File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2003/bhaskar.0312, message 59

Date: Thu, 04 Dec 2003 18:49:51 -0600
Subject: Re: BHA: RE: RE: Realism?

Hi, Ruth,

At 09:53 AM 12/4/2003 -0600, you wrote:
>>I just wanted to say that the position that you describe yourself as holding seems fairly essentialist to me.<<

IMO, essences are particular to individuals. Laws and structures, however, are universals.

>>It sounds as though what you don't believe in are universals, not essences.<<

I suppose I would acknowledge both. For instance, gravity, that an object in a vacuum will fall at a rate of 32 feet per second squared, and the laws of thermodynamics are, in my view, intransitive universals. Dialectical materialism may be a law (or intransitive universal structure). Other structures, including matrices of domination (race, class, gender, ethnicity, etc.), specific social institutions, and patterns of institutional relationships in a particular society are transitive universal structures.

On the other hand, essence (quiddity) would, IMO, refer to the specific *reality* of, for example, a human individual, which is then manifested in her or his *actual* life pattern and her or his attributes analyzed subject to available tools of *empirical* observation.

>>I would say that if you think that given social structures have given forms (such that if they didn't have them they would be something else), in virtue of which they have whatever causal efficacy they do, then you are pretty much an essentialist (albeit not a creepy one) about structures.<<

IMO, the forms of a social structure consist of what Georg Simmel called sociation, formal and observable patterns of social relationships. Structure per se is not observable. It is an aspect of what Durkheim called the conscience collective.

Does that make sense?

Mark A. Foster *
"Sacred cows make the best hamburger" 
-- Mark Twain and Abbie Hoffman 

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