Cyril, sorry for the delay, unfortuantely, I have NOT been able to organise an early retirement yet, and various things have intervened! Also, I had hoped that others on the list might intervene in the discussion if I didn't jump in too quick!

I have been browsing a little in "1844". I noticed a section which I had marked with a "?" in the margin (some time in the early 1980s I imagine):

Here we see how consistent naturalism or humanism differs both from idealism and materialism and is at the same time their unifying truth. We also see that only naturalism is capable of comprehending the process of world history. [Critique of Hegel's Philosophy in General]

Now I have to say this deserved some thought in the light of your position as expressed in "Marx at the Millenium", where you say that Hegel was not an idealist (i.e. a subjective idealist) and Marx was not a materialist (i.e. a mechanical materialist). I insert in brackets my characterisation of your supporting arguments.

I interpret this statement I think fairly in its context as quite consistent with what I call Marxism, Thesis X, for instance:

The standpoint of the old materialism is civil society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or social humanity. [Theses on Feuerbach, X]

As I understand it, before we have developed as individuals, i.e. in our childhood or youth, we develop "sensori-motor intelligence", that is our senses and our ability to coordinate our actions have grown up by assimilation of and accomodation with the social reality which is our "external essence". We later [mostly] acquire the "knowledge of our times" in the form of concepts or "ideology". Given the opportunity, this abstract theoretical form of the world will interpenetrate this "intuition" in revolutionary-practical activity and become something worthy of the name of "knowledge". In (for example) a society of generalised commodity relations, all our social relations appear to us (in the form of "real illusions") as relations between alien objects. A very few of us will create a single new concept, but not even superwoman can "dispell" the real illusions of capitalist society other than by really transforming social relations so that our actual relations with other human beings are as they appear and appear as they are. [And even then, that is only the beginning!]

In your last Email you say:

"Neither Hegel nor Marx can have an epistemology, a theory of knowledge, a scientific account of science"

Do you mean by this that as human beings like us, neither can transcend absolutely the conditions of their times? Or do you mean that such an account can never be a "finished system", i.e., not "natural philosophy"?

Its [Socialism] starting point is the theoretically and practically sensuous consciousness of man and of nature as essential beings. It is the positive self-consciousness of man, no longer mediated through the abolition of religion, just as real life is positive reality no longer mediated through the abolition of private property, through communism. Communism is the act of positing as the negation of the negation, and is therefore a actual phase, necessary for the next period of historical development, in the emancipation and recovery of mankind. [Communism and Private Property]

The account you have given of why philosophy is not "outmoded" etc., I fully agree with, but it seems to me that if we continue to say things like Marx not being a materialist and not having a theory of knowledge, it just creates a huge stumbling block. We are still in "negation", not negation-of-negation; we must have a theory of knowledge; we cannot "transcend" materialism because our knowledge and our social relations are not yet, and will not be for a long time "natural" for us, not until we grow up in a world where we are not alienated from other human beings.

Furhermore, I'm very much in favour of "popularising" what I am quite happy to call "dialectical materialism". My approach is to try to recreate a familiarity with Hegel and at the same time to carry out practical activity which tends to foster a "sensorimotor " understanding of dialectics. That is, I don't make a big thing about "inverting Hegel" and so on, but just do it, and try to draw attention to what we are doing.

Marx's famous "Afterword" I cannot interpret in terms of "having no theory of knowledge":

My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. ... With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.

The mystification which dialectic suffers in Hegel's hands by no means prevents him from being the first to present its general form of working in a comprehensive and conscious manner. With him it is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell.[Afterword to German Edition of Capital]

yours ever fraternally


PS: I have passed your Email address on to Davie MacLean who I mentioned wrote a "rave review" of your book, so you may hear from him.