File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0010, message 76

Subject: Re: BHA: Althusser, Hegel and Bhaskar
Date: Sun, 15 Oct 2000 20:22:09 +0100

-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Hostettler <>
To: <>
Date: 04 October 2000 00:46
Subject: Re: BHA: Althusser, Hegel and Bhaskar

Hi Nick and listers,

>Phil wrote:
>So what do I mean when I say that there is a certain lack of dialectics in
>Althusser's work?  I am referring to how one conceives of the relations
>between mind, nature, and history.  Althusser ultimately seems to have mind
>in a separate realm.  This is dualist, but it is also undialectical,
>it severs connections that need to be made.
Nick wrote:
>One of the things that intrigues me about what you wrote Phil is that once
>Althusser is read and properly understood as a dialectical realist (with an
>expansive conception of the material) it becomes hard to read him as having
>adopted the position you outline.  The usual response to Althusser is the
>opposite to the one you suggest: namely that he absents the dialectic by
>reducing thought to being. What is it in his work that gives you this

Actually I confused my critique of Habermas with my critique of Althusser.
Apologies to you, Nick, and to the list.  Also I agree with you that
Althusser does not reduce thought to being, though there is an argument put
by some that Althusser illicitly separates the thought object from the real
object (I don't agree with it).  My only, but a serious, criticism of
Althusser is that in my view he gets the relationship between philosophy and
the sciences wrong.  I think he gives too much autonomy to the sciences.
(And he certainly gives more than his tutor Bachelard did).  This is despite
the brilliant critique of idealist philosophy in science contained in
Althusser's  *Philosophy and the Spontaneous Philosophy of the Scientists*.
The issue that remains is whether it is true that philosophy has maintained
a parasitic relationship on science.  In my view this is not true but I
think Althusser sometimes holds this view and this leads him to develop a
positivist conception of the relationship between philosophy and the
Nick wrote:
>If anything, it is
>Althusser's total acceptance of the kind of realism Deitzgen puts forward
>that stops him from adopting any rationalistic or absolutist position.
>Roy's work, on the other hand, absents the theory of ideology as lived
>relations, and so it does not have the the kinds of built in restraints
>that stop it from flowing into idealism and rationalism. To put it bluntly:
>Althusser's conception of dialectics completely encompasses the subject,
>but Roy's does so only partially.

I am in agreement with what you say about the need to avoid a rationalistic
or absolutist position on ideology.  However, I am not sure that I am as
prepared as you to assert the essential identity of materialism and realism.
Though you describe Althusser and Dietzgen as realists (and this may be
right) they themselves seemed to think that materialism was not identical to
realism and that materialism was superior.  I believe that Dietzgen's monist
materialism is necessary to avoid idealism.  The direction that Roy has
taken seems to be evidence that realism without monist materialism ends up
in idealism.
Warm regards,

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