Soviet-Empire.com U.S.S.R. and communism historical discussion.
[ Active ]
[ Register ][ Login ]
Log-in to remove these advertisements.

Idealism vs. Materialism

POST REPLY
Soviet cogitations: 10000
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 15 May 2012, 16:40
I'm going to answer to the endless allegations of solipsism first, in order to end these annoying accusations:

I don't care. Solipsism is not an argument. Solipsism is one of the most nonsensical philosophical ideas ever, and again, it is hilarious that you of all people take recourse to it.

It does not matter whether I am a part of the world ("non-solipsism") or the world is a part of me ("solipsism"). It makes no difference at all. It's impossible to prove or disprove solipsism. It's also unnecessary. In any case, I am confronted with a world I have to deal with. Because I am successful in dealing with said world, this alone proves that I do it the right way.

Jeez.

Quote:
At least you have abandoned your earlier claims that common or general nouns (indeed, all words), processes in the CNS and drawings were abstractions, and have now settled on the traditional view that it is some sort of 'mental process'.


No. Why do I have to repeat that again and again?

Abstraction was treated as a mental process until Marxism appeared. That is the "new use of old words" that you mentioned.

Again, Ilyenkov:

Quote:
The individuals that are subdued to these objective dependency relations that they cannot see, understand or recognize, continue to appear to each other as "concrete" individuals, even though the process (of capitalist production) has long since transformed them into very abstract individuals, into executives of special and atomized operations - into weavers, tailors, lathe operators or painters of "abstract paintings". All other, "concrete" properties of the individual, except the job-related ones, become entirely negligible and circumstantial from the point of view of the entire process, and they degenerate due to their disuse.


That is a very real process. Alienation and abstract labor are not imaginary.

Quote:
In view of the fact that you now tell us that you can't remember what you said earlier, it looks like I was right.


No, you weren't right. That's ridiculous. I said I couldn't remember having said that abstraction is a noun, and I was right about that because I actually hadn't said that before. Your counter-argument consisted in saying that I said that all nouns are abstractions, but that is clearly not the same thing.

Quote:
it's not possible for you to recall what you once meant by 'word', 'different', 'same' or even 'abstraction'.


Yes it is. Why do you think it's not? (Just shoving my quote about the infinite possibilities of abstraction in my face for what must be like the 10th time isn't going to make your point any clearer. That makes about as much sense as claiming we can't know the value of a number because there's an infinity of numbers. But then, since numbers are abstracts, you probably think mathematics is "non-sensical" anyway.)

Quote:
Well, we have yet to see the proof of all this a priori neuroscience, but even if it were correct, that wouldn't tell us that a process in the CNS was an abstraction, only that it causes this process.


Nope, unless you assume that mental processes do not take place in the CNS.

Quote:
Well, you are running together several different things here. On this view, any separation would be an 'abstraction'. So, if a husband and wife separate, they are really 'abstracting', are they? And if two individuals go to a meeting in separate cars, they are 'abstracting', are they? And if a river divides and goes in separate directions, it is abstracting, too? Hardly! ... You can have the other sense of 'abstraction' -- cutting things up. You are welcome to it.


Blah blah. If you had actually bothered to read what I write, you'd have noticed that I said that abstraction is the separation of a thing from its properties. Not just randomly cutting things up. A divorce isn't a separation of a marriage from one of its properties, it's the end of a marriage. Going to a meeting in separate cars doesn't even have anything to do with any kind of process of separation, and the river question is so nonsensical that I don't even know how to answer it, so I won't.

Quote:
And, of course, Marx allegedly arrived at this view of labour after a 'process of abstraction' in 'his mind', as himself tells us


I don't see him telling us that abstraction can only take place in the mind.

Quote:
So, 'abstract labour' was (allegedly) arrived at by a 'mental process'. The highlighted comments confirm that Marx, at least, thought this.


The concept of abstract labor was arrived at by a mental process. Abstract labor itself is a very material process. Marx knew this.

Quote:
But in what way is this an 'abstract'?


Because you abstract away from the difference of wavelengths between 450 and 490 nm? It is glaringly obvious.

Quote:
So, colour isn't an 'abstraction', after all?


Blue is an abstract. I have said this all the time. Your permanent attempts to see contradictions or mistakes in my argument where there are none are extremely annoying.

Quote:
But, if your theory is true, you have no way of knowing that agreement happens. Given that you believe that all words (or at least nouns, verbs, and adjectives) are abstractions, you have no way of knowing from moment to moment what you yourself mean by 'agreement', or even 'change'.


See above. That is so non-sequitur it hurts.

Quote:
Notice he also had a go at 'the metaphysicians'.


Why is that supposed to be an anti-diamat argument?
I have "goes" at metaphysicians all the time.

Quote:
he is criticising every traditional approach to this 'process'.


...but he isn't doubting the validity of the process itself. Touché!

Quote:
'Drop' and 'leave out' are synonymous with your 'separate', and so are also the target of Marx's attack


Not really. "Drop" and "leave out" are synonymous with "lose". To separate only means to separate. I don't lose content when I abstract, and nor does Marx. It's the idealists who do, and for whom "there is absolutely nothing left but pure quantity, the logical category."

Quote:
By way of contrast, the actual method Marx employed (i.e., the intelligent and novel use of language) is precisely how the greatest scientists have always proceeded. In their work, they construct arguments in an open arena, in a public language -- albeit accompanied by the new use of old words --, which can be checked by anyone who cares to do so. This can't be done with Ollman's "mental constructs"- or, indeed, yours.


I dunno. This is an open arena, and we're both constructing arguments. People understand me, but nobody on this forum has ever understood your diatribes (I'd allege that this is because there is nothing to understand, but that would allow you to repeat your allegation of projection, so I won't). How do you explain this?

Quote:
Now, I think Marx back-tracked over his earlier, clearer ideas about 'abstraction' in this later work. What he wrote in his earlier work makes what he had to say in the Grundrisse (about 'abstraction') non-viable.


Elsewhere you maintain that Marx moved away from Hegel all his life. I suppose that means that you believe that his ideas got clearer in a (more or less) linear fashion. I agree, but I see a contradiction here. You're just incapable of seeing the difference between the idealist method and the materialist method. Marx is completely right when he criticizes the idealist method, but he overcomes the difficulties of the idealist dialectic by turning it on its head and moving from the abstract to the concrete. He then calls this "the only way open to" "the thinking intellect."

Quote:
I don't see how that answers my comment about the failure of communication if your theory is correct. Here it is again (and it still requires an effective answer):


Oh, that.

Quote:
An appeal to the existence of a public language would be to no avail here, for even on that basis no one would be able to tell whether Abstractor A meant the same as Abstractor B by his or her use of words (or 'concepts' like "Substance", "Being", and "Nothing"). And definitions can't help here, since they also contain 'abstractions' which are subject to the same problems. For how can Abstractor A know what Abstractor B means by any of the abstract terms he/she uses without access to her/his mind?


Praxis. Children learn to speak by praxis. Because objects are commonly used for a certain purpose, there are also the same abstractions behind their designation. A plate is a plate because you eat off it. Unless it's an ice cream bowl, or a soup bowl.

Quote:
Abstractor B can't point to anything which is the meaning of a single abstraction he or she might be trying to define, so he/she can't use an ostensive definition [i.e., a definition by pointing at something] to help Abstractor A understand what he/she means.


Well that's wrong. Children learn to call all tables tables because all tables are called tables because people abstract from the differences between individual tables. This is conditioned by praxis. A table is a thing that is used to put things upon. It's also a thing with a certain number of legs, and a big flat surface on top.

(Extremely stupid people, who are worse at abstracting, can't keep ladders and stairs apart because they do it too crudely).

edit: You know what, screw this. praxicoide explained this in a much better way than me:

Quote:
I mean of course we can draw up any conception we choose, we can believe anything we want, but we DON'T. We follow certain social rules, and hold certain categories to be true, all established by the horizon of our social praxis.


Quote:
All the words (or at least the verbs, nouns and adjectives) you have used to compose this answer are, according to you, abstractions (with infinite different meanings)


No, that's wrong. I never said that words have infinite different meanings. I said that there are infinitely many abstracts. That just means we can say infinitely many things about infinitely many things because the world is infinitely complex. Do you deny this?

Quote:
So, whatever the results turn out to be, the 'process of abstraction' is, for Marx, a 'mental process', as Ollman indeed points out.


No. Value is a really existing abstract: the exchangeability of commodities. Value-creating labor is really abstracted from its actual content (and therefore called abstract labor) because it only matters insofar as its result, the commodity, is exchangeable.

Quote:
I don't agree that they do, but even if you are right, it's not with these alleged 'abstractions' I wish to take issue, but the mythical 'process' by which they were supposedly derived.


I already talked about abstract labor. The state is a process of abstraction because it turns people into equal (before the law) citizens. Its violence is a process of abstraction because it is directed against every citizen, etc.

The rest of your post consists mostly of endless repetitions of the same mistake which I think I've already cleared up.

But let me say some more things about the copula.

The copula is used to separate the existence of a subject (in the grammatical sense) from its properties, therefore allowing us to construct nominal predicates with several logical functions. As opposed to a sentence like "Rosa annoys me", where the relationship of predicate and subject is inseparably connected to the predicate itself, the use of the copula is a process of abstraction that allows us to form sentences like "Rosa is annoying" or "Rosa is a comrade", which is a way for us to formulate and distinguish conclusions. Other languages have different ways of doing this.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 16 May 2012, 05:02
Mabool, I can't reply right now, but will do so in the near future.

Suffice it to say that given your commitment to this mythical 'process', none of us has any idea that you mean, from moment to moment, the same by 'solipsism' as anyone else -- and neither have you.

Worse still, you have no idea what you mean, from moment to moment, by 'mean'.

Got to dash -- back later...

[Er..., always assuming you know what 'later' means, from moment to moment...
]
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10000
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 16 May 2012, 06:56
But that's wrong. We all know what I mean by solipsism, and you're being dishonest if you pretend that you don't. Again, praxicoide:

Quote:
I mean of course we can draw up any conception we choose, we can believe anything we want, but we DON'T. We follow certain social rules, and hold certain categories to be true, all established by the horizon of our social praxis.


It is that simple. Why are you even bothering to talk to me if, supposedly, all words lose meaning in my twisted head?
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 16 May 2012, 08:37
Again, I can only offer a brief reply right now, but given your acceptance of this mythical 'process', you have no way of knowing, from moment to moment, that you mean the same by 'wrong', 'we', 'all', 'know', 'solipsism', 'being', 'dishonest', 'pretend', 'don't', 'again', 'Praxicoide' (and so on), as anyone else, or as you yourself did when you posted the above response.

Of course, we all know this isn't so, but that just shows that this mythical 'process' isn't even something you believe in, since not even you can accept its consequences!

And I talk to you since I know you don't believe a word of the 'theory' that has colonised your brain. What you are able to do with language undermines this 'theory'.

As I noted above, actions speak louder than abstractions.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10000
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 16 May 2012, 13:55
Quote:
Of course, we all know this isn't so, but that just shows that this mythical 'process' isn't even something you believe in, since not even you can accept its consequences!


Well you haven't yet been able to (convincingly) explain how this is the consequence of accepting the fact that people can, and do, differentiate things from their properties (separate them from them).

Quote:
And I talk to you since I know you don't believe a word of the 'theory' that has colonised your brain. What you are able to do with language undermines this 'theory'.


I can talk about things because I have abstract representations of them in my head. How else would you explain it?
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 4764
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2007, 06:59
Ideology: Marxism-Leninism
Forum Commissar
Post 17 May 2012, 13:10
I think that there might be some confusion, because RL is clearly aiming at a certain type of process of abstraction, namely that of Hegel and Marx's Hegelian contemporaries; this is clear from the long Marx quote that rails not against abstraction per se, but of the idle abstraction made by the isolated individual who turns the world into the theater for Platonic essences.

Clearly, that is not what Mabool has in mind and he has stressed this too many times for there to be any confusion in that regard.

It doesn't help though, that the second long quote (written by RL herself, apparently) tries to present abtracting as an impossiblity when this is done from the standpoint of an asocial individual without making this circumstance explicit (and not to mention that it starts from an impossibility, an asocial individual who builds categories like a maverick).

Not to get too much into this, but I think it gave the example of a cat, and how cats can be categorized in an infinity of ways. This is true, and we can have any number of amusing categories for things. But these are exactly that, things for amusement, mainly, built on top of the very real social categories we do use, and which are established historically because of our interaction with them and the usefulness of seeing them in a certain way.

I don't know if people remember the story of Funes (https://duckduckgo.com/Funes_the_Memorious) by Borges. This was a guy who was in an accident and because of it he gained absolute memory, so much memory that he could no longer function, because things began to decompose into its moments. He couldn't understand why a "table" was called a "table" when they looked so different, or even why the same object was an object when he remembered it in different positions or times and saw them as different things. His language (if there could be such a thing) would have to be infinite, with one word for every detail of ever thing of every second.

I feel what this shows (the magic of literature, it shows us right away what we have to take a long time to say, and badly) is the failure of physicalism (crude materialism to go back to the OP) and the quest to find the "raw" sense-perception data which would comprise our world. It is a failure because "we" do not perceive that way (maybe some part of our brain does, but we are not our brain) we immediately see "things", we immediately separate properties, processes, prior to any conscious effort, and in fact, it would be an effort for us to decompose things as we see them back to these "raw perceptions" (like repeating a word endlessly so that it becomes just sound).

That this happens is undeniable. Why does this happen and why in this way or that way is a much more interesting question, and according to Marx, it is because of our needs, because we aren't disinterested entities observing things, but are animals with needs and desires, and so, like Mabool said, we will interact with stuff. That is how we identify it, how we forge it as such, really (though the distinction is almost a "scholastic question"; the reality of things outside our practice).

For instance, it would be no use for use to see shadows as more real than objects, we wouldn't get very far. Hypothetically such a being would likely die very quickly. The same goes for so many things we hold as inevitably true, as necessarily true. Yes, they are necessary, for our survival (how could we have society if 1+1 did not equal 2?).

What we have then is a historical and social strategy for survival, and this strategy is what we call reality, a steady background in which we can carry out our praxis. This world is structured, it has categories, and not "mentally", but "in reality" (since these correspond). Objectively, might be a better word, in that they are not dependent on my or your individual perceptions.

Of course, you can create your own categories, your own abstraction, but this is 1.- pretending to ignore that you are a social subject with biologically/soclally determined consciousness; what you can think is determined by your world, and 2.- erecting arbitrary categories that have very little to do with the real world.

Of course, they have their use, in that we are creating models with greater and lesser success and with greater or lesser use. A work of art can be built from certain rules created or followed by the artist, and our enjoyment of this work could be derived from these rules, even if we're not aware of them. Scientific models are also a clear example of "arbitrary" categories that are made and then tested for their level of objectivity.

So yeah, we can and do abstract, nothing mythical about it, and not solipsistic at all, since these categories are built by social subjects (no Robinson Crusoes here). We have to be clear that this is something else (or something that is a small part at least) from our social praxis, which we might also call more precisely our social semiosis, or the process by which we attribute meaning.

EDIT:

Just to add something that I feel is very appropriate here:

" As a rule, the most general abstractions arise only in the midst of the richest possible concrete development, where one thing appears as common to many, to all. Then it ceases to be thinkable in a particular form alone. On the other side, this abstraction of labour as such is not merely the mental product of a concrete totality of labours. Indifference towards specific labours corresponds to a form of society in which individuals can with ease transfer from one labour to another, and where the specific kind is a matter of chance for them, hence of indifference. Not only the category, labour, but labour in reality has here become the means of creating wealth in general, and has ceased to be organically linked with particular individuals in any specific form."

-Marx (introduction to the Grundrisse)

Just focusing on that bolded part first. What does it tell you? It is obvious that different practices lead to different ways in which we conceptualize and abstract.

For example, that there are many dances is something clear to us, but in a society with one or two ritualistic dances, they would not see their dances as "dances", but only as the very concrete rituals they are, it is only with the development of more practices that focus on body movements would we start seeing them as a common category, and indeed would we even start creating dances just on their own, abstract, without a concrete place or time or ritual attached to them.

This isn't something purely "mental" in that it doesn't happen in the head of any individual. It points towards a society and the ideas and values derived from its practices. This is very real, just like Marx proceeds to exemplify in the biggest abstraction by excellence, abstract labor and value.
Image

"You say you have no enemies? How is this so? Have you never spoken the truth, never loved justice?" - Santiago Ramón y Cajal
Forum Rules
[+-]
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 1020
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Jul 2011, 15:17
Party Member
Post 17 May 2012, 15:37
Wow, Prax. I just totally saved your response in a word document. That was fantastic. Thank you.
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 17 Jun 2012, 19:31
Mabool, apologies for the long delay in replying. I haven't forgotten!

In fact, I was going to respond today, but found a more pressing post which required attention over in the 'Communism' section.

I will return in about a week to deal with your response and those of any others who have posted here.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 25 Jun 2012, 14:21
I'm sorry, Mabool, but that other debate over in the Communism section is taking all my spare time. I will return to this discussion when it dies down.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10000
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 25 Jun 2012, 20:38
No problem. Take your time. By the way the Wittgenstein course I'm taking at university has been a real eye opener for me, so I'm really looking forward to this.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 26 Jun 2012, 23:07
Ok, anything I can do to help -- you only have to ask!
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 09 Jul 2012, 12:51
Ok, now that Futureworld has been banned, and the other debate has died the death, all being well, I will return later this week and resume this discussion.

Mods: I would have added this to my last comment, but the 'edit' facility has disppeared!
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 23 Jul 2012, 12:59
Again, apologies for the tardiness of this reply.

Mabool:

Quote:
I don't care. Solipsism is not an argument. Solipsism is one of the most nonsensical philosophical ideas ever, and again, it is hilarious that you of all people take recourse to it.


Once again, you are in an impossible bind (whether or not we call this 'solipsism' -- or even 'Susan' --, and whether or not you care) since, given your commitment to this theory, you have no way of knowing, from moment to moment, that you mean the same by 'care', 'argument', 'solipsism', 'nonsensical', 'philosophical', or even 'hilarious'.

So, I was wrong, you are in fact in an even worse condition than the solipsist since you have no way of telling whether or not you are one -- or even what a solipsist is -- from moment to moment.

Quote:
It does not matter whether I am a part of the world ("non-solipsism") or the world is a part of me ("solipsism"). It makes no difference at all. It's impossible to prove or disprove solipsism. It's also unnecessary. In any case, I am confronted with a world I have to deal with. Because I am successful in dealing with said world, this alone proves that I do it the right way.


Unfortunately, you are in no position to assert this since you have no way of knowing what you mean by 'prove', 'impossible' -- or even 'world' and 'successful'.

All you have to go on are these shifting abstractions which stand between you and your 'abstract idea of the world'. [I covered this earlier; perhaps your insecure and abstract grasp of 'memory' let you down?]

Quote:
Abstraction was treated as a mental process until Marxism appeared. That is the "new use of old words" that you mentioned.


Well, as I noted earlier, Marx himself treated it as a 'mental process' (re-read the quotation from the Grundrisse) -- indeed, you yourself regarded it as a mental process in your earlier posts. In fact, see below.

Either you think you are in fact writing before Marxism came into being, or your unreliable memory is letting you down again.

Quote:
That is a very real process. Alienation and abstract labor are not imaginary.


Are you suggesting that Ilyenkov gave no thought to this, and did not process these ideas in any way at all, that they just fell into his lap like over-ripe fruit?

Quote:
No, you weren't right. That's ridiculous. I said I couldn't remember having said that abstraction is a noun, and I was right about that because I actually hadn't said that before. Your counter-argument consisted in saying that I said that all nouns are abstractions, but that is clearly not the same thing.


Where did I allege you had? What I pointed out was this:

Quote:
In this tangled mess of confusion you first of all tell us that an abstraction is a common or general noun...


Bold added.

Notice, I asserted that you had said that 'an abstraction is a common or general noun', not that 'abstraction is a common noun' as you allege above. [You later accuse me of not reading what you posted; here we see the accusing finger should be rotated through 180 degrees.]

And it was based on this earlier comment of yours:

Quote:
Now a fruity bouquet taste is obviously much more concrete than an abstract quality like "sweet, bitter, and savoury", even though I guess that a fruity bouquet taste probably contains some of all three. So it will probably cause all sorts of signals on this G protein-coupled receptor, a signal pattern as it were, that is shared by all fruity bouquet tastes. It's not rocket science. It's glaringly obvious....


Here you give us several examples of abstract qualities (surely each of these is 'an abstraction'): "sweet, bitter, and savoury" -- all common or general nouns, or all perhaps adjectives (depending on how you use them). Now if you want to retreat from this earlier opinion, that's fine with me. At least we are making progress.

You now try to respond to my claim that you 'can't remember from moment to moment' what certain words mean:

Quote:
Yes it is. Why do you think it's not? (Just shoving my quote about the infinite possibilities of abstraction in my face for what must be like the 10th time isn't going to make your point any clearer. That makes about as much sense as claiming we can't know the value of a number because there's an infinity of numbers. But then, since numbers are abstracts, you probably think mathematics is "non-sensical" anyway.)


But, you are in an even worse position since you have no way of knowing from moment to moment what the word 'memory' means.

The analogy with numbers is unfortunate, too, since, on your view, one moment you might mean 235, the next 16,789, the next 457,996, and so on.

So, your reference to the infinite number of abstractions consigns you to a sub-solipsistic world, where you can't know from moment to moment what 'solipsism', 'infinite, or even 'number' mean.

Quote:
since numbers are abstracts, you probably think mathematics is "non-sensical" anyway.


I deny numbers are 'abstractions' or have been produced by a process of abstractions; and if you had read my post "Why all philosophical theories are non-sensical" you'd have seen that this does indeed imply that the propositions of mathematic are non-sensical -- but not meaningless.

Whereas the 'propositions' of dialectical materialism are both non-sensical and incoherent, and thus meaningless.

Too bad you skipped that upgrade in your education.

[A minor point: but only propositions (indicative, spoken token, or type sentences) can be, or fail to be, non-sensical, not a whole branch of study.]

I recommend you read Frege on this:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/frege-logic/

Quote:
Nope, unless you assume that mental processes do not take place in the CNS.


Well, I deny there are such things as 'mental processes' to begin with, so there are none of these mythical beings to take place or not take place anywhere -- but we can discuss that in another thread.

Quote:
If you had actually bothered to read what I write,


I'm sorry, I seem to have caught that defect from you.

Quote:
you'd have noticed that I said that abstraction is the separation of a thing from its properties. Not just randomly cutting things up. A divorce isn't a separation of a marriage from one of its properties, it's the end of a marriage. Going to a meeting in separate cars doesn't even have anything to do with any kind of process of separation, and the river question is so nonsensical that I don't even know how to answer it, so I won't.


Well, this gives the game away, since you can't separate 'a thing form its properties' except in 'the mind' (in the imagination) as part of a 'mental process', can you?

Or, do you suppose that when you first abstracted 'cat', you physically separated a poor cat from its fur, its colour, its number...?

And, I'm not surprised you can't answer my points since they show that what you have to say about 'separation' can't be correct. It has nothing to do with this mythical 'process' of yours.

Perhaps you need reminding again what Marx said about 'separation':

Quote:
Is it surprising that, if you let drop little by little all that constitutes the individuality of a house, leaving out first of all the materials of which it is composed, then the form that distinguishes it, you end up with nothing but a body; that, if you leave out of account the limits of this body; you soon have nothing but a space – that if, finally, you leave out of the account the dimensions of this space, there is absolutely nothing left but pure quantity, the logical category? If we abstract thus from every subject all the alleged accidents, animate or inanimate, men or things, we are right in saying that in the final abstraction, the only substance left is the logical category. Thus the metaphysicians who, in making these abstractions, think they are making analyses, and who, the more they detach themselves from things, imagine themselves to be getting all the nearer to the point of penetrating to their core – these metaphysicians in turn are right in saying that things here below are embroideries of which the logical categories constitute the canvas. This is what distinguishes the philosopher from the Christian. The Christian, in spite of logic, has only one incarnation of the Logos; the philosopher has never finished with incarnations. If all that exists, all that lives on land, and under water, can be reduced by abstraction to a logical category – if the whole real world can be drowned thus in a world of abstractions, in the world of logical categories – who need be astonished at it?


You have an 'answer' to this; on that, see below.

Frege made a similar point:

Quote:
"By making one characteristic after another disappear, we get more and more abstract concepts…. Inattention is a most efficacious logical faculty; presumably this accounts for the absentmindedness of professors. Suppose there are a black and a white cat sitting side by side before us. We stop attending to their colour and they become colourless, but are still sitting side by side. We stop attending to their posture, and they are no longer sitting (though they have not assumed another posture) but each one is still in its place. We stop attending to position; they cease to have place, but still remain different. In this way, perhaps, we obtain from each one of them a general concept of Cat. By continual application of this procedure, we obtain from each object a more and more bloodless phantom. Finally we thus obtain from each object a something wholly deprived of content; but the something obtained from one object is different from the something obtained from another object -– though it is not easy to say how." [Frege Translations From The Philosophical Writings Of Gottlob Frege, pp.84-85.]


In the end you finish with featureless 'objects' that you can't distinguish from one another, so you have no way of saying they are the same or are different from one another. So this is not a problem with memory as such, but with how you could possibly say, from moment to moment, that you had abstracted the same or different item each time.

All distinguishing features have gone -- so you can't.

Quote:
I don't see him [Marx] telling us that abstraction can only take place in the mind.


Ok, we have seen Marx's depiction above, where it does take place in the mind, and we saw this from earlier:

Quote:
It seems correct to begin with the real and the concrete…with e.g. the population…. However, on closer examination this proves false. The population is an abstraction if I leave out, for example, the classes of which it is composed. These classes in turn are an empty phrase if I am not familiar with the elements on which they rest…. Thus, if I were to begin with the population, this would be a chaotic conception of the whole, and I would then, by further determination, move toward ever more simple concepts, from the imagined concrete towards ever thinner abstractions until I had arrived at the simplest determinations. From there the journey would have to be retraced until I had finally arrived at the population again, but this time not as the chaotic conception of a whole, but as a rich totality of many determinations and relations…. The latter is obviously scientifically the correct method. The concrete is concrete because it is the concentration of many determinations, hence the unity of the diverse. [Marx Grundrisse. Bold added.]


As I pointed out earlier, these 'determinations' certainly take place 'in the mind' (unless you suppose Marx devoted no thought to this at all).

However, it has been no part of my argument that abstraction takes place 'only' in the mind', just that the traditional and Marxist versions under discussion here do.

Now, I waved to one side your reference to abstractions that take place in the 'real world' (such as the drawing you mentioned), since I know of no philosopher who has ever defended such a view of abstraction (perhaps you know of one?). My concern is to attack the traditional (and Marxist) notion you seem to want (inconsistently) to defend -- wherein it is a 'mental process' one minute, then it isn't.

For example, you argue as follows:

Quote:
The concept of abstract labor was arrived at by a mental process. Abstract labor itself is a very material process. Marx knew this.


The first half is the form of 'abstraction' I am concerned to attack.

But then you also say this:

Quote:
Abstraction was treated as a mental process until Marxism appeared. That is the "new use of old words" that you mentioned.


I'd appreciate it if you made your mind up. Is it a 'mental process' on your view, or not?

It's not easy discussing this with someone who seems not to be able to make his mind up. [What was that I said earlier about your ideas about abstraction being 'all over the place'?]

Quote:
Because you abstract away from the difference of wavelengths between 450 and 490 nm? It is glaringly obvious.


I'm sorry, but it isn't. What exactly do you 'separate off' here? If it's the differences in wavelength, then they all end up the same. If it's the fact that they are wavelengths, then you will have lost the identity you suppose (if that is what you suppose) exists between colour and such waves. As I said in an earlier post, all we get from you 'abstractionists' are vague waves of the hand; we are never told precisely what you suppose you do 'in your heads' to obtain these 'abstractions'.

Indeed, this is what I alleged earlier of Marx, too, and it applies no less to you:

Quote:
In fact, Marx does not actually do what he says he does in this passage; he merely gestures at doing it, and his gestures are about as substantive as the hand movements of stage magicians....

What Marx actually did was use familiar words in new ways, thus establishing new concepts that enabled him to understand and explain Capitalism with startling clarity. Anyone who reads the above passage can actually see him doing this. They do not need to do a brain scan on Marx (even if he were still alive), nor apply psychometric tests to follow his argument (or, indeed, re-create his alleged 'abstractions'). And they certainly do not have to copy his moves -- and they most certainly can't copy them, for Marx failed to say what he had actually done with the concepts he used, or how he 'mentally processed' them (if in fact he did!).... Hence, no one could possibly emulate Marx here since there are no usable details, which suggests that Marx did not in fact do what he said he had done, or proposed to do --, otherwise, careful thinker that he was, he would have spelt them out. More significantly, no one since has been able to reconstruct these mythical moves, or show that their own weak gesture at applying this method are exactly the same as those used by Marx -- or even that they yield the same results....

Of course, none of this is surprising. Abstractionists become very vague when it comes to supplying the details of this mysterious 'process'; that is why, after 2400 years of this metaphysical fairy-tale having been spun -- over and above the sort of vague gesture theorists like Ollman offer their readers -- no one seems able to say what this 'process' actually is!

By way of contrast, the actual method Marx employed (i.e., the intelligent and novel use of language) is precisely how the greatest scientists have always proceeded. In their work, they construct arguments in an open arena, in a public language -- albeit accompanied by the new use of old words --, which can be checked by anyone who cares to do so. This can't be done with... "mental constructs".


So, until you fill in the details of what you do 'in your head', my allegation that you don't actually do anything 'in your head' will remain a valid objection.

And even if you were to do something determinate in 'your head', that would open up this 'something' to my earlier objection, that you have no way of knowing, from moment to moment, that you have done the 'same' thing each time, or achieved the 'same' results, since, on this view, you can't form a stable view even of the word 'same'!

In response to my earlier claim that Marx had attacked the 'separation' view of abstraction, you say this:

Quote:
Not really. "Drop" and "leave out" are synonymous with "lose". To separate only means to separate. I don't lose content when I abstract, and nor does Marx. It's the idealists who do, and for whom "there is absolutely nothing left but pure quantity, the logical category."


Well, perhaps you can explain how one can 'drop' or 'leave' out certain properties without separating them first? That's a neat trick I'd like to see explained.

Quote:
This is an open arena, and we're both constructing arguments. People understand me, but nobody on this forum has ever understood your diatribes (I'd allege that this is because there is nothing to understand, but that would allow you to repeat your allegation of projection, so I won't). How do you explain this?


The fact that some might seem to understand you is not the same as them actually understanding you, especially if you do not seem to understand yourself (and keep changing your mind), and when what you say undermines the meaning of the words you use (or it implies they have no fixed meaning, from moment to moment, even for you!).

And that includes the word 'understand'.

Quote:
but nobody on this forum has ever understood your diatribes


Have you got the results of the survey I am sure you must have conducted in support of this allegation (that no one at this forum has ever understood a single thing I have said)? Can we see them?

[I bet you understood that...
]

In fact, I can quote several who have understood me. [Proof supplied on request, but see below]

Quote:
Elsewhere you maintain that Marx moved away from Hegel all his life.


Yes, you seem to have understood that claim of mine!

Quote:
I suppose that means that you believe that his ideas got clearer in a (more or less) linear fashion. I agree, but I see a contradiction here. You're just incapable of seeing the difference between the idealist method and the materialist method. Marx is completely right when he criticizes the idealist method, but he overcomes the difficulties of the idealist dialectic by turning it on its head and moving from the abstract to the concrete. He then calls this "the only way open to" "the thinking intellect."


Well, as far as I can see, your approach collapses into one of the more incoherent forms of idealism -- sub-solipsism -- so you have nothing much to crow about. The only problem is you would drag Marx down with you!

Quote:
Praxis. Children learn to speak by praxis. Because objects are commonly used for a certain purpose, there are also the same abstractions behind their designation. A plate is a plate because you eat off it. Unless it's an ice cream bowl, or a soup bowl.


Once again, all you have access to, and all these odd children have access to, is an 'abstract idea' of 'praxis' (and 'soup bowl') with no way of knowing from moment to moment whether or not you mean the same by 'praxis' -- or 'soup bowl' -- as yourself, or your 'abstract idea' of anyone else.

This is the hole you have dug for yourself. For the solipsist, 'praxis' is no help at all. For a sub-solipsist, like your good self, it is even less help. In the hole you remain -- or, at least, in an 'abstract idea' of a hole, you remain.

Quote:
Children learn to call all tables tables because all tables are called tables because people abstract from the differences between individual tables. This is conditioned by praxis. A table is a thing that is used to put things upon. It's also a thing with a certain number of legs, and a big flat surface on top.


In fact, this shows that 'people' do not do this, otherwise they'd all be sub-solipsists, stuck in abstract holes, like you.

Quoting Praxi:

Quote:
I mean of course we can draw up any conception we choose, we can believe anything we want, but we DON'T. We follow certain social rules, and hold certain categories to be true, all established by the horizon of our social praxis.


Well, I'll deal with Praxi later, but he, like you, is still stuck in the sub-solipsist world you seem to prefer, for he, like you, has no way of knowing, from moment to moment, whether or not he means the same as you, or even himself, by 'praxis', or 'mean', or 'word'.

And, so long as you are the grip of this 'theory', there in the hole you'll both remain.

Quote:
I never said that words have infinite different meanings. I said that there are infinitely many abstracts. That just means we can say infinitely many things about infinitely many things because the world is infinitely complex. Do you deny this?


Different 'abstract', different meaning. Or do you see a way of avoiding this conclusion?

[Neutral bystanders can now look forward to yet another example of Mabool revising his 'theory' on-the-hoof, making stuff up as he goes along (and changing his mind serially), since he hasn't, until now, given it much thought to this, content merely to swallow the traditional tale uncritically. Er..., what was that about 'The ideas of the ruling-class...'?]

Quote:
Do you deny this?


In fact, I leave such things to scientists, and try, unlike you, not to fall into the traditional trap of imposing a certain view on the world aprioristically. [Which view, as I have shown, would be non-sensical, anyway.]

Quote:
Value is a really existing abstract: the exchangeability of commodities. Value-creating labor is really abstracted from its actual content (and therefore called abstract labor) because it only matters insofar as its result, the commodity, is exchangeable.


Let us suppose you are right. As you admitted above, Marx arrived at this 'concept' by means of a 'mental process'. In which case, you have no idea whether or not you mean the same as Marx by 'value' (or even 'abstract') -- unless, of course, you nipped into a time machine and ran a brain scan on him -- or, from moment to moment, that you mean the same as yourself by these words.

Quote:
The rest of your post consists mostly of endless repetitions of the same mistake which I think I've already cleared up.


Which is because you haven't 'cleared' anything up, and keep making the same mistakes yourself (that is, if you know from moment to moment what you mean by 'mistake', or even 'cleared up').

Quote:
The copula is used to separate the existence of a subject (in the grammatical sense) from its properties, therefore allowing us to construct nominal predicates with several logical functions. As opposed to a sentence like "Rosa annoys me", where the relationship of predicate and subject is inseparably connected to the predicate itself, the use of the copula is a process of abstraction that allows us to form sentences like "Rosa is annoying" or "Rosa is a comrade", which is a way for us to formulate and distinguish conclusions. Other languages have different ways of doing this.


This is a very odd 'definition' of the copula -- you are mixing up linguistic expressions and non-linguistic items.

[And, I can't see the copula separating the 'existence' of a subject from its properties, no matter how I try.]

A copula is a linguistic device, so is a predicate and so is a subject term. The predicate is employed (in some of its uses) to describe the properties of object -- and properties aren't linguistic devices. So, if anything, a copula connects subject to a predicable (that is, to a predicate term when it is used to predicate something of a subject). Hence, the copula does the opposite of what you say.

[And, since properties aren't linguistic expressions, but the copula is, the copula can't do what you say it does to properties. Unless, you think the copula can leap out of a sentence, exert a physical force on a property and separate it from the object in which it allegedly 'inheres'.]

Moreover, the traditional theory of predication and abstraction destroy the capacity language has for describing anything, turning indicative sentences into lists -- and lists say nothing. [Proof supplied on request.]

-----------------------

I'll respond to the other things you say, and to Praxi, later.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 23 Jul 2012, 14:02
Mods, sorry! I have posted this is a separate post since, if I didn't, my last post would be ridiculously long!

Praxi:

Quote:
I think that there might be some confusion, because RL is clearly aiming at a certain type of process of abstraction, namely that of Hegel and Marx's Hegelian contemporaries; this is clear from the long Marx quote that rails not against abstraction per se, but of the idle abstraction made by the isolated individual who turns the world into the theater for Platonic essences.

Clearly, that is not what Mabool has in mind and he has stressed this too many times for there to be any confusion in that regard.

It doesn't help though, that the second long quote (written by RL herself, apparently) tries to present abstracting as an impossibility when this is done from the standpoint of an asocial individual without making this circumstance explicit (and not to mention that it starts from an impossibility, an asocial individual who builds categories like a maverick).

Not to get too much into this, but I think it gave the example of a cat, and how cats can be categorized in an infinity of ways. This is true, and we can have any number of amusing categories for things. But these are exactly that, things for amusement, mainly, built on top of the very real social categories we do use, and which are established historically because of our interaction with them and the usefulness of seeing them in a certain way.


In fact, I am attacking all forms of the traditional theory, upside down or the 'right way up', Hegelian, Marxist, or Aristotelian.

However, I agree with what you say about cats, but fail to see what it has to do with the 'process of abstraction'.

Quote:
I don't know if people remember the story of Funes (https://duckduckgo.com/Funes_the_Memorious) by Borges. This was a guy who was in an accident and because of it he gained absolute memory, so much memory that he could no longer function, because things began to decompose into its moments. He couldn't understand why a "table" was called a "table" when they looked so different, or even why the same object was an object when he remembered it in different positions or times and saw them as different things. His language (if there could be such a thing) would have to be infinite, with one word for every detail of ever thing of every second.


In fact, as I point out in my last reply to Mabool, this has nothing to do with memory as such. The process of abstraction reduces everything to a featureless lump, and you have no way of telling, even if your memory is 100% accurate, that one featureless lump is the same as, or is different from, another, and hence whether or not you have abstracted the same thing each time, or something different.

Quote:
I feel what this shows (the magic of literature, it shows us right away what we have to take a long time to say, and badly) is the failure of physicalism (crude materialism to go back to the OP) and the quest to find the "raw" sense-perception data which would comprise our world. It is a failure because "we" do not perceive that way (maybe some part of our brain does, but we are not our brain) we immediately see "things", we immediately separate properties, processes, prior to any conscious effort, and in fact, it would be an effort for us to decompose things as we see them back to these "raw perceptions" (like repeating a word endlessly so that it becomes just sound).

That this happens is undeniable. Why does this happen and why in this way or that way is a much more interesting question, and according to Marx, it is because of our needs, because we aren't disinterested entities observing things, but are animals with needs and desires, and so, like Mabool said, we will interact with stuff. That is how we identify it, how we forge it as such, really (though the distinction is almost a "scholastic question"; the reality of things outside our practice)


It is both deniable, and I deny it. Your assertion that this takes place is no proof. In fact, this account of abstraction catapults you into the sub-solipsistic world that Mabool dropped himself into, too.

If what you say about the origin of our knowledge of the world (which seems little different from the bourgeois individualist theory Locke and Hobbes tried to sell their readers 400 years ago -- an appeal to 'praxis' is no use, either, as we will see) is correct, then as with Mabool, you have no way of knowing that you mean by any of your words/concepts/ideas the same as anyone else (or even with yourself!). Communication would be impossible in that case. As Bertell Ollman admitted (in this case, in relation to Marx, but it applies to any theory of 'abstraction'):

Quote:
"What, then, is distinctive about Marx's abstractions? To begin with, it should be clear that Marx's abstractions do not and cannot diverge completely from the abstractions of other thinkers both then and now. There has to be a lot of overlap. Otherwise, he would have constructed what philosophers call a 'private language,' and any communication between him and the rest of us would be impossible. How close Marx came to fall into this abyss and what can be done to repair some of the damage already done are questions I hope to deal with in a later work...." [Dance of the Dialectic, p.63. Bold emphasis added.]


As I point out in one of my essays:

Quote:
It remains to be seen if Ollman can solve a problem that has baffled everyone else for centuries -- that is, those who have even so much as acknowledged it as a problem!

It's to Ollman's considerable credit that he is at least aware of it.

[In fact, Ollman is the very first dialectician I have read (in well over twenty five years) who is cognizant of this 'difficulty'!...

Of course, none of this fancy footwork would be necessary if Ollman recognised the fact that even though Marx gestured in its direction, Historical Materialism doesn't need this obscure 'process' (even where some sense can be made of it) -- or, indeed, if he acknowledged the fact that Marx's emphasis on the social nature of knowledge and language undercuts abstractionism completely. [Nor does Ollman take into consideration Marx's own refutation of abstractionism in The Holy Family.]


And, an appeal to practice is no use, since all you would have is an abstract idea of practice. Hence, it can't help you escape from the sub-solipsistic world into which you have dropped yourself.

Quote:
For instance, it would be no use for use to see shadows as more real than objects, we wouldn't get very far. Hypothetically such a being would likely die very quickly. The same goes for so many things we hold as inevitably true, as necessarily true. Yes, they are necessary, for our survival (how could we have society if 1+1 did not equal 2?).


In fact, if this theory of yours were true, all you'd have access to would be an abstract idea of death and/or survival (or even of number words and addition), with no escape from such a sub-solipsistic dungeon.

Quote:
What we have then is a historical and social strategy for survival, and this strategy is what we call reality, a steady background in which we can carry out our praxis. This world is structured, it has categories, and not "mentally", but "in reality" (since these correspond). Objectively, might be a better word, in that they are not dependent on my or your individual perceptions.

Of course, you can create your own categories, your own abstraction, but this is 1.- pretending to ignore that you are a social subject with biologically/socially determined consciousness; what you can think is determined by your world, and 2.- erecting arbitrary categories that have very little to do with the real world.

Of course, they have their use, in that we are creating models with greater and lesser success and with greater or lesser use. A work of art can be built from certain rules created or followed by the artist, and our enjoyment of this work could be derived from these rules, even if we're not aware of them. Scientific models are also a clear example of "arbitrary" categories that are made and then tested for their level of objectivity.

So yeah, we can and do abstract, nothing mythical about it, and not solipsistic at all, since these categories are built by social subjects (no Robinson Crusoes here). We have to be clear that this is something else (or something that is a small part at least) from our social praxis, which we might also call more precisely our social semiosis, or the process by which we attribute meaning.


Fine words, all of which are undermined by the bourgeois individualist theory you have accepted.

Quote:
Just focusing on that bolded part first. What does it tell you? It is obvious that different practices lead to different ways in which we conceptualize and abstract.

For example, that there are many dances is something clear to us, but in a society with one or two ritualistic dances, they would not see their dances as "dances", but only as the very concrete rituals they are, it is only with the development of more practices that focus on body movements would we start seeing them as a common category, and indeed would we even start creating dances just on their own, abstract, without a concrete place or time or ritual attached to them.

This isn't something purely "mental" in that it doesn't happen in the head of any individual. It points towards a society and the ideas and values derived from its practices. This is very real, just like Marx proceeds to exemplify in the biggest abstraction by excellence, abstract labor and value.


Once again, all of this is undermined by the theory you have accepted, and in the above manner.

--------------------

Mabool:

Quote:
Well you haven't yet been able to (convincingly) explain how this is the consequence of accepting the fact that people can, and do, differentiate things from their properties (separate them from them).


In fact, I have never denied this; what I do assert, however, is that abstractionism completely undermines this view of human knowledge.

Quote:
I can talk about things because I have abstract representations of them in my head. How else would you explain it?


What a give-away! This means that you are locked in a sub-solipsistic world of 'representations'. You see these 'representations' and not the world around you. [And it's no use saying these 'reflect the world', since all you have is a representation of 'the world', which, for all you know could be a figment of your own imagination. So, at best, they'd 'reflect' other 'representations', not the world. Or do you propose to jump out of your head to check them? (Note, I do not think this, but then again, I reject representationalism and abstractionism as incoherent non-sense. But, your view, alas, commits you to it.)]

Precisely who these 'representations' are represented to is something of a mystery, too. Is there an observer in your head to whom they are represented?

[If you reply they are represented to you, then you are either in your own head, or a copy of you is in your head.]

If not, then they can't be representations.

And, why on earth would you think I want to explain how we know what we know? [Why do we even need an explanation?]

I prefer to take Marx's advice:

Quote:
The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life.


In so far as you have accepted a bourgeois individualist theory of knowledge, based on a systematic distortion of language, I'd be a fool to copy you.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 10000
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 14 Jul 2008, 20:01
Ideology: Trotskyism
Philosophized
Post 23 Jul 2012, 20:41
I still haven't understood why you think that "abstractionism" makes it impossible to know what the words I use mean. Please explain. Otherwise I don't think it makes sense to go on with this discussion because you keep throwing that argument at me like ALL OF THE TIME and I really don't get it.
"Don't know why i'm still surprised with this shit anyway." - Loz
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 24 Jul 2012, 04:13
Ok, the meaning of the abstract nouns and/or adjectives you obtain via the 'process of abstraction' is given by the results of that process. So, for example, the word "cat" no longer relates to cats in the real world but to an abstract particular 'cat' that emerges as a result of this 'process'. Sure, it is supposed to 'reflect' cats in reality, but whether or not it does that, the abstraction at the end gives the meaning of the word "cat".

An abstract particular is like a genuine particular (such as the chair you are now sat in (if you are), the screen you are looking at -- or even, you), to which we can, if we so choose, give names, or pick out by the use of a singular term (such as "the screen you are now looking at"), except 'abstract particulars' do not exist in the world around us. They are, however, still picked out by the use of names or other singular terms (such as "The Form of the Good", or "Cathood").

In Plato they turned out to be the Forms; in Aristotle they were the Universals; in other philosophers they are variously 'Concepts', 'Categories', or 'Ideas' named by abstract general nouns or adjectives (or nominalised verbs -- to be explained shortly). This led to the parallel idea that all words are names -- they name the ideas/concepts/categories we have in our heads, all of which we grasp at the end of the supposed process of abstraction.

This means that this process was a spin off of the idea that we are only able to understand language if all our words name something. On this theory, Proper Nouns (like Plato, Socrates, George W Bush) were easy to grasp, they named the individual idea we supposedly have of the person or thing involved. But general words did not seem to name anything tangible. What does 'cat' name? It can't name all the cats we have met, since that would mean that one person's idea of a cat would be different from another's, and the word would change its meaning as we met new cats. Hence, philosophers invented the 'process of abstraction' so they could explain what all of us name when we talk about cats -- i.e., what the abstract general noun 'cat' names, often transformed into the Universal 'Cat', Cathood, or the Essence of Cat. So, "cat" became the name of Cathood, or its 'essence'.

We are supposed to obtain such abstractions by one of two processes, depending on whether you are an Empiricist or a Rationalist.

For the former, we build the general idea of 'cat' by a process of subtraction (something we do in our heads) -- what you called "separation" -- until we obtain the general idea of a cat, something all cats are supposed to share -- in Locke, for example, this yields the 'real' or the 'nominal' essence of the item concerned. [The real essence is what is supposed to be reflected in the outside world independently of us -- what philosophers these days might call a de re essence. A nominal essence is just a name we give things, which might or might not reflect anything in reality -- what philosophers these days would call a de dicto essence.]

For the latter, we arrive at our knowledge of these 'forms' or 'concepts' by the 'light of reason' (in effect, we think 'god's' thoughts after 'him'), or, according to Plato, we recall the Forms we met in our earlier existence in Heaven, which we then forget about as a result of the shock of birth. For the German Idealists, we apply these general terms to objects we meet in experience, by a 'law of cognition', as Lenin would have put it. Marx described it thus:

Quote:
If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea 'Fruit', if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea 'Fruit', derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then -- in the language of speculative philosophy –- I am declaring that 'Fruit' is the 'Substance' of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea -– 'Fruit'. I therefore declare apples, pears, almonds, etc., to be mere forms of existence, modi, of 'Fruit'. My finite understanding supported by my senses does of course distinguish an apple from a pear and a pear from an almond, but my speculative reason declares these sensuous differences inessential and irrelevant. It sees in the apple the same as in the pear, and in the pear the same as in the almond, namely 'Fruit'. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is 'the substance' -- 'Fruit'.


All very mysterious.

[By the way, to nominalise a verb, you turn it into a noun: for example, in place of "Socrates runs" we obtain "Socrates is a runner" -- so "Socrates" names Socrates, or our idea of him, and "runner" (now a noun) names the general category or class 'runner' to which he supposedly belongs. In addition, "is" now names the identity, possession or ascription relation that we now assume exists between our idea of Socrates and our idea of the class or category of runners into which we now include him. More on this later.]

For both wings of traditional philosophy, howsoever we arrived at these abstract general terms, the result gave us the meaning of the words we use to describe things. So, this process also became a theory of meaning.

[If you can, get hold of Ian Hacking's Why Does Language Matter To Philosophy?, it describes this tradition in relatively few pages, and with admirable clarity.]

The problem is, as Ollman points out, this process means we all construct a private language. We all end up meaning something different from everyone else, making communication impossible. [This is one reason why Wittgenstein attacked the idea of a private language in the Philosophical Investigations.]

Quote:
What, then, is distinctive about Marx's abstractions? To begin with, it should be clear that Marx's abstractions do not and cannot diverge completely from the abstractions of other thinkers both then and now. There has to be a lot of overlap. Otherwise, he would have constructed what philosophers call a 'private language,' and any communication between him and the rest of us would be impossible. How close Marx came to fall into this abyss and what can be done to repair some of the damage already done are questions I hope to deal with in a later work....


[This is from Ollman's The Dance of the Dialectic, quoted earlier.]

What Marx and Engels did was reverse this: if language is primarily a means of communication, not representation (as tradition would have it), then we begin with the fact that we can communicate, and our theory of language has to catch up with that. Anything less would undermine the social nature of language and human intercommunication.

Wittgenstein picked this idea up in his conversations with the Marxist economist, Piero Sraffa (Gramsci's friend), and it completely revolutionised his approach. He adopted what he called an 'anthropological' view of language.

On this view, we are all socialised by our carers, siblings, peers, and teachers to use language in the same way. We do not decide for ourselves what our words mean. This was the old idea -- you can see why that approach appealed to bourgeois individualist philosophers, and still does -- it is still the dominant view, hence the massive influence of cognitive psychology on the theory of mind and language these days (even Chomsky has fallen for it with his Cartesian approach to language and mind) -- it is still the "ruling idea" in the field, Wittgenstein and Marx's approach is almost totally ignored.

So, given this new approach, we are all taught what our words mean, we do not teach ourselves. Hence, this approach begins with the social, and works from there -- not the other way round. This re-emphasis eliminates all the classic problems associated with abstractionism and representationalism , at a stroke. [I won't go into details about this unless asked.]

However, the old approach undermines language completely, as Professor Lowe explains:

Quote:
"What is the problem of predication? In a nutshell, it is this. Consider any simple subject-predicate sentence, such as..., 'Theaetetus sits'. How are we to understand the different roles of the subject and the predicate in this sentence, 'Theaetetus' and 'sits' respectively? The role of 'Theaetetus' seems straightforward enough: it serves to name, and thereby to refer to or stand for, a certain particular human being. But what about 'sits'? Many philosophers have been tempted to say that this also refers to or stands for something, namely, a property or universal that Theaetetus possesses or exemplifies: the property of sitting. This is said to be a universal, rather than a particular, because it can be possessed by many different individuals.

"But now we have a problem, for this view of the matter seems to turn the sentence 'Theaetetus sits' into a mere list of (two) names, each naming something different, one a particular and one a universal: 'Theaetetus, sits.' But a list of names is not a sentence because it is not the sort of thing that can be said to be true or false, in the way that 'Theaetetus sits' clearly can. The temptation now is to say that reference to something else must be involved in addition to Theaetetus and the property of sitting, namely, the relation of possessing that Theaetetus has to that property. But it should be evident that this way of proceeding will simply generate the same problem, for now we have just turned the original sentence into a list of three names, 'Theaetetus, possessing, sits.'

"Indeed, we are now setting out on a vicious infinite regress, which is commonly known as 'Bradley's regress', in recognition of its modern discoverer, the British idealist philosopher F. H. Bradley. Bradley used the regress to argue in favour of absolute idealism...." [Lowe (2006).]


Lowe, E. (2006), 'Take A Seat, Then Consider This Simple Sentence', Times Higher Education Supplement, 07/04/06.

[Bradley was an Hegelian.]

So, the traditional theory reduces all sentences to lists, and lists say nothing.

Now, the core of my attack on this ancient theory of abstraction is not so much that you would or wouldn't know what your words mean (I had to approach it that way, to save on the above digression!), it is that it would make it impossible for you (or for anyone) to say anything at all if it were true! All our sentences would fall apart as mere lists.

None of this happens if we take Marx's advice:

Quote:
We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life. [The German Ideology, bold added.]


Note that he specifically links the traditional theory with the individualised lives of the theorists who invented it (bourgeois individualism), and he also links this approach to abstraction and the distortion of language.

This germ of an idea was taken up by Wittgenstein and was used by him to revolutionise philosophy, so that, if he is right, it would bring to an end 2500 years of empty speculation. It also meant that the old 'ruling ideas' (abstractionism and representationalism, etc.) can gain no grip.

My work is (partly) aimed at bringing this revolution back into Marxism.

[I have gone over all this in extensive detail at my site (in Essay Three Parts One and Two); I have also summarised it in two summative essays there. I'd add a link or two, but the mods frown on it!]
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 11 Nov 2013, 13:24
Apologies for reviving an old thread, but comrades might like to know that The North Star magazine has just published an article of mine on Wittgenstein and Marxism (which contains original material not found anywhere else):

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=10792

As well as in Interview with yours truly:

http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=10789
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 12385
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Philosophized
Post 11 Nov 2013, 19:36
The Idealist argument does have merits. We do process ourselves and the world around us at a certain level which is prescribed for us by our present state of evolution. There are more colors in the spectrum, and more sounds to be heard, than our eyes and ears can witness. Yet these things are indisputably present for other forms of life. Leaving aside all the TL/DR terminology and esoteric "proofs", it could be rationally argued that the world, as far as we perceive it, really is Representation.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
Soviet cogitations: 231
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 08 Nov 2010, 22:13
Ideology: Trotskyism
Pioneer
Post 11 Nov 2013, 22:46
Thanks for that, but how this shows what you allege (i.e., "The Idealist argument does have merits") is somewhat unclear.
"The emancipation of the working class will be an act of the workers themselves."
User avatar
Soviet cogitations: 12385
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 18 Apr 2010, 04:44
Ideology: None
Philosophized
Post 11 Nov 2013, 23:57
Rosa Lichtenstein wrote:
Thanks for that, but how this shows what you allege (i.e., "The Idealist argument does have merits") is somewhat unclear.

It could be argued that we're living not only in a world which exists outside and completely independently of us, but also in a whole other, additional, world which is constructed solely by our level of sensory perception. If the reality of forms and motion is actually completely different in the "real world" than what we as human beings perceive it as, then we're also by default living in a simultaneously coexisting world of (illusory) Ideas.
Miss Strangelove: "You feed giants laxatives so goblins can mine their poop before the gnomes get to it."
« Previous Page « » Next Page »
POST REPLY
Log-in to submit your comments and remove Infolinks advertisements.
Alternative Display:
Mobile view
More Historical Forums: The History Forum. Political Forums: The Politics Forum, The UK Politics Forum.
© 2000- Siberian Fox network. Privacy.