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Re: [xmca] Progress: Reality or Illusion?
I'm thinking about your comments about Novack.
Meanwhile I am pondering Andy's claim. He seems to be saying that
properties, qualities, objects, processes, or whatever is being
compared must all possess a common quantifiable aspect. This aspect
can be objective or subjective. We can both agree that something is
"very ridiculous," but in agreeing on that we are using a common
This quantifiability criteria is clearly the case in Marx's discussion
of exchange value. He discusses the **amount** of abstract labor in a
It is even the case in Novack's formulations about how to objectively
determine progress when he says things like "The productivity of labor
is the fundamental test for measuring the advancement of humanity
because this is the basis and precondition for all other forms of
social and cultural advancement." The productivity of labor is a
(As a side note, this criteria Novack suggests regarding labor
productivity could be used as a way of shedding light not only on
things like differences between feudalism and capitalism, but also
things like the historical character of Stalinism in the USSR, which
did much to hold back labor productivity.)
A counter-example is not immediately occurring to me to refute Andy's
claim that only quantifiable things can be compared. Can you think of
On the question of requiring a third something that I raised, here is
a discussion of that:
Ilyenkov in Dialectical Logic Ch 1, p 18 says:
"... when we wish to establish a relation of some sort between two
objects, we always compare not the ‘specific’ qualities that make one
object ‘syllable A’ and the other a ‘table’, ‘steak’, or a ‘square’,
but only those properties that express a ‘third’ something, different
from their existence as the things enumerated.
"The things compared are regarded as different modifications of this
‘third’ property common to them all, inherent in them as it were.
"So if there is no ‘third’ in the nature of the two things common to
them both, the very differences between them become quite senseless."
If Ilyenkov is correct on this, and Andy is also correct, then not
only is a 'third' required, but the common thing between the three
things must be quantifiable.
Are you aware of any discussions of this question in Marxist or
Hegelian literature, Bruce? How about you, Andy?
On Feb 27, 2012, at 7:00 AM, Andy Blunden wrote:
Any two things yes, but one must abstract from the "things" to carry
out the comparison.
EG I can say that red has a higher frequency of EM radiation than
green, or I might say that in my survey more people selected red as
their favourite colour than did green. But in what practical sense
can I say that red is more than green?
Bruce Robinson wrote:
"Only quantities can be compared." Really?? Can't one compare any
Andy Blunden wrote:
Steve Gabosch wrote:
No, that is not what I am saying, Steve. Only quantities can be
compared. You can't compare, for example, red and green, and ask
which is more. So before a quantitative comparison is to be made
one must have settle the appropriate means of quantification and
the practical means of comparison. The resulting claim then is
meaningful: "Cats are heavier than mice."
Let me see if I am grasping your point.
Let me begin by agreeing with what I see as your premise. I
agree that two things can only be compared when compared to a
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