From: (Mr C Smith)

humanity and nature

Dear Andy,

I was very pleased with your latest message, because it helps to focus on some crucial points, and that in a way which combines criticism with open-mindedness. Here are some comments, which I shall feel free to amend or withdraw at the drop of a concept.

Point (2): No, I am sure that Hegel never 'sat down at his writing desk to write about political economy, but disguised his work as logic, presumably to improve sales'. Rather, I think that Hegel was the first grasp philosophy as 'its own time expressed in thought'. But his own time was the period of the spread of capital to the whole of Western Europe.

You could say, for example, about Kant, that his 'conception of logic must inevitably reflect the social relations of capitalism which must in turn be embodied in his logic', but Kant could not express this in the logic itself. Hegel, on the other hand, strove to embody the entire cultural framework of bourgeois society and its history into all of his work, especially into the Science of Logic. So Marx's critique of political economy, and his critique of Hegel's dialectic, are the same thing. With Hegel's - no doubt unwilling - assistance, Marx gets to the heart of the inhumanity of human life in that culture. In that critical sense, and only in that sense, Marx 'stood on the shoulders' of the old guys, especially Hegel.

Point (3): I don't understand about the illusion that 'we freely create nature'. We are nature, but only through our struggles to humanise nature. When you say that 'the alienation of humans from their own nature has at its very base the alienation of humanity from Nature', I feel like turning that round: the alienation of humans from nature is based upon the alienation of human from our own nature.

I don't think that Marx 'threw out' the slightest scrap of the history of thought. All of it, incorporated into Hegel's idea that the history of philosophy was the essence of human development, was 'sublated' - negated and preserved - in Marx's critique.

Perhaps our difficulties with the knowledge of nature itself can be illuminated by the observation that human knowledge has arisen as an aspect of the labour process, that is, from within the movement of nature itself. So knowledge of nature is only 'objective' because of the 'subjective' purposes of production. The subjectivity of the 'observer', seen in the context of human social life as a process of nature, gets to the heart of the object of knowledge. That is what Hegel was getting at, but only in terms of his conviction that human = consciousness. That is what the First Thesis on Feuerbach is about, I think. Remember the division of mental and physical labour, and you can see the roots of the 'crude materialism and equally crude idealism of the natural scientists'.

So, to say that natural-scientific knowledge is inseparable from social being and subjectivity, is not to deny its objectivity, just to put it in its historical context.

Or something like that.

Best wishes,