Jim heartfield Jim at
Thu Jun 4 08:32:33 PDT 1998

In message <19980604.100844.3326.0.farmelantj at>, James Farmelant <farmelantj at> writes
>On Thu, 4 Jun 1998 12:34:10 +0100 Jim heartfield
><Jim at> writes:
>>A. should have gone not to Engels' later letters to Conrad Schmidt on
>>historical materialism, but to his formulation that 'freedom is the
>>recognition of necessity ... and the leap from necessity'. Seeing the
>>obstacles in your way is the precondition of overcoming them.
>>Jim heartfield
>This is curious because while Althusser was a confirmed anti-Hegelian
>he also professed to regard Spinoza as Marx's true precursor. Engels'
>equation of freedom with the recognition of necessity while derived
>from Hegel represented a view of freedom that had roots in Spinoza.

Yes, except for the most important second part of the equation, 'freedom is the leap from necessity', the vital corrective to Spinoza, that is found in Hegel's transformation of substance into subject, the component that Spinoza misses. Engels is often reduced to the first part of the equation 'freedom is the recognition of necessity', by those who fail to understand that the second part is a dialectical transformation of the first, without which freedom is indeed a mere acquiescence to the inevitable. Marx put it 'men make history, but not in circumstances of hteir own choosing', something that the perennialy English EP Thompson could only understand as a contradictory (and therefore absurd) proposition.

Marx gave a more prosaic illustration (in the German ideology, I think). At a given stage of social development an ocean is a barrier to travel, but later becomes a means to travel. The recognition of necessity is the first step in the leap from necessity. Freedom and necessity here are related like a diving board and a dive - what is given becomes a platform for what can be. In the more formal tradition freedom and necessity are understood as simply opposites, that are mutually exclusive. Then freedom becomes simply that space allowed between the subject and necessity, whereas the Engels formula allows for the transition of necessity into freedom.

>A possible key to understanding this aspect of Althusser's thought might
> be found in a closer examination of Althusser's admiration of
>August Comte. Whereas, neither Marx nor Engels had much use for
>Comte's Positivism, Althusser made a number of admiring references to
>Comte in both *Pour Marx* and *Lire le Capital.* I would submit that
>here may perhaps be found the roots for Althusser's tendency to treat
>subjectivity and human agency as epiphenomena.
I culd agree with that. -- Jim heartfield

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