Re: [xmca] Response to DK about Volition

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Mon Sep 10 2007 - 19:27:31 PDT


Well Steve I do agree there is a line which can be drawn between a
genuinely scientific view, such as that of Marx, and deism or any kind of
religion. But Marx's critique of Feuerbach goes to show that even the
confirmed atheist, so long as he ascribes "the nature of things" to a
reified concept of nature, independently of human activity, has not yet
really crossed into the domain of science.

There is a difference, I grant you, between a conception of God/Nature
which ascribes not only intelligibility, but intelligence, not only history
but teleology to the One. But so long as we go with the common sense view,
which we all attain once we climb out of infancy, that things exist
independently of our activity - as such, without the addition of the
necessary critical proviso that a thing exists for us only insofar as it is
an object of our activity, so long as we ascribe properties to Nature
rather than our activity, then we are in the same swimming pool with the


At 08:44 AM 10/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>Where was I? LOL - good question, Andy - I am sure the molecules and
>atoms I am composed of were getting into trouble somewhere or other over
>those centuries! Meanwhile, as you point out, there were ongoing debates
>over those years during the growth of modern capitalist society and the
>dissolution of the old feudal culture over the relationship of God to
>nature. What emerged as the mainstream view, and still is the mainstream
>view, is the so-called deist (pronounced dayist) outlook that God
>originally created nature and its laws, which more or less independently
>run on their own. This view allows modern people to believe in both God
>and science - which most do, to one extent or another. In this way, a
>study of nature can be both spiritual and empirical.
>I personally take the atheist view that God never existed in the first
>place. Bacon, although not an atheist, has been called the father of
>British materialism. Like you I take inspiration from his remarkable
>ideas and writing, which he developed in a time when materialist ideas
>were more than just out of favor, they were dangerous. I would argue that
>consistent materialism, a view not as dangerous to espouse in many areas
>of today's world, can free itself of any reference to God. However, in
>trying to be consistent, a certain symmetry with aspects of consistent
>idealism can emerge. In my view, such symmetry is quite different from
>proximity. However, those that deny or downplay the historic
>contradiction between the idealist and materialist poles in human thinking
>can miss this distinction between symmetry and proximity in this historic
>relationship. They find themselves noticing certain symmetries and then
>lumping the materialists and idealists together in the way Popper lumped
>Hegel and Marx together. In your own creative and interesting way, Andy,
>I think you are doing something like that in this discussion - you are
>creating an amalgamation between the classical dialectical materialist
>view of nature, and the religious view of God. I think you are being very
>sincere in your views on this, views which I am not trying to change, just
>comment on. For my part, I agree that there are indeed some symmetries,
>and I think they would be interesting to explore. Substituting opposing
>nouns in sentences is an interesting way to indicate certain linguistic
>aspects of this symmetry. But as I see it, the charge of proximity is
>unwarranted - dialectical materialist and religious views are genuinely in
>dialectical and historical opposition, if one accepts the historical
>materialist conception of history.
>This, of course, is dialectical materialism commenting on dialectical
>materialism. To be sure, there is a certain circularity to a
>philosophical position evaluating itself. After all, Marx said to not
>believe a what a man says about himself. This is the dilemma of any
>philosophical investigation - it can only be done from a specific
>philosophical position. All the more reason to make a serious effort to
>reveal and critique our claims and maxims as we go. For me, this is one
>of the most attractive features of the philosophy founded by Marx and
>Engels - it makes every effort to explain, critique and build on its
>foundations, observations and reasoning - to make itself as explicit as
>possible. This could be considered still another symmetry with religious
>doctrine, which can also try to make itself explicit. But once again,
>symmetry is not the same thing as proximity. That it often gets falsely
>lumped in with religious views is not a new problem for Marxism to confront.
>- Steve
>At 11:40 PM 9/10/2007 +1000, you wrote:
>>Where were you Steve during those centuries-long debates about whether
>>God was knowable were going on? :) As Bacon, the founder of western
>>experimental science, put it:
>>"Lord God of heaven and earth; thou hast vouchsafed of thy grace, to
>>those of our order to know thy works of creation, and true secrets of
>>them; and to discern, as far as appertaineth to the generations of men,
>>between divine miracles, works of nature, works of art and impostures,
>>and illusions of all sorts. I do here acknowledge and testify before this
>>people that the thing we now see before our eyes is thy finger, and a
>>true miracle. And forasmuch as we learn in our books that thou never
>>workest miracles, but to a divine and excellent end (for the laws of
>>nature are thine own laws, and thou exceedest them not but upon great
>>cause), we most humbly beseech thee to prosper this great sign, and to
>>give us the interpretation and use of it in mercy."
>>Really, I'm with you on this one Steve, but a Christian believes Nature
>>is God's Works, and one can know God by seeing His Work, as well as by
>>hearing His Word. A Pantheist believes God *is* Nature. The distance
>>separating you from these views is much smaller than I think you believe.
>>In everything you have said in these messages, you crossed out the word
>>"nature" and inserted the word "God" it would still make perfect sense.
>>At 05:45 AM 10/09/2007 -0700, you wrote:
>>My point here is that a scientific approach to nature, full of awe and
>>imagination, is entirely different from a religious view of the
>>supernatural. One is based on empirical fact, the other, spiritualist
>>faith. Nature is ultimately knowable; God is not.
>>>- Steve
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  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435, AIM
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Received on Mon Sep 10 19:30 PDT 2007

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