The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby Sounder » Fri Mar 25, 2016 1:40 pm

So, I did a little penance and read up on the subject a bit, and, hallelujah, Source spoke.

One of my foundational assumptions is that consciousness precedes being, and have never been much interested in Marxian and other strains of modern thinking because they seem to hold to the opposite view. Still it is nice to see that Marx said this explicitly. Small problem, defining 'proper' expressions of being for folk create predictable and negative expressions of consciousness that throw sand into that externally assigned 'proper' expression of being.

The question is; is a better society likely to be created where a small expert class is assigned to do all the thinking, or is a better society likely to be created where all people learn how to think?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt ... acy_theory
By turning Hegel's idealist dialectics upside-down, Marx advanced his own theory of dialectical materialism, arguing that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."[25] Marx's theory follows a materialist conception of history and space,[26] where the development of the productive forces is seen as the primary motive force for historical change, and according to which the social and material contradictions inherent to capitalism inevitably lead to its negation—thereby replacing capitalism with a new rational form of society: communism.[27]
All these things will continue as long as coercion remains a central element of our mentality.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby tapitsbo » Fri Mar 25, 2016 1:46 pm

That runs so much deeper than Marx though back to the origins of religion
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby jakell » Fri Mar 25, 2016 1:57 pm

Sounder » Fri Mar 25, 2016 5:40 pm wrote:So, I did a little penance and read up on the subject a bit, and, hallelujah, Source spoke.

One of my foundational assumptions is that consciousness precedes being, and have never been much interested in Marxian and other strains of modern thinking because they seem to hold to the opposite view. Still it is nice to see that Marx said this explicitly. Small problem, defining 'proper' expressions of being for folk create predictable and negative expressions of consciousness that throw sand into that externally assigned 'proper' expression of being.

The question is; is a better society likely to be created where a small expert class is assigned to do all the thinking, or is a better society likely to be created where all people learn how to think?


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankfurt ... acy_theory
By turning Hegel's idealist dialectics upside-down, Marx advanced his own theory of dialectical materialism, arguing that "it is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness."[25] Marx's theory follows a materialist conception of history and space,[26] where the development of the productive forces is seen as the primary motive force for historical change, and according to which the social and material contradictions inherent to capitalism inevitably lead to its negation—thereby replacing capitalism with a new rational form of society: communism.[27]


Is it so necessary to determine which precedes the other, this seems quite restrictive? I would say that the best we can do is say they have a symbiotic relationship that is hard to unpick, not only that but they have co-evolved too.

@tabitsbo... Yes, religion, that's my present framework. All this WN stuff has been about putting a few stray ducks in order (which has turned to to be more like herding cats)
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby semper occultus » Fri Mar 25, 2016 3:17 pm

.......page down a bit for Peter Thompson's 8 part series of articles....

http://www.theguardian.com/profile/peter-thompson

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/mar/25/anders-breivik-frankfurt-school


Sounder...FYI ...from the comments.....

DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 9:44

Good to see another series by Peter Thompson.

This first piece is introduces some main themes and at the same time some basic problems. My own view is that these arise from Frankfurt school misconceptions and cannot be resolved merely by providing more detail on their work.

The main problem in this article is the proposed combination of psychoanalysis and the Marxist approach to history (historical materialism). Then there is the alleged greater "humanism" of Marx's early compared to his later writings. And finally there is the question of Marx's approach to religion.

Peter says of the Frankfurt school

... they sought to marry up a combination of Marxist social analysis with Freudian psychoanalytical theories, searching for the roots of what made people tick in modern consumer capitalist society as well as what made people turn to fascism in the 1930s.

This is a theoretical mix of oil with water. A greater whole cannot be made by combining two incompatible theories. It is not difficult to show that Marx's view of history and Freud's theory are incompatible. One might find some similarities in Marx's early writings i.e. before he had developed his theory of history, in which he sought to analyse the problems of capitalist society on the basis of the workings of the individual psyche. He saw alienation as an expression of that psyche and therefore as something that could be analysed directly in terms of individual behaviour. Marx's view of history (as expressed in The German Ideology of 1846) was based on an explicit rejection of this approach. Marx argued that the human essence, what makes us tick as human, was not some abstraction that could be found from the study of the individual psyche. It could only be understood in terms of something outside of the individual existing at the level of social relations. This was Marx's central idea from this point.

Central to Freud's view of history, on the other hand was the view that it was properties of the individual psyche that had to be the basis for the explanation of history and social phenomena generally. He could not have been clearer about this. As he put it in a footnote in Totem and Taboo

... I think it worth while to insist explicitly that the derivations which I have proposed in these pages do not in the least overlook the complexity of the phenomena under review. All that they claim is to have added a new factor to the sources, known or still unknown, of religion, morality and society - a factor based on a consideration of the implications of psycho-analysis. I must leave to others the task of synthesising the explanation into a unity. I does, however, follow from the nature of the new contribution that it could not play any other than a central part in such a synthesis, even though powerful emotional resistances might have to be overcome before its great importance was recognised. (Emphasis added)

(Note the trick of suggesting that disagreement can only arise from some sort of "emotional resistance".)

A coherent view of history cannot be made from Marx and Freud.

I do not think that Peter's statement

The Frankfurt school went back to Marx's early theoretical works from the 1840s and tapped into his more humanist impulses found in the German-French Annals and in his correspondence with Arnold Ruge. It is in these early writings that we find many of Marx's most important writings on the role of religion in history and society.

can be justified.

What were those "most important writings on the role of ... history"?

Religion is another matter. In his early writings Marx took a Feuerbachian position i.e. he rejected religion as a simple inversion in which people projected their human qualities onto a deity. He also shared what one might call a Feuerbachian obsession with religion. The impact of Feuerbach's writings on religion was enormous and as Engels later put it "we all became, momentarily, Feuerbachian" (from memory). Marx's subsequent course of thinking was based on a fundamental rejection of Feuerbach's approach (as in his Theses on Feuerbach). Marx did refer to religion here and there in his later writings but it was mainly to say that there was no point expecting religion to disappear so long as people still lived in an alienating society (the social relations of which are opaque to its members). On that therefore I agree that Marx would have seen Dawkins-like frontal assaults on religion as like chasing bogeymen to prove that you don't believe in them.

P.S. I referred to alienation. There is no space for details here but I would also want to argue that while Marx never dropped the idea, or the word, contrary to the claims of Louis Althusser, its meaning changes radically from his early writings to his later ones.



georgesdelatour DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 10:09


@DavidPavett - Marx's theory sees the individual consciousness as a byproduct of social relations. Freud's sees society as a byproduct of the individual's consciousness. Stated as baldly as that, they're incompatible theories.

But we shouldn't be concerned primarily with the reputations of Marx or Freud; rather with trying to figure out the truth. And the truth probably is a mix of the individual and the social, don't you think?

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DavidPavett georgesdelatour 25 Mar 2013 10:28


@georgesdelatour 25 March 2013 10:09am.

Yes, the issue is what theory is most adequate to deal with the problems and not the reputations of Marx or Freud.

The degree to which individual and social characteristics operate depends on the problem one is considering. When it comes to explaining the basis for historical development however not only are the views of Marx and Freud are in flat contradiction. To say that the answer is a bit of one and a bit of the other cannot lead to a coherent result. It is like saying theory A is incompatible with C and theory B is based on C so let' have a bit of A and a bit of B.

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georgesdelatour DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 10:59


@DavidPavett -

The individual consciousness is caused in the individual brain. But that individual brain needs at least one intimate two-person activity to create it. And since a human brain is too big to come out of a human birth canal fully formed, it needs older humans to feed, clothe and educate it to adulthood. So society is implicit in the individual consciousness. We are not simply brains in vats. It seems to me obvious that there's a feedback loop between the individual and society. Causation really does run both ways.

At the subatomic level, any theory of society and history must be compatible with the neurobiology of the human brain. Ultimately the reason I voted Lib Dem at the last election (sorry!) must have something to do with the functioning of my hypothalamus. But that may not be the most useful level of description if you're trying to explain voting patterns.

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peterthompson49 DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 11:10


@DavidPavett - David, on the critical ball as ever, and is precisely the contradictions between Marx and Freud as well as their compelmentarity as the FS saw it which I shall be dealing with over the coming weeks.,

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wayridge georgesdelatour 25 Mar 2013 11:51


@georgesdelatour

At the subatomic level, any theory of society and history must be compatible with the neurobiology of the human brain.

That would depend on whether we think of the human brain as being like a universal Turing machine. In that case, explanations based on brain structure would be like trying to show that your computer's particular operating system is a necessary outcome of the hardware architecture.
I understand that this view of the brain's plasticity is a key part of some Marxist thinking. For what it's worth, I think it's a very strong claim, considering how little we understand the brain. But I guess the absence of good evidence one way or the other is what makes a variety of political beliefs among educated people possible.

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xpressanny georgesdelatour 25 Mar 2013 12:01


@georgesdelatour - Wonderfully put. Thank you so much.

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georgesdelatour wayridge 25 Mar 2013 12:06


@wayridge - I'm sceptical of the idea the brain is simply a digital computer realised in biological wetware. Throughout history, people have compared the brain with their latest technology, from hydraulic systems to telegraph systems and now to computers, more because of fashion than because the analogy was a good one.

But even if your hardware/software analogy is broadly correct, the limitations of the hardware do constrain what the software can do; and both are ultimately constrained by the laws of physics.

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wayridge georgesdelatour 25 Mar 2013 12:46


@georgesdelatour

I'm sceptical of the idea the brain is simply a digital computer realised in biological wetware.

I very much agree with you.
I realise now that my sentence was not clear: I meant it was too strong a claim, given how little we know, to maintain that the brain was like a universal Turing machine.

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DavidPavett georgesdelatour 25 Mar 2013 17:14


@georgesdelatour 25 March 2013 10:59am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

I suggest that it is important to distinguish between the material pre-requisites for a given process and the functional forms of that process. The material pre-requisites make the process possible but are not its cause. A computer is not the cause of the software that it runs. The individual brain is not the cause of human consciousness since that is a thoroughly social process. Society is only "implicit in individual consciousness" for the reason that it is already a social process.

It was not your hypothalamus that caused you to vote Lib Dem. Our votes are determined as more or less politically concerned and politically aware individuals, groups and classes. As Marx put it

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but there social existence that determines their consciousness.

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DavidPavett peterthompson49 25 Mar 2013 17:18


@peterthompson49 25 March 2013 11:10am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Okay, I look forward to that.

What were those "most important writings on the role of ... history" that you reckoned to be in Marx's early writings?

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peterthompson49 DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 18:37
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it was on the role of religion in history and society and you have already referred to some of them yourself.

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DavidPavett peterthompson49 25 Mar 2013 20:24


@peterthompson49 25 March 2013 6:37pm. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Maybe there is a problem with what we are referring to as "early writings". I believe that there is a turning point in Marx's development in 1845/46 during which time his view of philosophy and history underwent a fundamental change (with the development of historical materialism as expressed in The German Ideology). This seems to be an appropriate dividing line between early Marx and Mature Marx.

Perhaps you see it differently, I don't know.

If that is right then there are no important works, that I know of, on history in the early writing of Marx. The discussion of religion that is most often referred to is from an early work (the Critique of Hegel's Philosophy of Right) and it is not a work of history. Moreover it contains quite a few Dawkins-like comments such as "the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism" and "The abolition of religion as the true happiness of the people is a demand for their true happiness". Marx's most quoted remarks on religion come from a work written before he had developed his approach to history and society. That merits some reflection.

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wayridge DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 22:03


@DavidPavett 25 March 2013 5:14pm. Get cifFix for Firefox.

A computer is not the cause of the software that it runs. The individual brain is not the cause of human consciousness since that is a thoroughly social process.

Although I understand this point (I also mentioned the analogy between computer hardware and software above), I struggle to understand how we can be sure the brain works this way. Unlike most computers, the brain both controls and responds to its "power source" - the body. Moreover, unlike factory production lines, life does not produce identical individuals across a species. This means that it is at least plausible that individual physical differences affect consciousness as well as social existence.
It was not your hypothalamus that caused you to vote Lib Dem. Our votes are determined as more or less politically concerned and politically aware individuals, groups and classes.

Yet much of politics seems to be less cerebral, the politics of "dog whistles" to use the vernacular term. Regrettable though it may be to thoughtful people, it is at least possible that a preference for the facial features of an MP, or just for the colour yellow, could determine a vote for the Lib Dems, as much as any political concerns.
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DavidPavett wayridge 25 Mar 2013 22:49


@wayridge 25 March 2013 10:03pm. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Well, yes, I am always a bit nervous about computer/brain analogies since I don't think that the brain works like a computer. I must make an effort to develop better analogies.

You are right that all brains, unlike computers, are different. But the conscious brain is engaged in social forms of determination in which the results are determined by the logic of that determination and not by the brain structure. So, if you and I both carry out a specific activity, solving an equation say, then, if we know what we are doing we will both get the same answer (if there is a unique one) even though our brains are different and some of the mental processes we employ will be different. The determination is one determined by socially acquired knowledge.

On the second point I can agree that to the extent that politics is evacuated of political substance then a series of random determinations can come into play and the determinants of one's vote might even involve what one had for breakfast, hormone levels and all sorts. But then I would not say that a politics is determined by body states. I would say that the sort of politics that is so evacuated of substance is in which critical thinking has been eliminated and that this is in the interests of the status quo. The Frankfurt school's idea of repressive tolerance could even have some relevance in such a situation.

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peterthompson49 DavidPavett 25 Mar 2013 23:09
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Actually my position is that there is no clear dividing line that you can actually pin down. There is a certainly a a transition over time but some of the early humanist stuff crops up in later work, and the socio-economic stuff is there right from the start too.

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DavidPavett peterthompson49 25 Mar 2013 23:37


@peterthompson49 25 March 2013 11:09pm. Get cifFix for Firefox.

But is there not a fundamental difference between locating the source of alienation in the general nature of human labour (without reference to social relations) which is what Marx does in the 1844 Mscs and locating it in the social relations within which that labour takes place which is what he does from The German Ideology and after? In 1844 Marx says "Above all we must avoid postulating “society” again as an abstraction vis-à-vis the individual. The individual is the social being." In 1846 he is saying that it is man's social being that determines his consciousness and that social being is not the individual but the social relations of the individual. In 1844 Marx tries to derive private property from alienated labour. Later he derives alienation from the social relations of a society based on private ownership of production.

I find it hard to see how these can be seen as variants of the same ideas. They express radically different concepts of human nature. In the first human nature is still defined in terms of abstractions from the nature of each individual. In the later approach this is explicitly rejected (6th thesis on Feuerbach).

If there are the radical differences that I claim then not recognising them is, I fear, liable to lead to an incoherent jumble of different concepts. That incoherence is, I believe, detectable in the pre-Nazi phase of the Frankfurt school (for example in Marcuse's essay of 1932 The Foundation of Historical Materialism).

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georgesdelatour DavidPavett 26 Mar 2013 2:43


@DavidPavett -

As Marx put it
It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.

That's too simplistic. Bees and ants exhibit complex social organisation. It doesn't follow that this complex social organisation generates a complex consciousness in the individual bee or ant.

The obvious testing-ground for Marx's idea would be in the study of paleoanthropology. There we have both physical changes in cranial capacity over time, changes in technology such as tool-making, and changes in social organisation.

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 26 Mar 2013 10:55


@DavidPavett

A computer is not the cause of the software that it runs. The individual brain is not the cause of human consciousness since that is a thoroughly social process. Society is only "implicit in individual consciousness" for the reason that it is already a social process.

But the software cannot run without the computer, the computer, cannot run without electricity. Without electricity, the computer is a box of metal and the software is just a silicon disk. Without electricity, where is the code? Similarly, while social processes affect the brain, without the biological equipment, the brain, neurons, synapses and, most importantly the life/animation (electricity), there is no possibility for the "social process" to mediate or affect the individual.

The process is two-way and there is no way to point or show where the subject ends and object begins. It seems to me that, unless we can integrate the apparent differences between Freud and Marx our society will remain polarised. Many years ago, in my final class in Marxist theory, before taking my exam, I was asked whether being determined consciousness or consciousness determined being. I said I thought it was a bit of both and incurred the wrath of my tutor in Marxism, who, of course, believed that it was exclusively that being determined consciousness. Until we can move away from this absolutism, (which cannot be proved anyway), we will continue to be at odds with our human sense of agency and the increasing alienation that is being felt in our hyper-technocratic world.

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DavidPavett GiulioSica 26 Mar 2013 20:43


@GiulioSica 26 March 2013 10:55am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

But the software cannot run without the computer, the computer, cannot run without electricity. Without electricity, the computer is a box of metal and the software is just a silicon disk. Without electricity, where is the code? Similarly, while social processes affect the brain, without the biological equipment, the brain, neurons, synapses and, most importantly the life/animation (electricity), there is no possibility for the "social process" to mediate or affect the individual.

That is the point. Hitler could not have have become Nazi leader without the food that he ate. That does not make that food the cause of his rise to power.

The process is two-way and there is no way to point or show where the subject ends and object begins. ... Many years ago, in my final class in Marxist theory, before taking my exam, I was asked whether being determined consciousness or consciousness determined being. I said I thought it was a bit of both and incurred the wrath of my tutor in Marxism, who, of course, believed that it was exclusively that being determined consciousness. ...

I think there is a problem in the way you understand the terms used.

For Descartes there were separate entities: mind and body. This lead tothe problem of how these two could interact.

The materialist solution, from Spinoza to Marx and beyond, is to say that there are not two separate entities but just one substance (Spinoza) or matter (Marx) with different characteristics. This include the ability of matter to produce emergenet processes with new qualities (e.g. various forms of stellar evolution, chemical evolution, life).

For materialists there is nothing other than material processes but this does not imply reductionism. It just means that there is no separately existing world of ideas. Ideas are part of the material proces of social life.

When Marxists say that social being determines consciousness this does not mean, or should not mean, that thought processes are detemined by some lower level of matterial determinism (which would make thought into an illusion). It means that consciousness itself is a part of social being. It exists but in the form of the material processes of social interaction. Thought does not exist as a separate determining factor outside of these material processes. It exists as part of the self-determination of those process and therefore can only be understood as a material part of a greater material whole. Do thoughts matter or are they epiphenomena? Of course they matter and of course they are not epiphenomena (otherwise why would we be having this exchange?). Thought matters precisely because it is a social material process. That is the basis for the part it plays in the whole. That is the basis for agency.

This is complicated but taking the short cut of saying that it is a bit of both: social being determines consciousness and consciousness determines social being is to reduce the whole thing back to a cartesian mess because it implies that thought has some separate existence of its own outside the material world of society. Where would that be? This would be like saying "Well I accept that matter-energy is conserved but sometimes I think that it might not be".

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 27 Mar 2013 0:11


@DavidPavett

This is complicated but taking the short cut of saying that it is a bit of both: social being determines consciousness and consciousness determines social being is to reduce the whole thing back to a cartesian mess because it implies that thought has some separate existence of its own outside the material world of society. Where would that be? This would be like saying "Well I accept that matter-energy is conserved but sometimes I think that it might not be".

What I think I was trying to get at was there was a relationship, a dance within what seems on the surface at least a relationship of opposites. Your answer raises several interesting points for me, though. First, I accept that Cartesian dualism as a fundamental concept of exclusive, separate parts, creates problems, yet it still seems to be in common usage and the idea that there are discrete bodies, that there is an inner world and an outer world distinct from each other in philosophical terms leads to the mess you have described and has often been described as the major factor in the sense of alienation and separation and the materialist philosophy of reductionism. I accept that this does not encompass all philosophical materialism, but it is seems quite a dominant one.

I will avoid getting into a long metaphysical discussion of dualism, monism and even nondualism, of which there is a long spiritual tradition of Vedanta and Buddhism that comes very close to what is being described by Spinoza, except that the essence is more than material, the material being regarded as only the illusory aspect of the void, in buddhist terms, Maya. I avoid it, because it would take quite a while for me to attempt to explain clearly and I fear that I will complicate matters further (and reading over what I haven't I feel I have failed to get across what I had originally attempted to say).

But when I hear the quote from Marx: "It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness," I think on a more material level as the general view of those of a radical left persuasion who often say that material conditions create the human's political consciousness, that material conditions determine what kind of political outlook an individual has, while the individualist (and, it must be said many groups who believe in positive thinking and visualisation and meditation) believes that an individual's conscious outlook can effect a material change in their surroundings, that consciousness can determine being.

But I can see while I write this, the problem with separating being and consciousness in the first place and surely this is the problem of dualism, though this I feel is resolved by treating it as a relationship, in much the way the Taoists do.

But if consciousness is intrinsically and indistinguishably a part of social being, why can we cannot point to it as an actual thing, why can we cannot point to what the essence of life is? Is it not because these are processes rather than things? We know these processes are there by the evidence; life by animation, and consciousness by brain signals. Though these are surely accepted as symptoms of consciousness and life, rather than the processes in themselves (though I accept this may be disputed by the materialist).

If material conditions create false consciousness and learning one's true history leads to a change in consciousness that leads to emancipation, does it not seem as if there is an interplay between discrete entities, being and consciousness on a surface level, even though the monist (or nondualist) knows that ultimately it is rooted in the same reality?

It's getting late now, so will have to tackle your other even more intriguing response tomorrow.

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Bismarck12 georgesdelatour 27 Mar 2013 8:24


@georgesdelatour -

I think Marx was said "men". He did not mention bees.

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 27 Mar 2013 8:45


@DavidPavett

Incidentally, when I was speaking about electricity animating the computer, I was comparing it to life-force and consciousness and the computer to the meat and bones, perhaps even the software to the personality or identity. But I can see how electricity is a very real phenomenon, therefore can be seen as the very being. I suppose it shows that reality can be looked at from very different angles.

You say that thoughts are not epiphenomena (though the argument is often made that it is consciousness that has been created new through evolution), yet can a materialist say thoughts and consciousness existed at the beginning of evolution? It does not seem that Dawkins does not believe so, so when I am speaking about materialists dominating discourse, I am speaking about people like Dawkins.

Your explanation has greater depth to it and is much closer to a kind of materialism I can contemplate. I have to say David and I find myself more willing to accept this monist materialism, but what to say of the space in between? The contemporary writer Charles Eisenstein says something similar in his book the Ascent of Humanity, about matter being the very stuff of spirit and he too challenges the dualistic Cartesian thinking, but I think he comes at it from a different angle, one that does not see reality as purely mechanical, which, unfortunately, a certain kind of technocrat does.

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GiulioSica GiulioSica 27 Mar 2013 8:52


Correction, third para sentence should read: "It does not seem that Dawkins believes so"

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DavidPavett GiulioSica 27 Mar 2013 17:43



@GiulioSica 27 March 2013 8:45am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

Incidentally, when I was speaking about electricity animating the computer, I was comparing it to life-force and consciousness and the computer to the meat and bones, perhaps even the software to the personality or identity. But I can see how electricity is a very real phenomenon, therefore can be seen as the very being. I suppose it shows that reality can be looked at from very different angles.

When I was a teacher I used to say to my students "If you understand the ideas you are dealing with then you should be able to put them across to an intelligent person without a background in your subject". I think we should operate a policy like that in these blogs.

I only know of the "life force" as a discredited idea once active in biology and now living out its days in various forms of mysticism. What do you mean by it? And what is "the very being"? This has no ready meaning for me.

You say that thoughts are not epiphenomena (though the argument is often made that it is consciousness that has been created new through evolution), yet can a materialist say thoughts and consciousness existed at the beginning of evolution? It does not seem that Dawkins does not believe so, so when I am speaking about materialists dominating discourse, I am speaking about people like Dawkins.

I think there a need to clarify some of these points. Consciousness is a product of evolution. Few people who have studied evolution have any doubts on that score. That does not make it an epiphenomenon any more than it makes arms and legs (also products of evolution) epiphenomena. Dawkins is a materialist of a specific sort. He should not be taken as a general or typical representative of materialism - even if many journalists can't get their heads round that. I am a materialist and like many others I have many objections to Dawkins' views.

Many materialists reject a mechanical approach (by which, to be clear, I understand the belief that everything can be explained in terms of reduction to physics and chemistry). I certainly do and Marxist have a long tradition of rejecting it arguing that new qualities arise when matter is organised into more complex systems.

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 27 Mar 2013 18:46


@DavidPavett

I only know of the "life force" as a discredited idea once active in biology and now living out its days in various forms of mysticism. What do you mean by it? And what is "the very being"? This has no ready meaning for me.

Life, David. What is it? Why do lumps of meat and bones find themselves animated by electrical impulses and then at some point stop breathing? Can we point to where the life went? In what field of science are such questions being asked now and what are the latest findings? Anima vitae may now be discredited, but does it not seem a natural human question to ask. There was a film recently, 21 Grammes that postulated that life weighed 21 grammes as that was the weight lost at the time of death. I'm sure an urban myth, but such contemplations do lend themselves to popular culture, so while I cannot point to "life" or "being" most reasonable people would know what I was getting at. Should it not be a concern of scientists as well?

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 27 Mar 2013 19:18


@DavidPavett

Dawkins is a materialist of a specific sort. He should not be taken as a general or typical representative of materialism - even if many journalists can't get their heads round that. I am a materialist and like many others I have many objections to Dawkins' views.

Many materialists reject a mechanical approach (by which, to be clear, I understand the belief that everything can be explained in terms of reduction to physics and chemistry). I certainly do and Marxist have a long tradition of rejecting it arguing that new qualities arise when matter is organised into more complex systems.

I am glad to hear it and your explanation of materialism, as I've said, is very clearly different to the puritanical words of Dawkins. But you have to admit that Dawkins and even Christopher Hitchens have become poster boys for this New Atheism and many take their words as representative of what materialism means. And they are not alone. I think it is important that those who understand the philosophical underpinning of materialism, people such as yourself, David, are given more space to clear these false prophets of materialism so that at least we can better understand how materialism is not solely mechanistic. But I still don't understand what, other than discrete parts acting in a determined way, materialism could be. Would be very interested to hear more about this non-mechnised materialism. "New qualities arise when matter is organised into more complex systems", you say. These qualities I would like to know more about, but I do wonder that the original human qualities such as love and compassion, for example, were also part of that more complex organisation of matter and how have the intervening centuries of human mental complexity added to such qualities.

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DavidPavett georgesdelatour 27 Mar 2013 21:59


@georgesdelatour 26 March 2013 2:43am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

I think I overlooked this comment and didn't reply.

Marx's view would be too simplistic if it were as you represent it. A reading of The German Ideology soon shows that it isn't like that. There Marx explains is that what is really unique about humans compared to the rest of the animal world is that they take their own activity as an object for their activity. Their activity is not only directed towards the outside world but to how they act in and on that world. Other animals learn, of course, but this development is in the context of modifying biological responses triggered by biological needs.

Humans don't have a set of biological reactions honed to deal with specific environments. Instead of developing sharper claws, more appropriate wing shapes, or stronger muscles they have developed an external culture to which they must adapt as a condition of dealing with nature. Humans therefore develop a second nature through culture through which each individual becomes human. The fundamental point is not a matter of complexity, although that certainly exists, but rather this historically evolving external culture. It is this that requires the development of language and many other human attributes. It through coming to terms with the environment of human culture (manners, language, use of artefacts, taboos etc) that individuals develop consciousness.

I agree that palaeoanthropology (and also archaeology) should provide evidence for the growth of social organisation and changes in human form and consciousness. I think that Colin Renfrew's book Prehistory - Making of the Human Mind provides lots of good evidence.

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DavidPavett GiulioSica 27 Mar 2013 22:32


@GiulioSica 27 March 2013 12:11am. Get cifFix for Firefox.

I agree with you that however discredited dualism is there is a constant tendancy to slip back into that mode of thought. I think the reason is that the idea is deeply embedded in many aspects of our culture at all levels. It is also true that a great deal of materialist thinking is of the mechanical variety.

Not sure that I understand your point about Spinoza. I would have said that he is the great anti-dualist. For him there is just one infinite substance and it is that which both extends in space and thinks.

Of course quotes like the one from Marx on consciousness can be misused and misunderstood. Marx was not saying that there is something called social being on one side that causes something else other than itself called consciousness. He was saying that consiousness is a part of social being and should be understood in the sense of the part being determined by the whole. I think that Marx should be understood as saying "It is not consciousness considered as a separately existing entity/process that determines social being. Consciousness is not separate, it is a part of that being and can only be understood in that context."

Consciousness is not a thing. It is a process. It is a process in which there is a constant interchange between what goes on in the brain and what goes on outside it in the form of interacting with the world around us by means of the socially created means of interaction (language, physical skills, various social relations and so on).

There are perfectly clear accounts of the nature of life with no residue of vitalism. I am thinking of Ernst Mayr's The Distinguishing Characteristics of Life in his book This is Biology, but I am sure there are many other accounts. Consciousness cannot be defined or understood in terms of brain function because it is a process that is based on things that are beyond/outside the brain.

If material conditions create false consciousness and learning one's true history leads to a change in consciousness that leads to emancipation, does it not seem as if there is an interplay between discrete entities, being and consciousness on a surface level, even though the monist (or nondualist) knows that ultimately it is rooted in the same reality?

No, I think this is to slip back into dualism. Consciousness is a part of social being not something outside social being that interacts with that being. Consciousness is real and has an effect only because it is a material social process. If we want to understand what people in an institution (e.g. a research institution) do then we start from the nature of the institution (its rules, assumptions, theories, various roles etc). We don't start from the individuals. What the individuals do is determined by their role. This does not mean they have no effect, it means that to understand how they have an effect we need first to understand the institution.

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DavidPavett GiulioSica 27 Mar 2013 22:37


@GiulioSica 27 March 2013 6:46pm. Get cifFix for Firefox.

see http://discussion.guardian.co.uk/commen ... k/22293990

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GiulioSica DavidPavett 27 Mar 2013 23:21


@DavidPavett

Not sure that I understand your point about Spinoza. I would have said that he is the great anti-dualist. For him there is just one infinite substance and it is that which both extends in space and thinks.

From what I understand of Spinoza, he can be classed as a panentheist, so that this substance that creates the universe is not limited to the universe. What I am proposing (what many of the eastern philosophies propose, actually) is that this substance is not actually "substance", but the void, which is not what the word appears to mean, but is the very source that creates the universe of form, time and space, but is not limited to that.

Of course, I accept it cannot be determined scientifically, but that does not mean we cannot contemplate and investigate this possibility and the fact that most of the universe and most of what we consider matter is made up of empty space should give us pause to wonder what exactly this empty space is.

I'm still not sure I agree with your description of what Marx means by that quote. Of course, consciousness and being are fundamentally the same, but there is a level on which opposites appear, light and dark, for instance. That the monist knows that ultimately it is all one does not mean we must ignore the superficial appearance of duality. Consciousness is a process, yes, but a process that extends out through decision-making into the world of matter and alters it.

We can discuss if free will or agency is an illusion, whether we live in a deterministic universe, but I don't believe there is any answer that either science or mysticism has for the truth therein, and there are differing opinions on both sides of the imaginary divide.

What the individuals do is determined by their role. This does not mean they have no effect, it means that to understand how they have an effect we need first to understand the institution.

But this too slips back into dualism, and I have no problem with that, as it seems that way on the surface. We have the appearance of the nature of the institution (rules, assumption, theories etc) determining the individual and that is true of course.

But we also have the individual's own instincts and intuitions, maybe not even manifest, that affect the institution. A spontaneous act by an individual can change history.

The individual does not exist in a vacuum, though. The individual is continually being determined by surroundings and making decisions that affect his/her surroundings. There is an interplay between the internal and the external worlds, even if, ultimately they are part of the same whole. If consciousness is a process and not a thing (and I agree with this), we can agree that this process has an effect on the world. Bodies of bone, flesh and blood move around the planet as if by agency. What is the consciousness that makes those decisions? What is it that animates us?

I don't know if we are any nearer to agreement David, but I have enjoyed this conversation and your explanation of monist materialism, though there is a distinction between monism and nodualism that I'll perhaps save for another day, but suffice to say the nondualist can be both dualist and monist at the same time (I accept that will probably make no sense, but it is not meant to be understood intellectually, it is meant to be paradoxical and gets around the unity problem that Adorno was speaking about). I still lean towards many of the texts of eastern philosophies and find the western physicists and philosophers who relate to those philosophies fascinating to read also.

The search to find a western scientific underpinning to those eastern philosophies and the way they discuss consciousness, the search to find a western context to explain them, I feel is worthy of further research. I've spent time practising meditation, tai chi and yoga and I find there are experiences I have had that cannot be explained by materialism as it is often portrayed. But I accept I will have to come up with clearer definitions to convince you that there is any validity to this search. I'll try my best in future.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby tapitsbo » Fri Mar 25, 2016 4:32 pm

My impression is that the Frankfurt School was based on a lot more than just Marx and Freud. Also that they were neither rigorous nor intuitive, but masters of rhetorical provocation - look at how the subject of their work sent those CiF commentors into tailspin!
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby jakell » Fri Mar 25, 2016 4:46 pm

tapitsbo » Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:32 pm wrote:My impression is that the Frankfurt School was based on a lot more than just Marx and Freud. Also that they were neither rigorous nor intuitive, but masters of rhetorical provocation - look at how the subject of their work sent those CiF commentors into tailspin!


Yep, a rabbit warren. A useful diversion from how this thing that some call CM might play out in the present day though, a detour I mentioned in post #2.

Let it play out though, rabbit warrens tend to eventually emerge back out into the light at some point (I believe).
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby Sounder » Fri Mar 25, 2016 6:11 pm

Thanks for that post semper. Those guys are sharp.

I' m feeling like shifting further responses over to the Questioning Consciousness thread.

Later though, it's beer thirty now.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby jakell » Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:53 pm

Sounder » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:11 pm wrote:Thanks for that post semper. Those guys are sharp.

I' m feeling like shifting further responses over to the Questioning Consciousness thread.

Later though, it's beer thirty now.


On my previous forum, someone started posting on Stuart Hameroff's quantum theories of consciousness. Being a science buff I found this fascinating and took some time to study this. When I finally started to get to grips with it, people on the forum had lost interest and moved on (bloody typical!). I still reckon I've got the basics of it knocking around in my head somewhere.

This is probably more towards the biology end of things and I would expect this forum to be more towards the metaphysical aspects. Really though, his theories seem like a 'crossover' between these two when you get past some of the technical aspects.

You're right though, a dedicated thread is needed, at least
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby FourthBase » Fri Mar 25, 2016 10:54 pm

I think "cultural Marxism" is largely a term of the far right. But cultural hegemony is definitely a concept of the far left. If there were not something in the ballpark of what "cultural Marxism" is crudely trying to describe, then that would mean that the far left has not sought the reversal of cultural hegemony...which is absurd.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby American Dream » Fri Mar 25, 2016 11:10 pm

A place where it is not acceptable for sexists, racists, bigots, xenophobes, homophobes etc. to indulge their hateful practices?

Welcome to R.I.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby Karmamatterz » Fri Mar 25, 2016 11:41 pm

Aaaahhhh the effervescence of the Brave New World.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby jakell » Sat Mar 26, 2016 5:07 am

FourthBase » Sat Mar 26, 2016 2:54 am wrote:I think "cultural Marxism" is largely a term of the far right. But cultural hegemony is definitely a concept of the far left. If there were not something in the ballpark of what "cultural Marxism" is crudely trying to describe, then that would mean that the far left has not sought the reversal of cultural hegemony...which is absurd.


Right. There is a 'something' there (IMO) that could be teased out, whatever we choose to call it.

Because the Right got their mitts on it first, Leftists want to expel it beyond the orbit of Pluto as it's been sullied.
If only the Left had got to it first, then it could have been another darling conspiracy theory.

I don't think there'll be any useful analysis for a little while yet though, the masturbatory rabbit warren of The Frankfurt School has presented itself, which may keep folks busy for a while. This is the first mistake the author made.. to try to claim historical authenticity, the miasma that a lot of conspiracy theorists fall into.
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby Karmamatterz » Sat Mar 26, 2016 10:25 am

A place where it is not acceptable for sexists, racists, bigots, xenophobes, homophobes etc. to indulge their hateful practices?


So AD, are you the gatekeeper of what defines those things? What if we happen to disagree a bit on what is sexist? Does that make me hateful? Is it hateful or just simply hurtful to the ego that someone would disagree on the specifics about any of those things? Must we first define them before we can simply whip them out and blow on them as more dog whistles? Take it a step further. If one wants to engage in rational discussions about those topics and you disagree with them does that make them a fascist?

Suppose one finds that the Fourteen Defining Characteristics Of Fascism to be a pretty good standard for an overall list of evil. But perhaps they support the military because their son serves as a Marine. What if they also are grossed out by the idea of a guy chopping off his balls and dick so he can become a transgender. Does that make that person hateful and a fascist? Just how far down the rabbit hole does all this go in labeling others because they don't share the same political or social construct values?

Are there other forms of political evil beyond fascism? Or is it just fashionable to frame everything around fascism? It does act as a nice buffer to mask other evils as less important or trivialize them.

Is it evil to suppress free speech and free exchange of ideas even if one doesn't agree with all of what is being expressed?
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby tapitsbo » Sat Mar 26, 2016 1:04 pm

I think, Karmamatterz, that characters like AD are trying to set dynamic forces in motion across conflicting faultlines rather than trying to present any standards for evaluation or discussion. Have you noticed them engaging with anybody lately?
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Re: The Reasons Why People Hate Cultural Marxists

Postby jakell » Fri Apr 01, 2016 7:14 am

Well, it seems that people have rightly eschewed the questionable route of picking apart the Frankfurt school. The author of the OP makes the mistake of encouraging this and it is a familiar error of conspiracy theorists to put too much weight on finding historical authenticity. He also makes the mistake of talking of 'cultural marxists', as if these can be found (and when they aren't found, out goes the baby with the bathwater).
All that really needs to be done is decide whether what he describes fits something we see in the modern world.

Frankfurt school safely aside, I'll take the opportunity to finish off an earlier thought and I think he was correct in describing CM as "... what I would call a sociopolitical theology....."
Here he is treating it as an element a belief system, and belief systems are often far more powerful than logic and reason. The belief system is the Religion of Progress, and more specifically the moral extension of this as described by John Michael Greer. Religions (not all though) are notorious for wanting to clear the slate and sweep all before them in preference of their own beliefs, and such things have also been done "..in the name of Progress". A modern religion.
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