File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0010, message 32

Date:          Fri, 6 Oct 2000 9:16:30 GMT
Subject:       Re: BHA: DPF C 2.10

Dear all, 

Hans, your post on dialectics, absence and absolute reason raises some very 
interesting questions about how to read DPF. 

On dialectic, you say that what it registers are self-absenting absences. 
On the 'substance' of dialectics you speak of the causal efficacies of 
absences. In respect of absolute reason you relate it to the realisation of 
the eudaimonistic society. 

Hans. Are you suggesting that we should be understanding Roy to be  using 
absence to refer to self realising potentialities? 

It is one thing to speak of the existing structure of the world in terms of 
realised and unrealised possibilities (presences and absences) which in 
turn give rise to a structure of possibilities, some of which are realised 
while others go unrealised. This gives us a persistent dialectic of absence 
and presence, or an account of emergence within polyvalent being. 

To speak of causally efficacious absences with self-actualising capacities 
seems to me to be a form of the teleological which wholly subordinates the 
positive to the negative. This reading is much closer to the way that I 
would read FEW. 

On your final note, if absences are self realising why shouldn't we speak 
of the necessity of the self realisation of eudaimonia? In FEW, after all, 
the 'absolute' is 'fundamentally constitutive' of all being so that 
Eudaimonia is a transhistorically necessary absence/possibility. 

>Date:          Thu, 5 Oct 2000 15:35:10 -0600 (MDT)
>From:          Hans Ehrbar <>
>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 
> > 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 
> > sentence (at 203):  given that we do not yet have the enabling >
> > for a society in which the free flourishing of each is the condition >
> > the free flourishing of all (socialism is "like Ethelred, unready"), >
> > sentence asserts:  "Only absolute reason in the form of the unity of
> > explanatory critical social theory and emancipatory axiology can put >
> > 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. 
>      --- from list --- 

Nick Hostettler,
Department of Political Studies,
SOAS (University of London),
Thornaugh Street,
Russell Square,
London WC1H 0XG

     --- from list ---


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