Re: [xmca] V: ":There Are No Coincidences"

From: Andy Blunden <ablunden who-is-at>
Date: Tue Feb 26 2008 - 16:16:45 PST

He, he, so Mike critiques this idea of Freedom and Necessity by pointing to
the conflicts of interest *within* a society which Hegel, and, when
speaking of the hypothetical socialist future, Engels, take to have reconciled.

This is one of Hegel's most famous examples of this issue:
The building of a house is, in the first instance, a subjective aim and
design. On the other hand we have, as means, the several substances
required for the work, - Iron, Wood, Stones. The elements are made use of
in working up this material: fire to melt the iron, wind to blow the fire,
water to set wheels in motion, in order to cut the wood, &c. The result is,
that the wind, which has helped to build the house, is shut out by the
house; so also are the violence of rains and floods, and the destructive
powers of fire, so far as the house is made fire-proof. The stones and
beams obey the law of gravity, - press downwards, - and so high walls are
carried up. Thus the elements are made use of in accordance with their
nature, and yet to co-operate for a product, by which their operation is
limited. Thus the passions of men are gratified; they develop themselves
and their aims in accordance with their natural tendencies, and build up
the edifice of human society; thus fortifying a position for Right and
Order _against themselves_.

But in fact Hegel never thought that "man" would gain control of his own
It is not the general idea that is implicated in opposition and combat, and
that is exposed to danger. It remains in the background, untouched and
uninjured. This may be called the _cunning of reason_, - that it sets the
passions to work for itself, while that which develops its existence
through such impulsion pays the penalty and suffers loss. Yet no lingering
lies or make-believe strokes in the air can achieve anything against it.
They can perhaps reach the shoelaces of this colossus, and smear on a bit
of boot wax or mud, but they cannot untie the laces.
The most revolting application of the idea, for me, was Stalin's:
If the world is knowable and our knowledge of the laws of development of
nature is authentic knowledge, having the validity of objective truth, it
follows that social life, the development of society, is also knowable, and
that the data of science regarding the laws of development of society are
authentic data having the validity of objective truths.
Hence, the science of the history of society, despite all the complexity of
the phenomena of social life, can become as precise a science as, let us
say, biology, and capable of making use of the laws of development of
society for practical purposes.
Hence, the party of the proletariat should not guide itself in its
practical activity by casual motives, but by the laws of development of
society, and by practical deductions from these laws.
Hence, socialism is converted from a dream of a better future for humanity
into a science.
The point is I think the constitution of the *subject*. The revolting
formulations of this idea take for granted that the leader (Stalin, Saddam)
expresses the will of the individual citizen; social conflicts and
differences have been erased so that it is possible to talk about "man" as
if there were such a unitary subject charting its own history. Never was,
never will be.


At 02:56 PM 26/02/2008 -0800, you wrote:
>OK, so here is to me the most compelling example of "controlling yourself
>from the outside" but it is not a happy
>story....... I saw Persepolis last week and was reminded of it.
>During the Iran-Iraq war when Saddam was our buddy, Iranian teens were
>convinced to lead donkeys across mine fields. How did their far seeing
>elders' arrange for them to do this?
>By giving them a plastic key to heaven with all of its "out of this life"
>rewards. The kids were able to use this "neutral Stimulus" of the method of
>dual stimulation to keep on walking forward when their donkey's terrified,
>ran away.
>These young, compared to the donkey's were exercising
>extreme self control from the outside, which invaded their bodies via the
>symbolic artifact.
>Asses to asses and dust to dust,
>It higher psychic functions
>We all should trust?
>On Tue, Feb 26, 2008 at 2:45 PM, Martin Packer <> wrote:
> > The manuscript is sent, and my life is lighter by about 500 pages. So back
> > now to freedom and necessity. In the article I propose that central to the
> > conception of history that V seems to have drawn from Marx (and/or Engels,
> > Hegel...) is the notion that humans can reach a point where we come to
> > understand the laws, the objective tendencies, that move history, and by
> > doing so we can break these laws! What was necessity becomes freedom,
> > indeed
> > necessity provides the basis for freedom. It is by discovering the
> > objective
> > laws of our own existence that we are able, through using them, to
> > transcend
> > them.
> >
> > What I then tried to show is that V had a very similar way of thinking
> > about
> > children's development. (In fact he drew an explicit parallel.) I think
> > this
> > has been missed because the underlying conception of history is not well
> > known in the west. Here too there is a break, a leap, from necessity to
> > freedom. This is especially emphasized for adolescence, but it is evident
> > elsewhere in development too. The qualitative leap to the higher
> > psychological functions is a result of self-mastery: of control of ones
> > own
> > natural psychological functions. This is the person acting on themselves
> > (which necessarily follows upon action on others, and vice versa). In
> > order
> > to form scientific concepts, the developing human *needs* to control their
> > own behavior. I quote Norris Minick's translation of Thinking & Speech (p.
> > 63).
> >
> > " The higher form of activity is present wherever there is mastery of
> > processes of onešs own behavior and, first of all, its reactive functions.
> > In subjecting to his will the process of his own reactions, man enters in
> > this way into a substantially new relation with the environment, comes to
> > a
> > new functional exploitation of elements in the environment as
> > stimuli-signs
> > which he uses, depending on external means, and directs and controls his
> > own
> > behavior, controls himself from outside, compelling stimuli-signs to
> > affect
> > him, and elicits reactions that he desires."
> >
> > Martin
> >
> >
> > On 2/23/08 3:15 AM, "Paul Dillon" <> wrote:
> >
> > > This problem of the freedom of the self and history's inexorable
> > process was
> > > for noone else a greater preoccupation than for Sartre, whose Critique
> > of
> > > Dialectical Reason" will certainly come to be appreciated "as time goes
> > by".
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > xmca mailing list
> >
> >
> >
>xmca mailing list

  Andy Blunden : tel (H) +61 3 9380 9435,
mobile 0409 358 651

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Received on Tue Feb 26 16:19 PST 2008

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