File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0106, message 24


Date: Mon, 18 Jun 2001 16:01:24 +0200
Subject: Re: BHA: Bhaskar, Marx and self-consciousness


Hi Nick,

I agree with your arguments, but I would like to add one remark (maybe
merely repeating a certain point of Althusser's self-critique):
If we conceive the world of philosophy as a struggle between (idealist)
irrealism/ (irrealist) idealism and critical realism, then we should try
to conveive each philosophical strand as the result of a struggle of
these tendencies. This means not to divide the philosophical world in
socalled irrealist philosophers (Hegel, Foucault, Rorty are popular
examples in CR writing; Derrida sometimes goes for an irrealist,
sometimes - Chr. Norris - for a CR philosopher) and CR philosophers.
Rather we should analyse each philosophical text as the result of such a
struggle of irrealist and (critical) realist tendencies - with the
dominance of one tendency. Alan Norrie and you have done exactly this in
your mentioned article in Alethia. May be there exists no 'pure'
irrealist or realist philosophy. (The imagination of such a purity could
be a symptom of an idealist tendency?)
This would also imply that there is never/ seldom an 'absolut' epistemic
break (yesterday Marx was an irrealist philosopher, but since today -
after his epistemological break - he is a critical realist). But this
conception of an ongoing struggle does not exclude the concept of a
qualitative break (for example between the younger and the mature Marx).

best regards,

Hans P.

Nick Hostettler wrote:
> 
> Hi to all,
> 
> Many thanks to Mervyn for pointing this out:
> 
> > I've been re-reading the early Marx, and it's striking that many of
> > the themes of *From East to West* are already there...
> 
> It doesn't come as a surprise that some of the early Marx's 'non-
> Marxist' work should share themes and language with the later
> Bhaskar, but it is good to have the details pointed out.
> 
> As Alan Norrie and myself have pointed out (see the article in
> Alethia, 'Do you like Soul Music'), Bhaskar's "From East to West"
> marks a serious regression in the development of Dialectical Critical
> Realism.  "Dialectic" is constituted by two strands: one developing
> realism; the other sustaining an irrealist humanism and irrealism in
> ethics. FEW ends up by creating a synthesis of the two which
> sublates Bhaskar's realist dialectic within the irrealist one, marking
> a return to a systematic irrealist idealism reminiscent of Hegel's and
> Kant's.
> 
> Before Marx pushed through his rounded critique of political
> economy he too was operating on the irreal terrain of Hegel and
> Kant. Of course, his stance was always critical, but he had not
> developed his critique must beyond the stages of immanent critique
> and the identification of needs within theory itself. It was only as this
> process of critique issued in a positive alternative to idealist
> irrealism that Marx developed the epistemic break with irrealism. In
> so doing Marx pushed through the first sustained attempt to develop
> a dialectical critical realism. Just as some of Roy's work has the
> potential to push our understanding onto clearly new, solidly realist,
> terrain, so Marx's personal dialectic took him further and further
> away from the irrealism of his youth.
> 
> >From his own later perspective, Marx's early work, regardless of its
> critical stance and its ultimate orientation towards realism, is
> necessarily suffused by idealism and an irrealist humanism; his own
> early humanist impulses were themselves shrouded in quasi-
> mystical language. The tragedy of FEW, which Mervyn so clearly
> illustrates, is that Bhaskar's own new irrealist humanism is a return
> to precisely the mode of thought that Marx sought to leave behind.
> 
> Roy's work developing realism in philosophy paves the way for a
> genuinely realist socialist humanism, allowing us to take up and
> develop Marx's critique of capitalist modernity in the 21st century.
> Now, in the face of a growing global crisis, when the utmost clarity
> is vital, the very last thing we need is to turn away from the the
> possibility of seeing the world unshrouded by mysticism.
> 
> Keep it up Mervyn,
> 
> Nick.
> 
> ---------------------------------
> Nick Hostettler,
> Department of Political Studies,
> SOAS (University of London),
> Thornaugh Street,
> Russell Square,
> London WC1H 0XG
> ---------------------------------
> 
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