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Thread: Dialectical Phenomenology?

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    Default Dialectical Phenomenology?

    After reading some of Rosa's critique of dialectics and her advocacy of Wittgenstein and ordinary language philosophy, I dusted off from the back of my garage a copy of "Dialectical Phenomenology: Marx's Method" by Roslyn Bologh (partially availabe on googelbooks if you do a search).


    The author relies on Wittgenstein and a reading of the Grundrisse to construct a framework for self-conscious social theorising. Bologh puts forth a number of "rules" for social theorising which she believes are implicit in Marx's methodology:


    Rule 1: Treat concepts as grounded in an historically specific form of life.


    Rule 2: Treat individuals as grounded in an historically specific form of life.


    Rule 3: Treat a form of life as a totality of internal relations [this refers to the relations that are necessary for the production of the object of study].


    Rule 4: Treat a concrete form of life as contradictory [ a 'concrete' form of life is on which is not self-conscious of the grounds of its production].


    I was considering whether to try and get my head around what Bologh is on about some more, but prior to this was wondering whether anybody had read Bologh's work or had any comments on it?


    Seems to me her approach may have the potential to combine positive and undogmatic aspects of dialectics and phenomenology with Wittgenstein's approach.

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    The probelm with all this is that comrades who argue like Balogh think we can learn something from Hegel. But his 'dialectic' is based on a series of crass logical blunders, which, once exposed, mean that the 'dialectic' is a husk full of hot air with no 'rational core'.

    For example, Rule 4: "Treat a concrete form of life as contradictory".

    We have yet to be told in clear terms what the meaning of 'contradictory' here is -- and we have only been waiting now for 200 years. Hegelians can't tell us, and neither can dialectical Marxists. Certainly every effort to do so to date has failed; even comrades here have given up trying (as they have on other discussion boards -- either that or they just sulk off, somehow offended that they were even asked to explain themselves).

    Rule 3 is obscure too:

    Treat a form of life as a totality of internal relations [this refers to the relations that are necessary for the production of the object of study].
    Wittgenstein's use of the term 'internal relation' refers to how we use words (in mathermatics, for example). It does not refer to relations in the material world. So, I am not sure what it is doing here.

    Rules 1 & 2 seem innocuous in themselves, except one would like to read the details.

    Anyway, thankyou for bringing this book to my attention -- I thought I had read everything there was to read on this subject! Clearly not.

    And, by the way, there are no 'undogmatic' parts of dialectics. The whole enterprise is a protracted exercise in a priori dogmatics, motivated by a systematic capitulation to the misuse of language.

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    I'm not sure at this stage whether Bologh is one of the Hegelian Dialectic faithful, or just using fancy terminology to say ordinary things.
    E.g. by "contradictory" she may just mean conflicting and leading to change and development.

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    Well, who can say? They all use this word, but few, if any, tell us what they mean by it.

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    Heard the name, never read anything by her. Think she might have been an anthropologist. With that title, probably stands in the Kojeve tradition. Whether you call that Hegelian Dialectical faithful or not is debateable. But it is surely just Peter Winch with the idea of contradiction added ?
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    But it is surely just Peter Winch with the idea of contradiction added ?
    How did you manage to work Winch into this?

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    Its the same anthropological relativism.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    Its the same anthropological relativism.
    Winch was not a relativist.

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    Well its a longtime since i read him but my memory is he didnt want to be a relativist but couldnt sustain any alternative. However, the point was that he had an influence on a certain trend centred on anthropology which was also interested in Kojeve to which Bologh might have been linked. But its all ancient intellectual history and my memory is vague on it. It was only a thought.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    Well its a longtime since i read him but my memory is he didnt want to be a relativist but couldnt sustain any alternative.
    That is perhaps because you want to shoehorn everyone into an a priori, traditional mould, as a theorist of some sort. Winch, like me, rejected all philosophical theories, so he was neither a relativist nor an anti-relativist.

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    Rejection is not the same as escape.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    Rejection is not the same as escape.
    Indeed, but then an accusation is not proof, either, is it?

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    All of which leaves you as your own judge and jury in your own personal spiritual journey.
    "Dixi et salvavi animam meam" - quoted by Marx
    "Things rarely work out well if one aims at 'moderation'..." - Engels
    "By and by we heare newes of shipwrack in the same place, then we are too blame if we accept it not for a Rock." Sir Philip Sydney
    "The most to be hoped for by groups who claim to belong to the Marxist succession (...) is for them to serve as a hyphen between past and future....nothing can be held sacred – everything is called into question. Only after having been put through such a crucible could socialism conceivably re-emerge as a viable doctrine and plan of action." - Van Heijenoort

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    Gil:

    All of which leaves you as your own judge and jury in your own personal spiritual journey.
    Whatever fantasy about me that helps you cope...

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    I have had a read of an online chapter of Guy Robinson's "Philosophy and demystification" (google it to locate - I can't post links) and see strong resonances there with the approach of Bologh. I find Robinson the more lucid writer of the two.

    Both Robinson and Bologh are against the idea of there being absolute foundations for theory.

    E.g. Bologh says ".. Marxist theorizing implicitly recognises its own conditions of existence. Its self critique and self-analysis - the limits of its existence - are implicated in its practice " (p 22), and in quoting Postone and Reinicke:

    " One of the most powerful aspects of the critique of political economy is that it understands itself as historically determinate and can account for its existence as critique in the process of analyzing and criticizing bourgeois forms. Any attempt to transform it into a positive science falls into inconsistencies - for it is then posited as the historically unique exception standing above the interaction of form and content, social forms and forms of consciousness, which it postulates as its own basis". (p. 26)

    Re the use by Bologh of the word 'contradiction' (discussed earlier in this thread), she uses is to refer to contradictions in language rather than the material word:

    "A contradiction occurs when a term refers to two mutually exclusive things, A and not-A". (p.22)

    "Marx makes reference to the 'contradiction between the production and realization of which capital, by its concept, is the unity'. This reference to the concept of capital reminds us that he analyzes capital as an object of knowledge, a concept, and that is why he is able to talk about contradictions of capital. Contradictions can exist only within language. If he were treating capital as a thing in the world, he could only report on his observations which he might formulate in terms of class conflict, but the word 'contradiction' would make no sense" (p. 198).

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    This cannot be right:

    "A contradiction occurs when a term refers to two mutually exclusive things, A and not-A".
    This half confuses the exclusive 'or' with contradictions!

    Contradiction has nothing to do with 'mutual exclusivity'. In its simplest form it is merely the conjunction of a proposition (or clause) with its negation.

    [This is quite apart from the fact that if a 'term' refers, it must be a name, or other singular designating expression, and so cannot contradict anything!]

    It is no surprise therefore that Balogh then proceeds to mangle Marx.

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    I think a distinction can be made between "contradiction" as used in the pratice of formal logic, and as a description of a term (eg 'capital' in the example in the previous post) which in pragmatic usage embodies mutually exclusive concepts.

    Guy Robinson, whom you recommended, also speaks of the 'contradictions' of bourgeois ideology.

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    Deleonist:

    I think a distinction can be made between "contradiction" as used in the pratice of formal logic, and as a description of a term (eg 'capital' in the example in the previous post) which in pragmatic usage embodies mutually exclusive concepts.
    In that case, what is this new sense?

    I keep asking, and have been doing so now for 25 years, and have still to receive an adequate or even a clear reply.

    Guy Robinson, whom you recommended, also speaks of the 'contradictions' of bourgeois ideology
    Well, that is no more controversial than when we say that there are contradictions in a police officer's evidence.

    And we do not need an ounce of 'dialectics' to come to that conclusion, either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rosa Lichtenstein View Post
    In its simplest form it is merely the conjunction of a proposition (or clause) with its negation.
    Can I use this quote to explain what contradiction means please?
    Workers of the World Unite.

    Fuck college, go to work and organise!!

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    In her defence Bologh might say, for example, that if we analysed and itemised the meaning of the concept 'capital' we would find that it included the statements 'capital is value' and 'capital is not value'. Hence, the concept is contradictory in the same way that a policeman's statement of evidence can be. The contradiction is in language and the meaning of the concept, not in material processes as the diamats would have it.

    So I still have some trouble distinguishing Bologh's supposedly mangled approach from Robinson's. But maybe the dialectical verbiage does just add an unnecessary layer of confusion that is absent from Robinson.

    Anyway, I've decided to get some more background on Wittgenstein before seriously trying to decipher Bologh and have just picked up AJ Ayer's book on him (not my preferred choice but all they had at the local library).

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