Date: Sat, 7 Mar 98 22:38
From: cyrilsmith- at (Mr C Smith)

Dear Andy,

I'd like to say a bit about a couple of the points you raise.

(1) Let's get out of the way the idea that philosophy is "outmoded", or that we can "ignore" it. I believe precisely the opposite. A study of the history of philosophy and of its latest stages, are of immense importance. Nor is it just a matter of "diagnosis". We have to get right to the heart of modern social relations and its contradictions. Marx and I both agree with Hegel that "philosophy is its own time expressed in thought". While Hegel thought that his time was a big success - "Our time is a birth-time" - Marx thought that it was the highest form of inhumanity, and that history was "all the shit of ages".

From a critical study of philosophy and political economy, Marx found the keys to the way to go beyond those times. And Hegel's philosophy was the highest form of alienation, "alienated thought revolving within itself". Hegel's Spirit was the reflection of Capital. Each was the appearance of "substance which is also subject". Hegel's Spirit, like Marx's capital, were the product of human activity, which controlled their lives. That is why "the standpoint of Hegel is that of modern political economy".

So, while we agree that postmodern stuff is crap, that doesn't at all absolve us from its careful analysis, however distasteful that might be!

(2) No, we haven't got an a priori knowledge of science, if that means knowledge obtained without a lot of hard work. But work today is conducted under specific social conditions. For example, there is a division of labour between mental and physical labour, so natural science is the work of special people, not any Tom, Dick or Harriet. (And don't they drum your specialness into you when they are training you to do that special job!) For ordinary folk, science is mystified as much as possible. Obviously, scientific knowledge is the outcome of social activity, but it cannot but be locked inside alienated social forms. And science itself is incapable of uncovering those forms. To understand its prison, it would have to know what it would mean to be free. Its entire notion of scientific objectivity prevents any understanding of freedom.

Something like that, anyway.

More to come, maybe.

Best wishes,