File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0010, message 29

Date: Thu, 5 Oct 2000 15:35:10 -0600 (MDT)
Subject: BHA: DPF C 2.10

Howard, here is my take on your questions.  I don't think
what I say contradicts Nick, but I think I cover slightly
different ground.

You cited or summarized RTS re real definition as follows:

> At the Leibnizian level we establish that the powers of a thing, which
> manifest themselves in causal laws, are a consequence of its structure.

I.e., a real definition identifies that thing whose way
of acting manifests itself in the causality at hand.

> The real definition given for dialectic is "the absenting of absences."
> How is this a real definition at the Leibnizian level?  How does it
> establish the intrinsic structure of dialectic?  What are the elements of
> the structure?   What is their nature?

My answer is: the thing that acts in a dialectic is absence,
and what it does is: it absents itself.  If you ask "how,"
well, that depends on what kind of absence it is.

> Again, what kind of scientific object is the dialectic?

Bhaskar says that we cannot give a unitary definition of
dialectic, and that there is some ambiguity how narrowly one
wants to define it.  But we know from experience that
constraints can be overcome, that opposite or unrelated
realities can combine to form a higher unity, that things
develop etc.  I think Bhaskar considers all these "dialectical"
phenomena as proofs of the causal efficacy of absences.  Of
course, this is not yet a full explanation, rather it is the
discovery of a new continent; we will have to study case by
case what kinds of absences do what how.

> But with respect to the social, what is meant by the chapter's next to last
> sentence (at 203):  given that we do not yet have the enabling conditions
> for a society in which the free flourishing of each is the condition for
> the free flourishing of all (socialism is "like Ethelred, unready"), the
> sentence asserts:  "Only absolute reason in the form of the unity of
> explanatory critical social theory and emancipatory axiology can put this
> right."

> What is meant by "absolute reason" here?

The glossary in DPF defines absolute reason as: The unity of
theory and practice in practice.  We do not yet have the
enabling conditions for such a society but such a society is
"an immanent and tendential possibility" (p. 202) because the
directionality of human agency points to it.  See p. 180:
"The desire to overcome constraints on the satisfaction of
desires, wants and needs implies a tendency to knowledge of
all four planes of the social tetrapolity.  And this,
mediated by the political skills and practical wisdom shown
in collective totalizing agency, will take humanity to the
eudaimonistic life for all."  Well, I am sure Bhaskar knows
that we may never get there, but at least our inner compass
(immanent critique and dialectical universalizability)
points us in that direction.

Hans Ehrbar.

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