Henry C.K. Liu
James Farmelant wrote:
> On Tue, 08 Dec 1998 13:22:19 -0500 Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> writes:
> >Jim Farmelant:
> >>Many people seem to be confused concerning the
> >>differences between the kinds of critiques that Marxists (i.e.
> >>Lewontin, Richard Levins, Stephen Jay Gould, Stephen Rose etc.)
> >>have made of science and the kinds of critiques that pomo-oriented
> >>scholars make (such as many of the science studies people
> >>like Sandra Harding). The Marxists criticize the distortions of
> >>by bourgeois ideology but in doing so they reaffirm the traditional
> >>Enlightenment faith in scientific rationality and objectivity. The
> >>more pomo-oriented critics view science, itself, as an ideology
> >>that needs to be deconstructed. Many of them criticize science in
> >>order to legitimize non-rational forms of knowing.
> >Part of the problem is that the battlelines are not drawn clearly.
> >Sokal, who is regarded as defending enlightenment values against the
> >obfuscations of Sandra Harding and company, told me that Norman Levitt
> >the guy who first alerted him to the "science wars". He is not only
> >friendly with Levitt, but considers him a co-thinker. The problem is
> >Levitt is a right-wing skunk who presided over a "science wars"
> >that was funded by the Olin foundation and other right-wingers. Their
> >target is not just wooly-headed pomos, but Marxists as well.
> I suppose it can be said that Sokal has been taking a kind of
> "popular front" approach in the battling of pomo. Whether,
> such an approach can be justified depends upon how much of
> a threat one judges pomo to be to both science and the left.
> Presumably, Sokal thinks the threat is serious enough to justify
> making alliances with right-wing opponents of pomo.
> On the issue of confusions between Marxist and pomo critiques
> of science, I would argue that such confusion plays into the hands
> of reactionaries. Boston University's reactionary chancellor, John
> Silber, has a kind of set speech which he trots out before academic
> conferences, most recently at the World Congress of Philosophy,
> in Boston,of this past August, in which he lumps together pomo, Marxism,
> and feminism and attacks them all. He exploits the excesses of
> pomo in order to paint Marxism and feminism in a bad light.
> >>However, I get the impression that he is
> >>taking the pomo position that science itself is an ideology but one
> >>that is in itself racist (sexist, classist etc.). That has never to
> >>understanding been the position of classical Marxism which always
> >>drew a distinction between science and ideology (while recognizing
> >>that in class societies science will be susceptible to ideological
> >No, my position has nothing in common with postmodernism. I consider
> >gang to be a reactionary bunch of idiots, who Alex Callinicos, Perry
> >Anderson and Christopher Norris have done a much better job on than
> >could ever dream to.
> >I am much more interested in attacking Eurocentrism, and I tend to
> >with the world-systems people like Blaut, Eric Wolf, Wallerstein et
> >al. The
> >Enlightenment is a particularly European construction and baloney like
> >"Asiatic Mode of Production" flow from it. What I have a problem with
> >particular is the schema that the world lived in darkness and
> >until the French and British Enlightment thinkers decided to apply
> >UNIVERSAL REASON.
> I don't think that all the Enlightenment philosophes were as Eurocentric
> as you and Jim Blaut make them out to be. Voltaire, for instance was
> a great admirer of Chinese civilization and especially of Confucius,
> who he thought to be the model of an enlightened thinker. Voltaire
> and the other philosophes like to cite Confucianism as an example
> of how morality can subsist without a theistic or supernaturalist
> foundation. Montsquieu, wrote a satire of theFrench society of his
> day _The Persian Letters_ in which a Persian prince visiting Paris
> sends back home which satirized then contemporary French mores.
> Here again, the Persian prince was depicted as having a more
> enlightened view of the world than the French. I don't think it is true
> to say that the philosophes viewed European civilization as the
> sole repository of UNIVERSAL REASON. In fact their social criticisms
> emphasized the degree of irrationalitie they perceived to be
> affliciting their society and they often pointed to non-European
> societies as being more enlightened. I think you may be imputing
> to these eighteenth century thinkers, beliefs and attitudes that
> were more characteristic of their nineteenth century successors
> during the rise of imperialism.
> > Careful study of Chinese and Arab civilization would
> >reveal an entirely different set of circumstances. If anything, the
> >was much more enlightened than Europe for centuries before Decartes
> >along. I have been planning to get around to reading and reviewing
> >Ali's historical fiction on these questions and will have more to say.
> I would certainly agree with your evaluation of Chinese and Arab
> civilization but then I don't think that most of the Enlightenment
> philosophes would have disagreed.
> Jim Farmelant
> >Louis Proyect
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