File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0009, message 6

Date: Wed, 6 Sep 2000 10:41:07 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Re: BHA: Re: Re:James Daly's piece 

Hi James,

Now of course I'm dying to hear the part that was potentially (in the
NON-Aristotelian sense!) in "maudlin bad taste!"  Seriously, though, I'd
very much like to learn of any articles that you've written on these questions.

I see what you mean, that Aristotelian essentialism is simultaneously
teleological.  I had assumed that it was that kind of "internal" teleology
that you were talking about, but had nonetheless been thinking of
essentialism in a more modern (or perhaps post-modern) light, as telling us
only that something has a determinate character.  Still, it might be worth
going through these differences for other readers like me who might need to
be reminded.

Your work sounds interesting.  Periodically when I am thinking about Bhaskar
I get all inspired to read/re-read all of Aristotle (as I said, I get "all
inspired!") to try to really work out exactly what Bhaskar's relationship is
to him.  (And Howard Engleskirchen, one of our fellow list members, has
actually done a bit of this.)  It's easy to get overwhelmed by just how much
of the cannon one needs to command in order to be able to properly situate
any serious major thinker, but I do always think that RTS, at least, is a
kind of Aristotle versus Kant and Hume saga.  (On the other hand, I see Marx
too as in some way spelling out what the historical conditions of
possibility are for an Aristotelian kind of flourishing to be universally
possible.  So you could accuse me of having Aristotle on the brain!)

You wrote:
>I agree with you that Roy's invaluable refutation of Hume, and demonstration
>of the connection between empiricism and mechanism, is about efficient
>causality; but as I said it clears the ground for an Aristotelian approach.

Yes, I realize that you only said "clears the ground."  I was a little bit
worried that I had unfairly characterized your position, or at least
over-stated it.  So are you saying that once we establish (or re-establish)
that efficient causality is about the exercise of *some* sort of real power,
then the way is open to assert that the bearers of such powers (I don't mean
for this to sound as external a relationship as it sounds -- I just can't
think of the right words to express it) are also bearers of final causes?
Or, once natural necessity is back on the table, then it's just another step
to add that it's a certain kind of teleological necessity?  Hmmm.  I
g-u-e-s-s so...             

>I also
>agree with your analysis of explanatory critique; I always thought it was
>too parsimonious, and that that was a concession to fact/value
>dichotomising. I noted that at this year's conference Andrew raised that
>point in a forum with Roy, who replied that more work must be done on values
>(I think he called it utopian thinking, which may be another concession to
>the theory of the non rationality of values).

Yes.  I'm not sure where I fall on this personally, but RB's original
fact/value discussion is as you say I think.  In the last footnote to ch.5
in *Reclaiming Reality* (the famous chapter-version of PON that at least
half of us said once was the first thing of RB's that we had read!), on p.
202 in my copy, RB remarks that the problem with Taylor's "Neutrality in
Political Science" is that he seems to suggest in it that we should choose
"that theory that most satisfies our conception of what `fulfils human
needs, wants and purposes'" rather than, as Bhaskar would have it "that
theory which, just because it is explanatorily most adequate, and capable
inter alia of explaining illusory beliefs about the social world, best
allows us to situate the possibilities of change in the value-direction that
the theory indicates."  This seems a fairly sharp contrast between
"explanatory adequacy" (elsewhere described as "explaining more facts") and
"meeting a value criterion."  

A while ago I happened upon really good discussion of Aristotle and
explanation in a book by a guy called Stephen Salkever.  The book is called
*Finding the Mean: Theory and Prectice in Aristotelian Political Philosophy*
(Princeton, 1990), and the directly relevant chapter is "Aristotle's
Teleology and the Tradition of Evaluative Explanation."  Have you heard of him?



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