefs into wants (interests and needs) and so ceteris
paribus into actions are generated, like the beliefs themselves, in
the course of the practical business of life.  Will, for its part,
may best be regarded as pure or unimpeded desire; and desire as,
correspondingly, will, which encountering some obstacle, requires
beliefs about the manner as well as the object of its satisfaction. 
In this sense Aristotle was correct: the conclusion of a practical
syllogism is an action.
     "One does what one wants to (or intends) unless prevented. 
This is a necessary truth.  And no further explanation of action as
such is required. . . ."
Howard Engelskirchen

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