To: Cyril Smith
Date: 6th March 11:34am
Yes your message was received perfectly!
I owe to your "Marx at the Millenium" a concept of the place of Ethics in philosophy. I describe it by saying that Epistemology is the Essence of Philosophy and Ethics is the Notion. That simple abstract notion that is the "key" at which a writer arrives (if she lives long enough), which she is led to out of the historical context of their times and the genesis of their understanding of the subject-object relation, the aspect, stage, etc of the problem of knowledge, their relation to the world, the definition of "how we must live", the concept of the human condition - that is the Notion of philosophy. The unity of Life and Cognition I now see in a new light as how we build up our philosophy.
So, you have drawn my attention to the place of Marx's "humanism" in relation to his epistemology.
Now Cyril, you have not answered my question as to WHY you put "Marxism" in inverted commas, etc. I find that in the history of philosophy people were able to discuss the most fundamental questions not by arguing on whether or not God existed, but the nature of God, equally as from a certain point, the substitution of the word "Nature" for God does not constitute a radical change, but simply an indicator, appropriate for their times, of the Nature of God.
So, in our times, we are able to discuss the nature of Marxism or the nature of dialectical materialism without putting the explicitly "atheist" (so to speak) position. Nevertheless, of course, to say "God (or "Marxism") is Dead" or "Does not exist" has a certain shock effect. But the choice of words here is not a textual or academic choice but a practical act.
I note in Engels' early work (1841) he takes the position that it was the place of revolutionaries to DEFEND Hegel against the attack - of Prussia, Schelling, Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard. I agree with Lenin's view that the essence of Hegel is the Logic, and I lay to the side his other works. I think a major project today is just simply to re-introduce an UNDERSTANDING of Hegel's Logic - never mind criticising it - and learning to recognise it, manifest it.
Likewise, I am still suffering from a kind of mental block about mathematics. I am trying to come to grips with the history of philosophy since 1841. Postmodern philosophy will have to come later, just the period approximately 1841 - 1967.
I notice a development which is as universal and general as Hegel's Essence, which is not the genesis but the degeneration of a Notion. For example, Lukacs' description in his Preface to the 1967 Edition of History & Class Consciousness shows how precisely those aspects of the work which he by then regarded as MISTAKES, were the basis of the founding of the Frankfurt School and were built upon Sartre and Althusser leading them completely astray!
This is a compete opposite to the process I observe in the development of materialist philosophy from Descartes/Bacon up to Hume and the French Enlightenment. In this process, each generation did indeed take up a strength of a figure of the previous generation and attempt to negate its weakness. For example, Spinoza accepts Descartes' Rationalism but negates his Dualism, and so forth. It is not until Marx that a satisfactory Notion is arrived at, as expressed for example in The German Ideology.
[Hegel never uses the terms "thesis-antithesis-synthesis", and it is easy to see why, because the "triad" is quite distinctly diffferent in every one of its exhibitions in The Logic, and "t-a-s" is but one "idealised" version. But as a stage in understanding the Logic I don't see any harm in using the term. Likewise, I find the term "dialectical materialism" a perfectly fair Notion of Marx's epistemology.]
Likewise, in reading these "Old" philosophers, I also find how surprising it is that not only is Newton not a Newtonian and Bacon is certainly not an Empiricist. There is a lot of myth, isn't there. But we still have to try to grasp the whole process, and understand the concrete theoretically beginning with such abstract Notions (don't misunderstand me, as I understood you, I agree with your characterisation of the meaning of "The Method of Political Economy", though I have to go back and read that passage at least annually!)
!! I would also grab any opportunity for "early retirement" - starting the ral work as soon as possible! but I took out my first mortgage at age 50, and it'll take till about age 57 to pay it off, by which time my SUper will be enough to live on !!
I look forward to reading "International Socialist Forum"
"If anybody discusses anything, without reference to the question of how to live humanly, they must be wrong! (That is only slightly exaggerated.) That is the way that I want to examine the relation between Marx and natural science, but I am not certain how to do this yet."
As I said, I see the relationship between "how to live humanly" and the question "what is the relationship between my consciousness and the world in itself" as like the relation between Notion and Essence. So, from that standpoint, how can we "begin with the abstract notion". You deal with this one quite convincingly in MatM. We begin as little fellas without even being aware that we exist. We become individuals by acquiring the knowledge of our Age. Only then can we begin to work towards a Notion of "how to live humanly". We cannot grasp that in advance! Not theoretcially. We cannot conflate the sensorimotor intelligence or intuition contained in teh fact that we actually do live, with the theoretical conception of "how we must live". This intuition begins with the most profound, but will be grasped theoretically only, probably, in old age.
"I'd be very pleased to hear your ideas on Hegel, in particular."
I have probably given indications of this in what I have said above. I now have to make concrete my understanding of Hegel and Marx by tackling the task I am setting myself: to form a Notion of Postmodern Philosophy. I hope I live long enough. The philosophical work of Natural scientists, which through many mistakes and confusions and losing many along the road, driven by a social posiiton which can tolerate no untruth, struggles forwards. I don't agree with your position Cyril, but I found much of value in your book, and I expect I will learn more yet.
with much affection