[lbo-talk] A Crisis of Neo-liberalism or a Crisis of Captialism?" by Christopher Carrico

123hop at comcast.net 123hop at comcast.net
Wed Dec 14 12:20:32 PST 2011

OK. I agree. But I didn't write the passage you quote.


----- Original Message -----

On Dec 14, 2011, at 2:05 PM, 123hop at comcast.net wrote:
> The main point of the nominalist position pertains to the relationship
> between ideas (universals to be more precise) and reality these ideas
> represent. It maintains that ideas are a product of human
> consciousness and do not exist in reality. It follows that they
> cannot cause anything in the realm of reality. In other words,
> altering depictions of reality (ideas) do not produce any changes in
> the reality itself. The realist position, by contrast, maintains that
> ideas have real existence - they are more real than empirical
> experiences of reality.
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_universals

All this is frightfully muddled, where not downright wrong. It postulates three "realms:" of "universals;" of "reality;" and of "human consciousness" without suggesting anything about the relationship among those realms. It then asserts that (according to nominalism) "universals cannot cause anything in the realm of reality." But who can doubt that among the infinite number of factors causing changes in the realm of reality is to be counted *human action*? And what is human action if not the practical use of universal conceptions in order to act on reality (if I did not associate the universal "sweetness" with the universal "honey" I would never sweeten my tea by adding honey)? As this homely example proves, the changed reality (sweetened tea) results from (includes among the causal factors determining it) the universals sweetness and honey. And to say (leaving aside the pleonasm "empirical experiences") that "Realism maintains that universals have real existence - they are more real than empirical experiences of reality" is to postulate a single substance of "reality" with certain things (universals, particulars) possessing more or less of it than others. But, as Realists from Plato to Hegel to Marx to Whitehead have tirelessly pointed out, universals and particulars differ not in degree of reality but in the essential character of their respective realities: universals are temporally invariant (honey has always involved sweetness ever since the first bee took pollen from the first flower) while material particulars only exist in time (their existence is limited to a defined place in a system of four coordinate dimensions, one of which is time).

All this was so obvious as to be taken for granted by Plato, but was later so totally obscured by that form of nominalism known as Materialism that Marx had to write in a thesis on Feuerbach: "The question whether objective truth can be attributed to human thinking is not a question of theory but is a practical question. Man must prove the truth, i.e., the reality and power, of his thinking, in practice."

Shane Mage

"When we read on a printed page the doctrine of Pythagoras that all things are made of numbers, it seems mystical, mystifying, even downright silly.

When we read on a computer screen the doctrine of Pythagoras that all things are made of numbers, it seems self-evidently true." (N. Weiner)

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