Re: [xmca] Re: djatel nost

From: Steve Gabosch <stevegabosch who-is-at me.com>
Date: Wed Oct 08 2008 - 11:57:24 PDT

Thanks for your clarification, David. "Theory, not empirical results,
guides science" is clearer to me. My post could have stood to be
clearer, too. This discussion has been very helpful to help me to
think about what science is, how it proceeds.

This statement about theory preceding facts has implications on
several levels - in the sense of social history, in the sense of how
science is carried out methodologically, etc.

I have some thoughts on the methodological side, but in this post I'll
just offer a perspective on the social history aspect.

On the question of which comes first, theories or facts, the evidence
seems overwhelming to me that they precede and follow one another.
Theorizing and fact-finding precede each other in the same way that
odd and even numbers precede each other on a number line, depending on
where you stop and look. Sometimes theorizing is guiding fact-
finding, sometimes fact-finding is guiding theorizing. See what you
think of my reasoning.

If one takes up Vygotsky's idea that each word is a little theory, a
little generalization, then one can see any fact as a kind of mini-
theory. In this way one can see the relationship of fact to theory as
that between the specific case and the general case. And then the
history of science becomes easier to see in terms of this alternation
in guiding roles - sometimes the specific case (results of fact-
finding), and sometimes the general cases (results of theorizing)
become the ones to usher in visible changes, sometimes very rapid and
dramatic changes. We tend to describe major events in science in
terms of what triggered them - an accidental discovery, years of
painstaking calculations, a new cross-pollination of ideas, long,
dangerous hours in a lab, etc. Sometimes the trigger is in terms of a
specific case, at the level of fact-finding, other times the trigger
is at the level of the general case, theorizing.

According to this argument, if one traces the path of any line of
development in science, theory and fact can be seen in a long chain of
mutual causes and effects. Theories precede and spawn new facts,
(general cases generate the discovery of new special cases), and new
facts spawn new theories (special cases generate the discovery of
general cases). Theory and fact continuously shift their immediate
relationships as scientific endeavors advance. This time fact-finding
guides theorizing, that time theorizing guides fact-finding. And so
it goes, according to this conceptualization.

Here are a couple stories to illustrate.

About 1865 the German chemist August Kekule invented a theory of
chemical structure based on inferring the locations of atoms in a
molecule by their valences. He worked this theory out in his head and
on paper. He invented the now familiar nomenclature (H2O is H - O -
H) - it is used everywhere. This theory and simple nomenclature
permanently changed the way chemist's did chemistry. It was well
understood that chemicals were made of atoms, but little was
understood about chemical structure. This theory and way of easily
symbolizing structures was a huge leap.

This is the professor who has a famous little story attached to him.
A big problem for his theory, and for all chemist's struggling with
the problem of how chemical structures worked, was benzene, an organic
compound with six carbon atoms. None of the usual solutions to how
the atoms of benzene could be arranged made sense. He was apparently
quite consumed with trying to solve this, an important challenge to
his theory. So, as the story goes, Kekune was napping one afternoon
in his study and had a dream of a snake biting its tail. He got up,
went to his desk, and solved the problem - the carbon atoms formed a
ring. Eureka! This conceptualization of certain chemical structures
forming rings solved problems for whole classes of organic compounds.
Many new kinds of chemical analysis and synthesis could now blossom.

That is a pretty good example of theory guiding fact-finding.

In 1828, the German chemist Friedrick Wohler put a couple chemicals in
a flask and set them aside and discovered a little later that he had
produced urea crystals, ushering in a new era in chemistry, chemical
synthesis. It had been unknown that organic compounds could be
produced from inorganic materials, so this discovery opened the door
for what would become the enormously productive industry of organic
synthesis. Chemistry had been preoccupied with analysis and focusing
on ways to decompose chemicals. Now chemistry was focusing on
chemical synthesis. You have to walk naked in the woods to not be
surrounded by its modern products and social changes they have wrought.

So this moment in time is pretty good example of the discovery of a
fact changing theory. And it is a particularly dramatic example in
the way the effortlessness of the discovery launched such a multitude
of changes.

Wohler's discovery also shook up vitalism, a prominent biological
theory which held that biology is powered by fundamentally different
basic forces than physics and chemistry, and therefore, organic
material cannot be made out of inorganic. This was considered by some
to be an immutable law, so the news of this synthesis of an organic
compound by an inorganic was a shock. An indicator of the sway of
vitalism at the time of this discovery is Wohler's letter to a friend
lamenting "The great tragedy of science, the slaying of a beautiful
hypothesis by an ugly fact." Vitalism died a slow death, although in
some respects it is enjoying a resurgence today in new forms.

Not only did Wohler's discovery inspire chemical synthesis and
especially, launch an entirely new and extraordinarily productive
branch of chemistry, organic synthesis; it had a profound impact on an
important theory in biology. In this slice of time, the fact of some
crystals in a flask greatly guided theory.

And there are countless more stories like these, big and famous, small
and commonplace, remembered and forgotten, where facts preceded
theories, and theories preceded facts. A veritable slow-motion
avalanche of tumbling fact and theory. Just stop the cycle at any
point, and one or the other can be seen as the trigger guiding the
way. But back up or move forward, and it is the other way around.

Well, this is one way to interpret how theory and fact interact and
mutually guide each other as science proceeds. What do you think?

- Steve

I think at the bottom of some of this unclarity are some underlying,
lingering cultural subtexts about whether science is more rational
than everyday experience, and whether theorizing is a higher and more
developed kind of activity than gathering facts.

I have been thinking about the phrases "rational theory" and
"empirical facts." I think you used "empri

An example is some of the way we have been talking about science in
this discussion, such as when we say things like "rational theory" and
"empirical facts". We add these adjectives even though we are not
entertaining irrational theories or non-empirical facts into the
discussion. In other words, they are purely redundant - but still
somehow seem necessary. We say these words, I think, to remind
ourselves that theories are more rational than facts and empirical
facts and results gathered by scientists are better than facts and
results derived anywhere else. I am not trying to shame anyone here
- it is something we all do without even realizing it. These feelings
about theory and fact are among the basic cultural subtexts that have
great influence on our thinking processes.

However, an

I still want to parse your formulation I hope I am not quibbling or
missing the point again. If it just means scientists use their heads
before they do laboratory experiments, there isn't too much to argue
about there. Science is a conscious process. But to the extent a
more inherent relationship between theory and fact is meant - I hope I
am correct empirical results are facts, methodological desc

This makes sense and there are many examples of theory guiding
scientific development. But I am going to try to make the case that
scientific development also occurs in the other direction as well.
Empirical results, that is, facts, also guide theory.

A simple analogy to my argument is as one would respond to the claim
that on the number line,

Let me offer an example of each.

Finally, some remarks on Dave's interesting thoughts on the role
alchemy played in the development of modern science. Something to
keep in mind, btw, is that alchemy is at least 2000 years old, spanned
over cities and towns in three continents, Africa, Asia and Europe,
had multitudes of roles in ancient and feudal societies, had
significant relationships with aristocracies and ruling classes,
played key roles in local economies producing needed chemical
compounds, maintained various what many now somewhat disparagingly
refer to as cult and occult traditions and writings that go back
thousands of years, famously proved that medieval technologies could
not transmute metals, develop elixirs of youth, discover universal
solvents, or find Philosopher's Stones, and did many other fascinating
things, including get themselves in a lot of trouble for passing
counterfeit gold in 14h Century France. Alchemy is a fascinating
chapter in human history, and as Dave points out, laid some of the
basis for modern chemistry, perhaps especially regarding what became
the chemistry laboratory.

How alchemy played a role in developing modern chemical theory is
traditionally downplayed by the chemistry profession, even more than
the way astrology is scoffed today. Unlike astrology, alchemists
never developed a useful or general system for analytically
classifying chemical compounds, whereas astrology accomplished
remarkably accurate recordings and predictions about the movements of
celestial bodies. (They were probably less successful using these
calculations to predict human affairs). This lack of a useful
classification system may be part of the reason alchemy has fallen
into the disrepute it has.

As for alchemy's general contribution to chemical theory in the days
that bourgeois-driven chemistry was replacing feudal-driven alchemy,
one area to examine could be debates over the applicability of the
Four Substances theory. Aristotle famously wrote up an improvement on
this theory with the suggestion that the multitude of substances and
forms of substances found in nature and chemistry were due to specific
proportional **combinations** of the Four Substances. This
elaboration has been studied for 2,000 years. Debates by medieval
Islamic chemists and alchemists over atomism versus substantism (if
you will) would be a especially good place to start - and some of
their writings about these discussions are extant. I don't know
anything about debates among Chinese alchemists or what writings still
exist, or even what their operating theories and classification
systems were, but I'll bet there much to learn there about pre-
capitalist alchemy and chemistry and their role in Asian societies
that would shed a lot of light, not mention China's probably very
lively transition to modern chemistry. As for the development of
alchemy and chemistry in Europe, the contacts between China and Europe
may be more important in regard to chemistry than is currently known
or at least generally acknowledged.

Brief contacts could have big results. All you have to do is show
chemists and scientists that something exists, or even just that
something is possible, and they can do remarkable things. And that,
in a nutshell, has been the history of chemistry and science.

- Steve

On Oct 2, 2008, at 8:33 AM, David H Kirshner wrote:
Steve, I didn't read Andy's point that "rational science ... does not
proceed empirically" as painting scientific inquiry as non-empirical.
Rather, he was suggesting that theory, not empirical results, guides
the development of the science. This would be in contrast with
"practical science," as you discussed it in your post, which does
progress empirically.

I wonder where alchemy fits in within a developmental scheme for
science. I think of alchemy as an intense system of ideas that guided
empirical inquiry. What makes alchemy not scientific is the source and
structure of its ideas, rooted in philosophy and theology rather than
in units of analysis that are indigenous to the domain of inquiry. It
would seem, then, that alchemy was transitional between empirically
guided practical science and rationally guided science.

  Practical Science --> Alchemy --> Rational Science

To fill out the picture further, perhaps superstitious practice which
is informed by empirical observation, but does not guide empirical
investigation, links back as a second precursor along with practical
science to alchemy. Alchemy, thus is the off-spring of superstition (a
system of ideas about the empirical world) and practical science (an
empirical program for advancement).

Does this make any sense?

David Kirshner

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu]
On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 2:24 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: déjatel¹ nost¹

Your description of how a "rational" science develops is intriguing,
Andy. I like its general evolutionary approach, but some questions
about some of its particulars occur to me.

The statement "Being a rational science, it does not proceed
empirically ..." does not seem to be an accurate description of
science in modern times. However a more or less purely
"theoretical" (philosophical, theological, etc.) and largely non-
empirical approach does characterize important aspects of official
science in many pre-capitalist societies, such as European feudalism
and Ancient Greece and Rome. Such a statement might be less true
about pre-European China, which had a much longer continuous history,
and much more cohesiveness, resources and territorial hegemony at the
ruling class level, due to the necessarily centralized irrigation
systems, but the motivation for using science to break out of its form
of feudalism was minimal, so many of China's remarkable scientific
discoveries in that era were treated more or less as amusements,
rather than inspirations for social change.

This generalization about the general lack of empirical research in
science in pre-capitalist societies should also be qualified with the
point that practical science, meaning the application of folk
knowledge about agriculture, animal husbandry, the productive crafts,
health care, housing, transportation, domestics and so forth and so
on, has always been highly active and inventive, in every social
system - and when certain socio-economic conditions have emerged, can
surge forward, straining and eventually laying the basis for
revolutionizing the existing social order. Practical science -
according to this way of viewing the evolution of science, which I am
pretty much basing on Marx and Engels and others who have written on
the history of science in the historical materialist vein - while it
was very "empirical" at the practical levels of work and daily living
- it was not normally directly reflected in "official" (ruling class-
organized) science and theory in most societies.

There are many important partial exceptions to this general rule to
keep in mind, however - especially Arab mathematics and other
scientific work during the Dark and Middle Ages. A quick look around
Wikipedia reveals Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān a.k.a. Geber (c. 721–c.
815) as a marvelous example of Islamic science all in one person - he
is considered a "polymath" who was a "chemist and alchemist,
astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher,
physicist, and pharmacist and physician," and is "considered by many
to be the father of chemistry". The modern bourgeois sciences,
including their empirical traditions, owe a deep debt to the sciences
and cultures of medieval Islam. And then in Greco-Roman times there
were numerous now well-known scientist-engineers, mathematicians,
medical researchers, etc., such as Archimedes, Euclid and Galen, and
undoubtedly, many others not so well remembered. Aristotle did not
conduct empirical experiments so far as we know, but he is considered
by many to have been an amazingly keen empirical observer, although
not flawless.

But returning to the general point I am making: despite various
exceptions, what amounted to a kind of disdain for empirical science
in the official circles of many pre-bourgeois societies completely
changed in the modern era. Since about the 17th Century or so, when
the bourgeoisies in various European countries began to form on their
own (or just plain grab hold of) more or less official social
institutions, and generally push aside or overthrow feudal forces,
empirical research began to become one of the hallmarks of official
science - and what is now called the scientific revolution emerged.
The scientific method, which included the development of vigorous
empirical research efforts, began to be generally formulated and
continuously honed, and has eventually come to dominate not only all
the sciences, but many aspects of modern bourgeois culture as a
whole. At the same time, and I infer this from your description of
the usual development of a science, Andy, **cultural assumptions**
about the world, society, the individual, the human body, animals,
plants, the cosmos, etc. etc. drive the way leading scientists and
their supporters in any given situation determine what they see as the
objects and basic units of investigation. In turn, these cultural
assumptions, objects and units in turn greatly impact what kind and
what amount of empirical research is imagined, sought and supported.
Your example of the "lifestyle" versus "virus" paradigms debate over
the cause of HIV/AIDS is perfect.

Well, that is my attempt at describing a little history of empirical
science. So back to my main question - what do you mean by "a
rational science ... does not proceed empirically ...."? Have I
misread your meaning?

Another question about what you wrote: your statement that a science
begins "with a clear concept of its object" seems to leave out much of
the history of a science prior to the time it forms a clear idea of
its basic "units of analysis", such as chemistry before the discovery
and comprehension of the chemical element, and then the molecule, and
then valence - or biology before the discovery and understanding of
units like the cell, and then the inherited adaptation, the gene, the
protein - and, especially relevant to CHAT, psychology - where its
basic unit remains undiscovered, or is at least highly disputed to
this very day. Perhaps I am misunderstanding your point here as well?

If convenient, could you give a shot at outlining the history of a
science to illustrate your conceptual framework? I don't mean to ask
you to go out of your way, just briefly show how your framework
corresponds to the the evolution of some area of science that is
characterized by a well established object and basic unit. That might
help make your points more concrete, and perhaps draw an interesting
counterpoint to the way I am trying to frame this history.

And - again, not wanting to bother you too much - could you offer a
little summary of how you view Hegel in relationship to science. As I
understand it, Hegel was highly knowledgeable of the sciences of his
day, and did some writing on scientific subjects himself, such as
astronomy, and sometimes laced his writings with examples from
empirical science. Hegel was another of history's great polymaths.
He supported empirical research in science, insofar as he saw this
kind of work as a prelude to what he saw as a genuinely philosophical
understanding of nature. He saw physics, chemistry and biology as the
central empirical sciences, which he said were irreducible to one
another, and he opposed the quack so-called sciences of phrenology
(analyzing skull bumps) and physiognomy (analyzing facial features)
which claimed to deduce personality traits from these analyses. At
that same time, Hegel was an ardent critic of philosophical
empiricism, with arguments that have some interesting parallels (and
of course, important differences) with the Marxist critique of it.
Perhaps you would flesh this description out a bit more.

Finally, am I correct in surmising that this conception which you have
outlined of how a science evolves is derived mostly from Hegel?

- Steve

On Oct 1, 2008, at 5:24 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:

:) Maybe we'll never get over this difficulty Martin. Let me take a
little step back and try though.

How does *any* "rational" science operate? The science begins with a
clear concept of its object, be it "conditioned reflex" or
"commodity" or "right" or whatever. It then pays close attention to
what is actually going on. Aided by the fact that it's "unit of
analysis" is an empirically observable unit of social life, not some
hypothesis or "force" or "thing-in-itself" or foundation myth, it is
able to observe the changes and transformations in its object, and
comprehend these through the specific lens given by its unit of
analysis. Being a rational science, it does not proceed empirically,
but refuses to rest until the observed transformations have been
made intelligible in terms of the "germ cell." At every step this
initially abstract conception becomes richer and more concrete,
provided of course that it was wisely chosen in the beginning. The
achievement of making the empirically observed phenomena rationally
intelligible means that the movement (actually already empirically
observed) can be reconstructed rationally, *as if* not relying on
empirical observation. ANY theoretical science must proceed in this
way, even if at a given moment in its development, there are some
phenomena which remain unintelligible. How otherwise can we have a
theory of the Big Bang? By "observation"??

I find this quote by Hegel in the Introduction to his "Philosophy of
Right" helpful (note that this book cover not just law (Rechts), but
world history, economics, family relations, ethics, politics, etc.,
etc.):

“The science of right is a part of philosophy. Hence it must
develop the idea, which is the reason of an object, out of the
conception. It is the same thing to say that it must regard the
peculiar internal development of the thing itself. Since it is a
*part* [of philosophy], it has a definite beginning, which is the
result and truth of what goes before, and this, that goes before,
constitutes its so-called proof. Hence the origin of the conception
of right falls outside of the science of right.” (Introduction to
the Philosophy of Right §2)

but then he adds:

“In philosophic knowledge the necessity of a conception is the main
thing, and the process, by which it, as a result, has come into
being is the proof and deduction. After the content is seen to be
necessary independently, the second point is to look about for that
which corresponds to it in existing ideas and modes of
speech.” (Introduction to the Philosophy of Right §2)

Andy
Martin Packer wrote:
"Much of volumes 2 and 3 of Capital are concerned with
crises. This particular crisis is certainly to be
anticipated from his point of view, but after all he died in
1883, so it would be nonsense to talk of him "predicting"
it."
Andy,
Yes, Marx emphasized that crises are endemic to capitalist economy.
He
described the ways companies will appeal for government regulation
to save
them from the consequences of their own competitive impulses, so the
government "bail out" this week is really nothing new. And he also
described
the process of abstraction in capitalism, so the highly abstract
character
of these "toxic" products would not have surprised him. He did a
tremendous
job of identifying tendencies in this kind of activity (just one of
many, as
you note) which continue to this day. My point about prediction was
the
narrower one that in Capital Marx didn't anticipate all this merely
from an
analysis of *simple* exchange, as I think that Leontiev claims. He
looked
back on simple exchange from the vantage point of nineteenth century
capitalism, and reconstructed the course of its history.
Martin
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On Oct 2, 2008, at 8:33 AM, David H Kirshner wrote:
> Steve, I didn't read Andy's point that "rational science ... does  
> not proceed empirically" as painting scientific inquiry as non- 
> empirical. Rather, he was suggesting that theory, not empirical  
> results, guides the development of the science. This would be in  
> contrast with "practical science," as you discussed it in your post,  
> which does progress empirically.
>
> I wonder where alchemy fits in within a developmental scheme for  
> science. I think of alchemy as an intense system of ideas that  
> guided empirical inquiry. What makes alchemy not scientific is the  
> source and structure of its ideas, rooted in philosophy and theology  
> rather than in units of analysis that are indigenous to the domain  
> of inquiry. It would seem, then, that alchemy was transitional  
> between empirically guided practical science and rationally guided  
> science.
>
>  Practical Science -->  Alchemy --> Rational Science
>
> To fill out the picture further, perhaps superstitious practice  
> which is informed by empirical observation, but does not guide  
> empirical investigation, links back as a second precursor along with  
> practical science to alchemy. Alchemy, thus is the off-spring of  
> superstition (a system of ideas about the empirical world) and  
> practical science (an empirical program for advancement).
>
> Does this make any sense?
>
> David Kirshner
>
>
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca- 
> bounces@weber.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Steve Gabosch
> Sent: Thursday, October 02, 2008 2:24 AM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity; Andy Blunden
> Subject: Re: [xmca] Re: déjatel¹ nost¹
>
> Your description of how a "rational" science develops is intriguing,
> Andy.  I like its general evolutionary approach, but some questions
> about some of its particulars occur to me.
>
> The statement "Being a rational science, it does not proceed
> empirically ..." does not seem to be an accurate description of
> science in modern times.  However a more or less purely
> "theoretical" (philosophical, theological, etc.) and largely non-
> empirical approach does characterize important aspects of official
> science in many pre-capitalist societies, such as European feudalism
> and Ancient Greece and Rome.  Such a statement might be less true
> about pre-European China, which had a much longer continuous history,
> and much more cohesiveness, resources and territorial hegemony at the
> ruling class level, due to the necessarily centralized irrigation
> systems, but the motivation for using science to break out of its form
> of feudalism was minimal, so many of China's remarkable scientific
> discoveries in that era were treated more or less as amusements,
> rather than inspirations for social change.
>
> This generalization about the general lack of empirical research in
> science in pre-capitalist societies should also be qualified with the
> point that practical science, meaning the application of folk
> knowledge about agriculture, animal husbandry, the productive crafts,
> health care, housing, transportation, domestics and so forth and so
> on, has always been highly active and inventive, in every social
> system - and when certain socio-economic conditions have emerged, can
> surge forward, straining and eventually laying the basis for
> revolutionizing the existing social order.  Practical science -
> according to this way of viewing the evolution of science, which I am
> pretty much basing on Marx and Engels and others who have written on
> the history of science in the historical materialist vein - while it
> was very "empirical" at the practical levels of work and daily living
> - it was not normally directly reflected in "official" (ruling class-
> organized) science and theory in most societies.
>
> There are many important partial exceptions to this general rule to
> keep in mind, however - especially Arab mathematics and other
> scientific work during the Dark and Middle Ages.  A quick look around
> Wikipedia reveals Abu Musa Jābir ibn Hayyān a.k.a. Geber (c. 721– 
> c.
> 815) as a marvelous example of Islamic science all in one person - he
> is considered a "polymath" who was a "chemist and alchemist,
> astronomer and astrologer, engineer, geologist, philosopher,
> physicist, and pharmacist and physician," and is "considered by many
> to be the father of chemistry".  The modern bourgeois sciences,
> including their empirical traditions, owe a deep debt to the sciences
> and cultures of medieval Islam.  And then in Greco-Roman times there
> were numerous now well-known scientist-engineers, mathematicians,
> medical researchers, etc., such as Archimedes, Euclid and Galen, and
> undoubtedly, many others not so well remembered.  Aristotle did not
> conduct empirical experiments so far as we know, but he is considered
> by many to have been an amazingly keen empirical observer, although
> not flawless.
>
> But returning to the general point I am making: despite various
> exceptions, what amounted to a kind of disdain for empirical science
> in the official circles of many pre-bourgeois societies completely
> changed in the modern era.  Since about the 17th Century or so, when
> the bourgeoisies in various European countries began to form on their
> own (or just plain grab hold of) more or less official social
> institutions, and generally push aside or overthrow feudal forces,
> empirical research began to become one of the hallmarks of official
> science - and what is now called the scientific revolution emerged.
> The scientific method, which included the development of vigorous
> empirical research efforts, began to be generally formulated and
> continuously honed, and has eventually come to dominate not only all
> the sciences, but many aspects of modern bourgeois culture as a
> whole.  At the same time, and I infer this from your description of
> the usual development of a science, Andy, **cultural assumptions**
> about the world, society, the individual, the human body, animals,
> plants, the cosmos, etc. etc. drive the way leading scientists and
> their supporters in any given situation determine what they see as the
> objects and basic units of investigation.  In turn, these cultural
> assumptions, objects and units in turn greatly impact what kind and
> what amount of empirical research is imagined, sought and supported.
> Your example of the "lifestyle" versus "virus" paradigms debate over
> the cause of HIV/AIDS is perfect.
>
> Well, that is my attempt at describing a little history of empirical
> science.  So back to my main question - what do you mean by "a
> rational science ... does not proceed empirically ...."?  Have I
> misread your meaning?
>
> Another question about what you wrote: your statement that a science
> begins "with a clear concept of its object" seems to leave out much of
> the history of a science prior to the time it forms a clear idea of
> its basic "units of analysis", such as chemistry before the discovery
> and comprehension of the chemical element, and then the molecule, and
> then valence - or biology before the discovery and understanding of
> units like the cell, and then the inherited adaptation, the gene, the
> protein - and, especially relevant to CHAT, psychology - where its
> basic unit remains undiscovered, or is at least highly disputed to
> this very day.  Perhaps I am misunderstanding your point here as well?
>
> If convenient, could you give a shot at outlining the history of a
> science to illustrate your conceptual framework?  I don't mean to ask
> you to go out of your way, just briefly show how your framework
> corresponds to the the evolution of some area of science that is
> characterized by a well established object and basic unit.  That might
> help make your points more concrete, and perhaps draw an interesting
> counterpoint to the way I am trying to frame this history.
>
> And - again, not wanting to bother you too much - could you offer a
> little summary of how you view Hegel in relationship to science.  As I
> understand it, Hegel was highly knowledgeable of the sciences of his
> day, and did some writing on scientific subjects himself, such as
> astronomy, and sometimes laced his writings with examples from
> empirical science.  Hegel was another of history's great polymaths.
> He supported empirical research in science, insofar as he saw this
> kind of work as a prelude to what he saw as a genuinely philosophical
> understanding of nature.  He saw physics, chemistry and biology as the
> central empirical sciences, which he said were irreducible to one
> another, and he opposed the quack so-called sciences of phrenology
> (analyzing skull bumps) and physiognomy (analyzing facial features)
> which claimed to deduce personality traits from these analyses.  At
> that same time, Hegel was an ardent critic of philosophical
> empiricism, with arguments that have some interesting parallels (and
> of course, important differences) with the Marxist critique of it.
> Perhaps you would flesh this description out a bit more.
>
> Finally, am I correct in surmising that this conception which you have
> outlined of how a science evolves is derived mostly from Hegel?
>
> - Steve
>
>
> On Oct 1, 2008, at 5:24 PM, Andy Blunden wrote:
>
>> :) Maybe we'll never get over this difficulty Martin. Let me take a
>> little step back and try though.
>>
>> How does *any* "rational" science operate? The science begins with a
>> clear concept of its object, be it "conditioned reflex" or
>> "commodity" or "right" or whatever. It then pays close attention to
>> what is actually going on. Aided by the fact that it's "unit of
>> analysis" is an empirically observable unit of social life, not some
>> hypothesis or "force" or "thing-in-itself" or foundation myth, it is
>> able to observe the changes and transformations in its object, and
>> comprehend these through the specific lens given by its unit of
>> analysis. Being a rational science, it does not proceed empirically,
>> but refuses to rest until the observed transformations have been
>> made intelligible in terms of the "germ cell." At every step this
>> initially abstract conception becomes richer and more concrete,
>> provided of course that it was wisely chosen in the beginning. The
>> achievement of making the empirically observed phenomena rationally
>> intelligible means that the movement (actually already empirically
>> observed) can be reconstructed rationally, *as if* not relying on
>> empirical observation. ANY theoretical science must proceed in this
>> way, even if at a given moment in its development, there are some
>> phenomena which remain unintelligible. How otherwise can we have a
>> theory of the Big Bang? By "observation"??
>>
>> I find this quote by Hegel in the Introduction to his "Philosophy of
>> Right" helpful (note that this book cover not just law (Rechts), but
>> world history, economics, family relations, ethics, politics, etc.,
>> etc.):
>>
>> “The science of right is a part of philosophy. Hence it must
>> develop the idea, which is the reason of an object, out of the
>> conception. It is the same thing to say that it must regard the
>> peculiar internal development of the thing itself. Since it is a
>> *part* [of philosophy], it has a definite beginning, which is the
>> result and truth of what goes before, and this, that goes before,
>> constitutes its so-called proof. Hence the origin of the conception
>> of right falls outside of the science of right.” (Introduction to
>> the Philosophy of Right §2)
>>
>> but then he adds:
>>
>> “In philosophic knowledge the necessity of a conception is the main
>> thing, and the process, by which it, as a result, has come into
>> being is the proof and deduction. After the content is seen to be
>> necessary independently, the second point is to look about for that
>> which corresponds to it in existing ideas and modes of
>> speech.” (Introduction to the Philosophy of Right §2)
>>
>> Andy
>> Martin Packer wrote:
>>> "Much of volumes 2 and 3 of Capital are concerned with
>>> crises. This particular crisis is certainly to be
>>> anticipated from his point of view, but after all he died in
>>> 1883, so it would be nonsense to talk of him "predicting"
>>> it."
>>> Andy,
>>> Yes, Marx emphasized that crises are endemic to capitalist economy.
>>> He
>>> described the ways companies will appeal for government regulation
>>> to save
>>> them from the consequences of their own competitive impulses, so the
>>> government "bail out" this week is really nothing new. And he also
>>> described
>>> the process of abstraction in capitalism, so the highly abstract
>>> character
>>> of these "toxic" products would not have surprised him. He did a
>>> tremendous
>>> job of identifying tendencies in this kind of activity (just one of
>>> many, as
>>> you note) which continue to this day. My point about prediction was
>>> the
>>> narrower one that in Capital Marx didn't anticipate all this merely
>>> from an
>>> analysis of *simple* exchange, as I think that Leontiev claims. He
>>> looked
>>> back on simple exchange from the vantage point of nineteenth century
>>> capitalism, and reconstructed the course of its history.
>>> Martin
>>> _______________________________________________
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>>
>> -- 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> Andy Blunden http://home.mira.net/~andy/ +61 3 9380 9435 Skype
>> andy.blunden
>> Hegel's Logic with a Foreword by Andy Blunden:
>> http://www.marxists.org/admin/books/index.htm
>>
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Received on Wed Oct 8 12:05 PDT 2008

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