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Thread: Against materialist ontology

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    Default Against materialist ontology

    First, I want to say that I accept marxist materialism as a paradigm in an insturmentalist fashion - i.e. it gives accurate predictions. In the same way I might accept quantum mechanics as a useful mathematical paradigm but not necessarily as an ontological perspective. My rejection of materialist ontology has very little to do with spiritual or religious leanings - I simply think all ontological questions are nonsense. I will try to demonstrate why a materialist ontology is problematic.

    Materialism argues that everything is made of matter. The problem with this philosophical assumptions is that one feels in asking what is matter. It is necessary to ask such a question because philosophical blunders have a lot to do with confused language. Obviously the definition of matter is different for different contexts and thus, rather than defining it, it makes more sense to argue what is the historico-philosophical origins of the word´s usage in relation to Marxism.

    Marxism is a direct outgrowth (and reaction) to enlightment thought. Similar it took its legitimacy from the scientific traditions that were prominent in the 19th century. So it makes sense to start with how thinkers in the enlightment period thought of matter, and then proceed with how scientists in the 19th century conceived it.

    The best way to look at ¨matter* from enlightment period is taking a look at Newton. while Newton was not exactly a philosopher, his physical conception of the world influenced philosophers immensely. For example, it is well known Kant was an enthusiastic Newtonian. Newton was certainly not the classical materialist because he was religious. However, to Newton, the Universe was a giant machine - even if the machine was built by God. Thus in a way, his mechanistic conception of the universe was the seed for enlightment and 19th century materialism.

    For Newton, matter was inherently corpruscular - i.e. it was made of tangible bodies. While Newton did not have a conception of atoms, the fact was that his dealt with extended bodies like planets, particles, etc. He even thought that light was made of tiny corpuscules. There was no place for objects lacking bodies like waves.
    Materialism in enlightment thought was inherently °mechanistic". It followed from the metaphor of the machine - that the universe might be this gigantic machine and that its inner affairs - like those of a machine - follow a determined path. Machines are determinstic simply because we make them to be so - when we press a button, we certainly expect the machine to function in a certain predictable way. Similarly, to Newton, the Universe was this machine and the one that had pressed the initial button was God.

    In the 19th century, matter was still corpruscular. The newtonian paradigm was so widespread to the point that when Maxwell wrote his treatsie on Electricity and Magnetism, he did not think of electromagnetic waves as ethereal entities with no concreteness whatsoever, as was thought with the advent of einsteinian relativity, but as mechanic waves that travelled on this extended body called the ether.

    Furthermore, 19th century science, at least physical science, was built upon the metaphor of a universe as a machine. Laplace argued that one only needs to know the momentum vector and position of all particles at a given time to know the future of the Universe. Indeed, physicists were so sure about this wordview that by the turn of the 19th century, Max Planck was suggested to not study physics because "it was almost complete".

    This was the philosophical/scientific world in which Marx lived and as such it makes sense to think of his materialism in relation to this world - a corpruscular, mechanical universe. Unfortunately, in this age, this is worldview makes absolutely no sense at all for several reasons. There are two blunders in this wordlview, one is philosophical, and the other simply is that this worldview is completely outdated.

    The philosophical blunder existed since the inception of the kind of materialism Marx was raised with. One, ontological assumptions are pure apriorism. It demands someone to step outside the world and take a peek at it. We cannot step outside the world, both physically and/or linguistically, so every ontological assumption is synthetic apriori and thus nonsense. Ontological assumptions are not something that can be proven true or false. In this realm you can say anything. Its like arguing about the existence of God - requires someone to step outside the world to make such a judgement. So when one is talking in this ontological terms he or she is not saying anything. So arguments about the existence or non existence of God, or arguments about everything being material or immaterial, about invisible pink unicorns - are completely nonsensical.

    Second, the only way the metaphor of a corpruscular, mechanical universe would work (which is more or less what Marx materialism is - matter is determined by other matter ad infinitum, like a machine) is if there was a God. Because if the universe is this orderly machine, rationally architectured for a certain purpose, then it must have been determined by a Mind. After all, if the machine was not made by a Mind then it would not be a machine at all. Because if we analyze the context in which the word machine is used, machines are made for something, and the only one that can determine what is the purpose of something is a mind. So the metaphor is empty. Rocks dont have a purpose, factory engines do.This is a big part of the reason why many prominent physicists were religious - from Newton to Einstein. The metaphor of the machine comes hand in hand with the enlightened view that the universe is law abiding and rational. One might argue that perhaps Marx did not meant this, but then what did he mean otherwise? Everything is matter is a very vague, almost empty statement. It only makes a little sense if we situate it in its appropiate context. Otherwise the whole materialist philosophy reduces to word play.

    Finally this type of materialism is completely ahistorical. If Marx meant by materialism as a deterministic, corpruscular universe, in the way Newton and Maxwell might have thought of it, then there is no physical scientist today with that interpretation. In the worldview of quantum mechanics, elementary particles are not bodies with structures. Mathematically, they might contain values like momentum, spin, angular momentum, charge, etc, but no physicist today conceives them as little hard balls as how might have the universe been thought of 200 years ago. Even calling them particles at all might be a confusing statement in itself, because the way physicists conceive of them is as elements in this mathematical framework - i.e. wavefunctions in Hilbert Space. Dalton thought of the atom as a hard, physical ball - a very concrete, physically intuitive concept - not as a density function. Furthermore, there is very little space for the machine metaphor (even if we assume the Universe was created by a Mind) in quantum mechanics, because at its fundamental level, fundamental particles behave in probabilistic wavefunctions.

    Readers might protest that I am being pedantic. They might say I am confining philosophical materialism into a very narrow definition. But then, what does one mean when one says that all aspects of the world are material?
    Last edited by Tower of Bebel; 20th July 2009 at 08:40. Reason: requested
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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    Readers might protest that I am being pedantic.
    I'd protest that you're simply mistaken and do not understand Marxist materialism which is not mechanical but dialectical.

    As Engels writes:
    The materialism of the 18th century was predominantly mechanical, because at that time, of all natural sciences, only mechanics, and indeed only the mechanics of solid bodies -- celestial and terrestrial -- in short, the mechanics of gravity, had come to any definite close. Chemistry at that time existed only in its infantile, phlogistic form. Biology still lay in swaddling clothes; vegetable and animal organisms had been only roughly examined and were explained by purely mechanical causes. What the animal was to Descarte, man was to the materialists of the 18th century -- a machine. This exclusive application of the standards of mechanics to processes of a chemical and organic nature -- in which processes the laws of mechanics are, indeed, also valid, but are pushed into the backgrounds by other, higher laws -- constitutes the first specific but at that time inevitable limitations of classical French materialism.
    The second specific limitation of this materialism lay in its inability to comprehend the universe as a process, as matter undergoing uninterrupted historical development. This was in accordance with the level of the natural science of that time, and with the metaphysical, that is, anti-dialectical manner of philosophizing connected with it. Nature, so much was known, was in eternal motion. But according to the ideas of that time, this motion turned, also eternally, in a circle and therefore never moved from the spot; it produced the same results over and over again.
    - Engels, The End of Classical German Philosophy
    So, from the outset, Marxism is a critique of mechanical materialism.
    In fact, it was the best of the utopian socialists who based their theories on mechanical materialism and Marx was at pains to distance his own work from this. The most concise expression of this can be found in Marx's notes which became the Theses on Feuerbach, but even as early as The Holy Family in 1844, Marx and Engels were settling their account with mechanical materialism: http://www.marx.org/archive/marx/wor...y/ch06_3_d.htm

    Regarding your comments about ontology. I fail to see why ontological statements are necessarily nonsense. Typically, the discussion between a creationist and an evolutionist is an ontological discussion, which, despite the interlocutors sharing widely different ontologies, can make sense to both parties. If all ontological statements are equally nonsensical, how do we evaluate them?

    Meanwhile, all research strategies are based on ontological assumptions, whether these are consciously acknowledged or not. Without these assumptions about what constitutes real objects or processes within our reality, we would be unable to derive epistemological positions (i.e. what constitutes real knowledge about the world).
    Last edited by Hit The North; 20th July 2009 at 13:37.
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    I think Zizek is most convincing on this point.

    The author, perhaps rightly, associates "materialist" (I think the additional word "ontology" is slightly redundant here since "materialist" already supposes an ontological framework for the world, whereas "idealist" conceptions 'build' ontological accounts "from nothing" - i.e. I think the phrase "a materialist ontology" sounds a bit like saying "the ocean is wet" - but I digress...) philosophical accounts with mechanistic "organicism" beloved of the Englightenment.

    What a materialist account argues today, however, is not that the universe is some self-regulating "organism" filled to the brim with "stuff" that reproduces itself according to certain laws (although this view was partially correct and was progressive in its day). What materialists ought to argue is actually the opposite: that the universe is a big void, but a positively charged void.

    As Zizek says, this is a conclusion supported by the theories of quantum mechanics, which say, and I'm not a scientist, that at the sub-atomic level, every tangible object is almost entirely made of space, of blackness, of nothing, of the holes in between things rather than the things themselves.

    In other words, and here is where the dialectic is so useful (sorry, Rosa), a materialist account of the world does not seek to explain "why there is something rather than nothing" (a completely impossible question to answer, as the poster pointed out), but how the "big Nothing" must always, by definition, be defined against, be in contradiction with, actually existing matter. In this way, we deflate silly materialist notions of the "self-regulating body" of "universal laws", but avoid the pitfalls of idealist-bourgeois glorifications of the Eternal Subject who "makes the world" according to the patterns of his thought.

    How is the void positively charged?
    Last edited by YKTMX; 20th July 2009 at 16:54.
    Since, according to their fantasy, the relationships of men, all their doings, their chains and their limitations are products of their consciousness, the Young Hegelians logically put to men the moral postulate of exchanging their present consciousness for human, critical or egoistic consciousness, and thus of removing their limitations. This demand to change consciousness amounts to a demand to interpret reality in another way, i.e. to recognise it by means of another interpretation. The Young-Hegelian ideologists, in spite of their allegedly "world-shattering" statements, are the staunchest conservatives.

    Karl Marx

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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    Materialism argues that everything is made of matter.
    Does it?

    Are there atoms of space or atoms of time? Atoms of vacuum, perhaps?

    And about "things" like courage, dedication, desire, knowledge? Are they "made of matter" in the same sence that a house, a donkey, or a hill are made of matter? Or, if "everything is made of matter" and those things are not made of matter, does this imply that they don't exist?

    Materialism, at least if we want it to have a minimal consequence, does not imply believing that "everything is made of matter" in any simple way.

    Luís Henrique

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    I'd protest that you're simply mistaken and do not understand Marxist materialism which is not mechanical but dialectical.
    I knew someone like you would raise that concern. Ive read both documents and they dont disprove anything. Both documents are mostly sociological. The "dialectic" of marx is mainly concerned with historical and sociological issues - but in reality the whole worldview is similar to the one I mentioned. Or atleast, that is the worldview of most marxists and anarchists today. Just go to your neerest swp meeting and ask one of your pals.

    , the discussion between a creationist and an evolutionist is an ontological discussion, which, despite the interlocutors sharing widely different ontologies, can make sense to both parties. If all ontological statements are equally nonsensical, how do we evaluate them?

    Meanwhile, all research strategies are based on ontological assumptions, whether these are consciously acknowledged or not. Without these assumptions about what constitutes real objects or processes within our reality, we would be unable to derive epistemological positions (i.e. what constitutes real knowledge about the world).
    I think this is not necessarily true. The main issue between creationists and evolutionists has nothing to do with ontology, but with the existence of macro-evolution, which is a descriptive aspect of reality. What I mean by this is that if hypothetically we had a time machine we could prove/disprove macro-evolution with utmost precision. Its a proposition you can compare with reality. Ontological propositions cannot be true or false.

    It does not matter whether scientists play philosophy when doing research. In fact, if the ontological assuptions most scientists take for granted were true, we would be living in a platonic world of forms.

    As Zizek says, this is a conclusion supported by the theories of quantum mechanics, which say, and I'm not a scientist, that at the sub-atomic level, every tangible object is almost entirely made of space, of blackness, of nothing, of the holes in between things rather than the things themselves.
    As someone who studies physics and mathematics as a major in the university, this sounds pretty silly imo. I think this is the point I was raising of making this kind of philosophical propositions. In the subatomic level, its very difficult to have a physically intuitive conception - its all math. Remember the electron cloud that you say in highschool? In college, its not an electron cloud anymore, but a density function that is the solution to the schordinger wave equation.

    For example, what if I tell you that the "space" is a property of this thing-in-themselves? I think the issue here is that perhaps it might be more useful to dissolve this ontological questions because then we end up trapped in confused language.

    Materialism, at least if we want it to have a minimal consequence, does not imply believing that "everything is made of matter" in any simple way.
    This is the best criticism right now. I think this is the problem of ontological assumptions though. This type of words and statements come out from certain linguistical contexts, and such it becomes problematic when you try to extrapolate them and make universal statements abut the world. Wikipedia defines materialism as "The philosophy of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter, ", which can be subject to the same criticisms.
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    As someone who studies physics and mathematics as a major in the university, this sounds pretty silly imo. I think this is the point I was raising of making this kind of philosophical propositions. In the subatomic level, its very difficult to have a physically intuitive conception
    Well, impossible I would say, not just "very difficult", although I'm struggling to see quite why that's a significant problem for a materialist "ontology". I wonder what part, in particular, you find "silly". I mean, is it Zizek's account of the findings of quantum mechanics you find "silly"? Or is it the findings themselves? Or is it the use of those findings to support a materialist "ontology"? I don't think describing something as a "philosophical proposition" is sufficient to debunk it.

    I agree with you that ontological dilemmas of this sort i.e. of the kind dealing with the most abstract branch of metaphysics (as opposed to social or political ontology) are suspect, but I don't think they can be dismissed because they rest on "propositions". Any advance in theory or knowledge rests on propositions.

    For example, what if I tell you that the "space" is a property of this thing-in-themselves?
    Well, that's exactly what I was saying. The point is exactly that "space", or nothingness, is not "outside" a materialist "ontology", but constitutive of it.
    Since, according to their fantasy, the relationships of men, all their doings, their chains and their limitations are products of their consciousness, the Young Hegelians logically put to men the moral postulate of exchanging their present consciousness for human, critical or egoistic consciousness, and thus of removing their limitations. This demand to change consciousness amounts to a demand to interpret reality in another way, i.e. to recognise it by means of another interpretation. The Young-Hegelian ideologists, in spite of their allegedly "world-shattering" statements, are the staunchest conservatives.

    Karl Marx

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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    I knew someone like you would raise that concern. Ive read both documents and they dont disprove anything.
    Lol, someone like me? Well, I'd suggest they disprove your assertion that Marx held a mechanical conception of materialism.

    Both documents are mostly sociological. The "dialectic" of marx is mainly concerned with historical and sociological issues -
    Yes, Marx's work is mostly sociological, so why do you ascribe a mechanical metaphysics to his thinking? Besides, as a form of social theorising, philosophy is best understood through sociology.

    but in reality the whole worldview is similar to the one I mentioned.
    Given you've decided all ontological statements are nonsense, you're the last one to be instructing others about what exists in reality!

    Or atleast, that is the worldview of most marxists and anarchists today. Just go to your neerest swp meeting and ask one of your pals.
    I agree that there is a tendency towards lapsing into mechancial conceptions of materialism amongst Marxists, both individually and collectively at certain times in history. Properly speaking, however, it is not the position true to Marxism. As for anarchists, because they reject the dialectic, they have no option except to embrace a crude materialism.

    I think this is not necessarily true. The main issue between creationists and evolutionists has nothing to do with ontology, but with the existence of macro-evolution, which is a descriptive aspect of reality.
    Evolution is not a mere description but an explanation. Moreover it is one which depends upon a certain ontological position which disallows divine intervention as the motive force in nature. I'm probably at fault for using a poor example. Nevertheless, the question of whether a creator God can be allowed to exist in the universe, alongside related supernatural phenomena, is an ontological question.

    It does not matter whether scientists play philosophy when doing research. In fact, if the ontological assuptions most scientists take for granted were true, we would be living in a platonic world of forms.
    I didn't suggest that scientists do play philosophy, merely that ontological assumptions underlie their explanations. In fact, given that much of science is to do with categorising things and processes in the world, I don't see how their endeavours can be separated from ontological concerns.
    Last edited by Hit The North; 21st July 2009 at 10:36. Reason: spelling
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    I'll add my comments on this thread when I get access to the internet again (in two or three weeks' time).

    Right now, I have only limited access using a friend's computer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    Marxism is a direct outgrowth (and reaction) to enlightment thought. Similar it took its legitimacy from the scientific traditions that were prominent in the 19th century. So it makes sense to start with how thinkers in the enlightment period thought of matter, and then proceed with how scientists in the 19th century conceived it.

    The best way to look at ¨matter* from enlightment period is taking a look at Newton. while Newton was not exactly a philosopher, his physical conception of the world influenced philosophers immensely. For example, it is well known Kant was an enthusiastic Newtonian. Newton was certainly not the classical materialist because he was religious. However, to Newton, the Universe was a giant machine - even if the machine was built by God. Thus in a way, his mechanistic conception of the universe was the seed for enlightment and 19th century materialism
    Except that it is not so simple; there were major divisions throughout the early 19thC with regards science in general. Newton, and specifically his 'mechanical materialism', was never overly popular in Germany (certainly he was not deified as in France and Britain) where it was the romantic Naturphilosophie that dominated. This was the tradition that Marx and Engels emerged from and its influence on them should not be underestimated. Indeed as late as the Anti-Duhring Engels was explicitly criticising Newton in favour of Kepler who was more favoured in German philosophical and scientific circles. So rather than being "raised with" some vulgar materialism Marx drew heavily from both Western materialism and German romanticism
    March at the head of the ideas of your century and those ideas will follow and sustain you. March behind them and they will drag you along. March against them and they will overthrow you.
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    dada, you seem to be using a definition of "ontology" that's indistinguishable from "metaphysics". Ontology, as Bob pointed out, simply concerns what sorts of things can be said to exist, or in what sense things can be said to exist. The idea that this is unimportant is ridiculous -- when Margaret Thatcher said that "There is no society, only individuals and their families", this was a strictly ontological thesis. It was also empirically unfalsifiable; you can point to anything and call it "society", and zombie Maggie could say "Nope, individuals".

    A vulgar empiricist would say that these arguments are therefore "meaningless"; I'd say it's of great practical importance whether society, individuals, species or planets are legitimate objects of thought and causal agents, and I don't think an important question can also be a meaningless one.
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    Yes, Marx's work is mostly sociological, so why do you ascribe a mechanical metaphysics to his thinking? Besides, as a form of social theorising, philosophy is best understood through sociology.
    :shrugs: My post was just a somewhat educated guess on what did Marx mean by "materialism". Maybe I was hasty. However, this words have a context, and that is why I was trying to think a little bit what might have Marx meant by making reference to the word "materialism". Because certainly, beyond talking about his "materialist" sociology, I am sure in the 19th century, there was certain baggage that such a word carried, including ontological questions about fundamental blocks of existance. For example, a 19th century reader when reading the word materialism in "historical materialism" might assume, beyond the marxs theory of history. that marx assumes about the universe the metaphysics that were normally associated with materialism at that time.

    Regardless, the point about this thread, more than a historical analysis, is to debate what Marxists think of the word materialism nowadays. Its more relevant. and I think my assumption about most of marxists´ materialist metaphysics was correct.

    [qute] Properly speaking, however, it is not the position true to Marxism[/quote]

    well marxism isnt a platonic form, is it?

    Nevertheless, the question of whether a creator God can be allowed to exist in the universe, alongside related supernatural phenomena, is an ontological question.
    There is one conception of God which is not nonsense and whch can be argued for or against. It is the old concept of God as some sort of old man in the sky looking at us. For example Greek Gods. This one certainly does not exist. And I dont think this is a metaphysical statement, because these Gods were descriptive aspects of reality, that if you took a rocket and went to Olympus, you could hypothetically see.

    However, most sophisticated theologists instead abstract "God" into this nonsense statement. You know, God is nature, God is substance, whatever nonsense. Obviously here it is just linguistical gymnastics and the whole debate is framed in confused language. Whether this God exists or not is like asking if god is infinity or not or other nonsense. This is kindof what the most sophisticated intelligent design folks use to dazzle their readership.

    I didn't suggest that scientists do play philosophy, merely that ontological assumptions underlie their explanations. In fact, given that much of science is to do with categorising things and processes in the world, I don't see how their endeavours can be separated from ontological concerns.
    That is why one has to analyze and think what things the scientists are saying are valid scientific propositions or not. Saying the the sun is the center of the solar system is a valid scientific proposition. Saying that gravitational pull is caused by curved spacetimes is not. Because spacetime is a mathematical manifold, not a real object. Most physicists probably assume space actually curves or whatever.

    So rather than being "raised with" some vulgar materialism Marx drew heavily from both Western materialism and German romanticism
    Perhaps. However, 19th century romantics didnt call themselves materialists. My assumption is based on what assumptions might a 19th century reader would do when reading the word "materialism".

    Ontology, as Bob pointed out, simply concerns what sorts of things can be said to exist, or in what sense things can be said to exist.
    Actually, ontology is concerned with all fundamental questions of being, including what are the fundamental blocks of existence.

    "There is no society, only individuals and their families", this was a strictly ontological thesis.
    It was strictly a nonsense statement. It is completely confused as all ontology is confused. She extracts "society", "individuals", and "family", from their regular ordinary linguistical context, making them devoid of meaning. A smart person, rather than just engaging her in the shitty ontological game, would dissolve the statement and point at why it is just sophistry and makes absolutely no sense.

    A vulgar empiricist would say that these arguments are therefore "meaningless"; I'd say it's of great practical importance whether society, individuals, species or planets are legitimate objects of thought and causal agents, and I don't think an important question can also be a meaningless one.
    No its not an important question because it is nonsense. We only feel like asking ourselves because we the ruling class framed the discussion of the world in their terms.
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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    It was strictly a nonsense statement. It is completely confused as all ontology is confused. She extracts "society", "individuals", and "family", from their regular ordinary linguistical context, making them devoid of meaning. A smart person, rather than just engaging her in the shitty ontological game, would dissolve the statement and point at why it is just sophistry and makes absolutely no sense.
    Uh, no. Congrats on having read (of) Wittgenstein but that formula doesn't apply here. Saying "x does not exist", or "x, which you mistook for a real part of the world, is actually fictional" isn't outside the rules of any sane person's "language game". (This is sort of the point of Philosophical Investigations; a word's meaning doesn't depend on the existence of its referent.) Maggie wasn't in the business of talking over people's heads; she didn't stand in front of the British public and draw Lacanian mathemes on a whiteboard; she wasn't waving incense while chanting in Latin; everyone understood perfectly well what she meant. It was obvious, whether they agreed or not.

    Maybe I'm not "a smart person" though! I'll be much obliged if you'd lay down some Analysis on Margaret's statement and show how it is incoherent (do spare me though if you're on some verificationist trip; in that case all the babble about "words out of linguistical context" was even more misplaced than I thought, and we can simply agree that you are bad at making sense). In the meantime drop the prolier-than-thou horseshit. Logical positivism isn't exactly...whatever sort of commonsense you imagine overall-clad, oilstained men are naturally endowed with (or would be, if not for that wily Hegel!). There's a reason nobody reads analytic philosophy.
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Lafonte View Post
    Uh, no. Congrats on having read (of) Wittgenstein but that formula doesn't apply here. Saying "x does not exist", or "x, which you mistook for a real part of the world, is actually fictional" isn't outside the rules of any sane person's "language game". (This is sort of the point of Philosophical Investigations; a word's meaning doesn't depend on the existence of its referent.)
    First, it has nothing to do with the existence or inexistence of a reference to a denoting phrase. It has to do with painting this sort of universal claims with ontological brushes, because maggie´s silly proposition can only makes sense depending on what definition she might be using. What does she mean by individual, family - society? In this sort of universal claims, words are extracted form the ordinarly language games and that is why she can sound "right" (because exctracting this words from their ordinary contexts means she can virtually define them as however the hell she wants, kindof like theologists do with infinity, god etc). Its akin to saying, "there is no art, just paint". *There are no atoms, just elementary particles etc". She is being a politician using politician rhetorics, which most of the time is nonsense and just caters to the emotions. (like poetry).



    Maybe I'm not "a smart person" though! I'll be much obliged if you'd lay down some Analysis on Margaret's statement and show how it is incoherent (do spare me though if you're on some verificationist trip; in that case all the babble about "words out of linguistical context" was even more misplaced than I thought, and we can simply agree that you are bad at making sense). In the meantime drop the prolier-than-thou horseshit. Logical positivism isn't exactly...whatever sort of commonsense you imagine overall-clad, oilstained men are naturally endowed with (or would be, if not for that wily Hegel!). There's a reason nobody reads analytic philosophy.
    lol are you trying to insult me by insulting analytic philosophy? i dont care about analytic philosophy at all. i am a marxist, not a logical positivist
    Formerly dada

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    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    First, it has nothing to do with the existence or inexistence of a reference to a denoting phrase. It has to do with painting this sort of universal claims with ontological brushes, because maggie´s silly proposition can only makes sense depending on what definition she might be using. What does she mean by individual, family - society?
    This ambiguity is found in every single statement uttered in any natural language. It's you who claimed these words had a "regular ordinary linguistical context" -- how did she violate the regular ordinary rules?
    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    Its akin to saying, "there is no art, just paint". *There are no atoms, just elementary particles etc".
    Yeah, it is, and while both of those are untrue, neither is nonsensical. A statement following that structure could easily be true: I might imagine that I belong to social unit x; I might define social unit x as consisting of myself, a Honduran I haven't met/spoken to/learned the name of, and Michael Jackson's corpse. I would be wrong -- "There is no such thing as [social unit x], only [two] individuals and [an obvious fake constructed by the CIA]".
    Quote Originally Posted by dada View Post
    i am a marxist, not a logical positivist
    Then you're using the wrong arguments.
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    Quote Originally Posted by R. Lafonte View Post
    This ambiguity is found in every single statement uttered in any natural language. It's you who claimed these words had a "regular ordinary linguistical context" -- how did she violate the regular ordinary rules?
    Well, words are used different in different language games. Universal l claims universalize these words, making them senseless. I would start by asking maggie what she means by individual, family, and society and then proceed to ask her why is her proposition true? Two tight friends might say "we are like a family". Family here would have a different sense than "The Hernandez family controls the buisness". As I said, politicians make intentionally this vague statemets, in the context were this big statements are said in such a vague way that they do not have a clear sense, as a method of framing the discourse in their favor.


    Yeah, it is, and while both of those are untrue, neither is nonsensical. A statement following that structure could easily be true: I might imagine that I belong to social unit x; I might define social unit x as consisting of myself, a Honduran I haven't met or heard of, and Michael Jackson's corpse. I would be wrong -- "There is no such thing as [social unit x], only [two] individuals and [an obvious fake constructed by the CIA]".
    Here you are already establishing a context and the sense is clear. You defined the social unit, and then proceeded to deny a true proposition that is necessarily true because it is analytical. (I.e. defining a=x and thus, if there is x, there is a. ).

    Then you're using the wrong arguments.[/QUOTE]
    Formerly dada

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    I am not using the wrong arguments. It was a marxian thesis that philosophy is "abstracted language" at first. I am simply embracing the communist project for the destruction of philosophy.
    Formerly dada

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    And not every claim is ambigous like that. If there is a dead cat and I point at the cat and utter "the cat is dead", or "the cat is black" the sense of the proposition is quite clear.
    Formerly dada

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    I didn't mean "wrong for a Marxist". You can use any kind of argument you like, and I don't care what you claim to be; it still makes no sense to fill a thread with positivist arguments (however misapplied) and then act like disses against positivism have nothing to do with you(r arguments).

    Not every statement is ambiguous "like that"? Like what? If you're talking about type, yes, they all are; polysemousness lurks urrwhurr, though we're okay at navigating it. If you mean degree, you're right (though you still haven't said to what degree Thatcher's statement is ambiguous -- I actually think it's relatively pretty fucking straightforward), but how is that relevant? If we perfected language so that every word only meant one thing to everybody, her statement would still be an ontological one. Meaningful too.

    Edit: wow! Something real fucking weird happened with the posts, and I only saw your last two, not the main one! Okay, you did explain how ambiguous Maggie's statement is, and you're being absurd; I could go "Oh but maybe the cat's not obviously dead, maybe you mean he's tired" hurf durf but we both know what you meant. Similarly it's obvious to pretty much everyone that Maggie didn't mean Mafia "families" or the Skull and Bones "society", come off it.
    Last edited by Janine Melnitz; 23rd July 2009 at 06:58.
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    You defined the social unit, and then proceeded to deny a true proposition that is necessarily true because it is analytical.
    I conjured up a real social unit with my magic word powers? Or are you defining "truth" solely as analytical immediately after huffily protesting that you aren't into analytical philosophy? Fucking crap dude
    Formerly R. Lafonte

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    Edit: wow! Something real fucking weird happened with the posts, and I only saw your last two, not the main one! Okay, you did explain how ambiguous Maggie's statement is, and you're being absurd; I could go "Oh but maybe the cat's not obviously dead, maybe you mean he's tired" hurf durf but we both know what you meant. Similarly it's obvious to pretty much everyone that Maggie didn't mean Mafia "families" or the Skull and Bones "society", come off it.
    dont be silly. What I meant is something along the lines of "Does she mean nobody gives a shit beyond the family unit and therefore there is not really a society?" or "The family unit has some transcendental moral value, to the point that society is irrelevant" and I could go on and on and on. There is nothing absurd about this. I dont think it is obvious at all. I dont know if she is doing some sort of sociological claim, moral claim, using metaphors, etc. Kindof like "freedom is an illusion", or shit like that.

    I didn't mean "wrong for a Marxist". You can use any kind of argument you like, and I don't care what you claim to be; it still makes no sense to fill a thread with positivist arguments (however misapplied) and then act like disses against positivism have nothing to do with you(r arguments).
    They are not positivist arguments. They do belong to philosophy of language, however. I obviously have read analytical philosophy and borrowed some of their stuff but I just find it silly that you tell me that nobody reads analytical philosophy as if i cared. besides its ridiculous because nobody reads any philosophy except gigantic dorks or philosophy students. the only people reading foucault are critical theory students or hipsters.

    Or are you defining "truth" solely as analytical immediately after huffily protesting that you aren't into analytical philosophy?
    lol, that is a relatively old kantian argument. i said that you established the context of "social unit" by defining it and thus denying the definition makes no sense analytically
    Formerly dada

    [URL="https://gemeinwesen.wordpress.com/"species being[/URL] - A magazine of communist polemic

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