Popperism (was Chomsky -- Put up or blah blah)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at osu.edu
Fri Mar 31 10:47:23 PST 2000

Justin wrote:

>Roy Bhaskar is no Karl Marx.

I agree with you on this; Bhaskar, especially in his later writings, is more of a moral philosopher. He argues, for instance, that moral obligations are implied in the discovery of truth, and vice versa. He seems to be arguing for a reunification of pure reason and practical reason, torn asunder by Kant. Not particularly objectionable in itself perhaps, but this point is hardly worth increasingly complex elaboration in book after book, it seems to me.

Those who have taken Bhaskar seriously are either social scientists or post-post-modernist Marxist writers who want a cool realist who doesn't sound like a positivist at all (e.g., Terry Eagleton, Christopher Norris, Norman Geras, Gary MacLennan, etc.).

That said, I think Bhaskar's analysis that philosophers have been committed to either an epistemic fallacy or an ontic fallacy, both characterized by an absence of correct ontology, is a neat way of summing up philosophy as a whole. His discussion of Hume (and of how seemingly non- or anti-empiricist writers are also committed to the same understanding of reality as Hume's) is quite interesting and perhaps the most important contribution he made. I also like his criticism of Hegel's dialectic. Nothing Marx didn't imply, I think, but there is no virtue in "originality" either.


P.S. Since your name came up on the Bhaskar list, I'm gonna add the post in question here -- it's a small cyber-leftist world, after all.

Date: Fri, 31 Mar 2000 09:51:51 -0500 (EST) From: Hans G Despain <hdespain at econs.umass.edu> Subject: BHA: Negelect of Bhaskar (Marx?) To: bhaskar at lists.village.virginia.edu

There is no reason to engage Justin Schwartz in a discussion of Bhaskar, he has made up his mind without reading or understanding Bhaskar. He is very comfortable in the realm of quantification of social science with his Analytical Marxist heros.

However it is very interesting the negelect of Bhaskar within philosophy of science circles specifically and philosophy generally. Justin is correct about this, no "serious" philosopher engages Bhaskar!

Further, maybe that Bhaskar's influence has mainly been in social science, not in natural science, nor in philosophy, makes it appear as though only 'arm-chair' philosophers employ critial realism. My feeling is that this as occured for historical reasons, mainly becasue of the devasting critiques toward specifically social science, first by positivism, then Hermeneutics and critical theory, and now my post-structualism.

The deeper problem for Bhaskar however, (and btw I very much mean to say Bhaskar distinctively, rather than cirical realism generally) is his affiliation and parallels with Marxism. I became very conscious of this when in a recent philosophy of science publication (sorry I do not remember the citation only the event) Bhaskar's 'realism' was briefly mentioned then discarded just as briefly, because although RTS might be interesting Bhaskar main aim is to re-establish marxism as a philosophical orienation. The author further mentioned this is not so clear in RTS, but becomes very clear in PON. Nothing else said of Bhaskar for the rest of the book. In other words, we can ignore him because he has some sort of affiliation with marxism (and of course we all know how DEAD marxism is post-1989!).

Even within critial realism itself there seems to be a tacit silence toward the affinities between critical realism and the ontology of Marx. I have espeically in mind the critical realism of Tony Lawson. After reading *Economics and Reality* the reader would be 'none the wiser' the history of the philosophy of science (as expounded not only by Bhaskar in RTS, but also by historians of science such as Kuhn), suggests an ontology that reintroduces Marx and Hegel on the scence. Rather the reader merely understands that critical realism is some sort of critique of neo-Classical economics and that we need a new social ontology (on both accounts there are major problems in Lawson).

This is a very curious development. Has Andy Brown pointed out to me, there is a new generation of critical realists who have not read RTS (nor PON). Andy is absolutely correct it about this, the critical realists I have meet here in the USA have only read Lawson (of course I am in economic circles).

It seems important to me that we understand the historical development of critical realism in the philosophy of science. The failure and contradictions in the history of thought within philosophy of science that necessitate a reconstruction of our ontology to begin to resolve these contradictions. Of course this means taking serious "two strands" of thought, one which emphasizes the social charater of scientific activity and one which emphasizes the stratification of science and the importance of metaphor and analogy to the development of science.

Taking the historical development of the two strands together leds Bhaskar to identify the 'epistemic fallacy' and the general absence of ontology as the key metaphysical mistake in western philosophy. The general presence of the epistemic fallacy manifests into a series of philosophical debates and critiques of science.

Now it seems to me the importance of following the historical debates in the philosophy of science and contradictions which emerge is that a specific ontology can begin to resolve them. And let me emphasis this ontological construction has nothing to do with Marxism, rather has everything to do with the concerns of philosophy of science itself. In the writings of Popper, Lakatos, Kuhn, Harre, Feyerabend, Toulmin, M.Polanyi, Scriven, Hanson and Hesse (to name the ones Bhaskar lists).

The ontology that the philosophy of science suggests which begins to resolve the contradictions which emerge, and have dominated the discourse in the philosophy of science over the past 100 years, has deep affinities with one which is implicit in the later writings of Marx. This is very important observation.

We begin understanding the importance of Althusser, that methodologically --both ontologically and epistemologically--something new occured in the writing of Karl Marx, something that goes well beyound the induction of Adam Smith and the Deduction of David Ricardo, certainly miles away from the mathemazation of the marginalists and neo-Classical tradition from 1870 forward (the later of which screams out for an explanation).

In other words it is not Marx or critial realism, nor Bhaskar himself who obscures reality, but the general negelect of ontology which obscures reality.

It seems to to me that historical development of critical realism in the philosophy of science(!) demands a reinvestigation of Marx to understand in which ways he is able to illuminate reality, while the empiricist, positivist and relativist traditions have tended to obscure, misrepresent and misunderstand the nature of reality.

When this is acknowledged, an impatience emerges deep within most thinkers concerning kicking around the corpse of a long gone dog Marx. And perhaps reintroducing class-analysis or some other misty and 'reified' category as a method to expalin and understand reality.

Rather lets allow another 100 years to go by, we won't be arguing how we have access to reality in the next 100 years, we all understand that is relative and socially determinded, but lets argue about the meaning of each sentence that we utter, and how we are able to make any sense of each other in the mist of discourse and conversation (and of course we really never understand each other!). For certainly we don't want to struggle with an obsurantist who wants to revindicate the mystifing (or virtual) realm of (social) structure and ontology, espeically one which acknowledges the parallelism between itself and that of the dead dog Marx. I mean for Christ sake if we are going to construct a "virtual" world to explain the event which tend to manifest in reality least at least get rid of Marx ... well of course we can't accomplish that, so lets just fail mention the affinity, no harm in that absence!?!?!

Hans D.

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