Hit The Bottle

 

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Summary Of My Main Objections To Dialectical Materialism

 

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I recently published a comprehensive defence of the view that Wittgenstein was a leftist. As part of that defence, I responded to the criticisms of several individuals over at RevLeft of an earlier Essay of mine, 'Wittgenstein and Marx'.

 

[Here is a brief summary of some of the more important facts supporting my argument.]

 

This is what I had to say about the 'arguments' of one such critic, 'Hit the North' [HTN]:

 

One of the difficulties with trying to prove to revolutionaries that someone is 'of the left' is that the bar has already been set rather high; even worse, it is set at different heights by different comrades. This is one of the unfortunate consequences of the sectarian approach to 'orthodoxy' we often encounter on the far-left: a pharisaical requirement for doctrinal purity placed on all those who are, or claim to be, Marxists appears to be an inherent character trait of this corner of the radical market.

 

Hence, if comrade C is, for instance, a Trotskyist, then, concerning individual P, unless it can be shown to C that P is a member of the very same Tendency or Party as C, he/she is unlikely to accept any amount of evidence purporting to show that P is 'of the left' (or, what is far more likely, of 'the genuine left'). The same is true, mutatis mutandis, if C is a Stalinist, Maoist, or Libertarian Communist -- or, indeed, hails from some other wing of the countless options on offer in revolutionary and far-left politics. Hence, the material presented above is unlikely to convince any who are like comrade C.

 

Now, before I consider the 'objections' raised against the view that Wittgenstein was 'of the left', it is worth reminding the reader what I am and am not claiming for Wittgenstein, and why I am doing so.

 

First: the original Essay was aimed at countering the widely-held opinion that Wittgenstein was a conservative theorist, who sought to "leave everything as it is". This clichéd view of Wittgenstein has unfortunately become a knee-jerk excuse for dismissing his work out-of-hand. It also becomes a lazy excuse for doing the same with regard to the work of anyone on the left who hasn't been prejudiced in this way. Indeed, I have lost count of the number of times I have been accused of listening to the work of this 'bourgeois' theorist and 'mystic', those advancing this accusation clearly oblivious of the irony involved, since they seem quite happy to accept ideas from that quintessentially bourgeois mystic, Hegel.

 

Second: At no point was it argued that Wittgenstein was a political activist, or theorist. That alone disposes of at least half of the 'objections'.

 

Third: It was argued that Wittgenstein's opinions were left-leaning, and, indeed, were, in many respects, far to the left of, say, Bertrand Russell and the vast majority, if not all of the leading Philosophers since Marx himself. This doesn't mean Wittgenstein was a Marxist (but he may have been, as many close to him concluded), or a revolutionary, simply that he adopted an attenuated form of class politics and a view of language that was heavily influenced by Marxism.

 

Fourth: it wasn't maintained, either, that his work contributed in any direct way to left-wing theory, but that it most certainly is capable of doing so, directly or indirectly, as this site has sought to demonstrate (even if only negatively at present). More to the point, however, his method is capable of showing that all of Traditional Philosophy (including DM, even though there is no evidence Wittgenstein would have agreed with this last point -- although, there is much to suggest he should have) -- and hence a major slice of ruling-class ideology -- is little more than self-important hot-air, a result not a million miles away from Marx's own aims and intentions.

 

In view of the above, what penetrating objections do we find over at RevLeft? Here is ex-SWP honcho, 'Hit the North' ([HTN], a comrade who used to berate me for not being actively involved in the UK-SWP, but who should now berate himself for the same reason since he tells us he has now left that party) with this complex, detailed and devastating 'critique':

 

"If he [Wittgenstein] was a leftist (and just hanging out with a few, who also happen to be your academic colleagues, is no proof at all), he wasn't one of any note. Move on."
 

In the pecking order of leftists of 'no note' HTN perhaps ranks above the rest, so we should take what he says in all due seriousness. But, is it really of 'no note' that one of the twentieth century's leading philosophers was 'of the left', and, whose method, if he was right, brings to an end 2500 years of empty boss-class speculation? Wittgenstein might have been mistaken, but is it really of 'no note' to find out where the truth lies?

 

This may be of 'no note' to HTN -- which attitude alone amply confirms his preeminent position at the top of the No Notist Tendency --, but to those who seek to oppose ruling-class ideology -- especially since it has crippled Marxist Philosophy for so long --, it is of considerable 'note'.

 

Finally, and true-to-form, HTN ignores what he can't answer; Wittgenstein didn't just 'hang out' with a few individuals who just happened to have been his academic colleagues, for they weren't his academic colleagues to begin with! They were among his closest friends (some of whom were academics, or later became academics, and at Birmingham University, not Cambridge), who were also leading Communist Party members, activists and theorists, as we have seen. Moreover, they formed the vast majority of his close friends. This isn't something a non-leftist would chose for him/herself.

 

Can anyone name a Conservative, or even a conservative, before or since with a comparable circle of Marxist friends?

 

A far more pertinent question: Can HTN cite any close friends and acquaintances who tell a different story?

 

In view of this, has HTN come up with any (new) contrary evidence?

 

Judge for yourself:

 

I've just looked at it and have to say that just because the straw is of an interminable length doesn't make it any less of a straw.

Bottom line: Witty [this is HTN's witty way of referring to Wittgenstein -- RL] had nothing to say about politics, about political philosophy, about political economy or about class struggle. So if he was a "leftist" (whatever that means - I notice that Rosa doesn't claim that he was a socialist or a communist) he's not one that holds much importance to me.

As for Witty's method being a corrective to "boss-class ideology", Rosa employs this is a narrow sense to imply 'philosophy'. As ever, her target is the alleged injurious influence of the Hegelian dialectic. Well, if this is boss class ideology, fine, but I think Marx and Engels long ago recognised that this is not where the core of bourgeois ideology resides and had completed their critique of Hegel by the end of the 1840s.

Weirdly, whatever the merits of Wittgenstein's approach and its usefulness for "leftists", Rosa seems to believe that she must prove that Wittgenstein was on our side, was a leftist and not a mystic. She needs to salvage the character of the man in order to extol the virtue of his work (a good example of hero worship!). But is this really necessary? She should put more effort into showing how employing Wittgenstein's approach would help to improve the fortunes of the communist workers movement which, I believe, is her central argument. [Quoted from
here.]

 

So, no new contrary evidence...

 

But, what of the things HTN does have to say?

 

I've just looked at it and have to say that just because the straw is of an interminable length doesn't make it any less of a straw.

 

This is HTN's way of telling us he either didn't read the Essay, or he merely skim-read it. How do I know? HTN's next words are a dead give-away:

 

Bottom line: Witty had nothing to say about politics, about political philosophy, about political economy or about class struggle. So if he was a "leftist" (whatever that means - I notice that Rosa doesn't claim that he was a socialist or a communist) he's not one that holds much importance to me.

 

Since the Essay went out of its way (several times) to point out that it was no part of my case that Wittgenstein had made any contribution to politics, political theory, the class struggle, or political economy (although there is evidence emerging from newly discovered material, which HTN obviously failed to notice, that Wittgenstein did influence Sraffa, and thus had an influence on his book, The Production of Commodities); this alone shows HTN either didn't read the Essay, or he skim-read it.

 

Of course, no one has to read my work, but only a fool would pass comment on something he/she hasn't read.

 

So, what does this tell us about HTN?

 

I think the reader can make her own mind up on that one.

 

But, there is more:

 

As for Witty's method being a corrective to "boss-class ideology", Rosa employs this is [in?] a narrow sense to imply 'philosophy'. As ever, her target is the alleged injurious influence of the Hegelian dialectic. Well, if this is boss class ideology, fine, but I think Marx and Engels long ago recognised that this is not where the core of bourgeois ideology resides and had completed their critique of Hegel by the end of the 1840s.

 

Except, I pointed the following out in the Essay HTN plainly skim-read (the references I have used can be found here):

 

In view of the above, it would be useful to review Marx's negative attitude toward Philosophy (i.e., as it took shape from the mid-1840s onward).

 

This is what he wrote about Philosophy in the 1844 Manuscripts:

 

"Feuerbach's great achievement is.... The proof that philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381. I have used the on-line version, here. Bold emphasis and link added.]

 

"Philosophy is nothing but religion rendered into thought...", in which case, Philosophy is simply a more abstract source of consolation -- which is exactly the approach I have adopted toward it at this site.

 

And, here are the thoughts of Marx and Engels (taken from The Holy Family):

 

"If from real apples, pears, strawberries and almonds I form the general idea 'Fruit', if I go further and imagine that my abstract idea 'Fruit', derived from real fruit, is an entity existing outside me, is indeed the true essence of the pear, the apple, etc., then -- in the language of speculative philosophy -- I am declaring that 'Fruit' is the 'Substance' of the pear, the apple, the almond, etc. I am saying, therefore, that to be an apple is not essential to the apple; that what is essential to these things is not their real existence, perceptible to the senses, but the essence that I have abstracted from them and then foisted on them, the essence of my idea -- 'Fruit'…. Particular real fruits are no more than semblances whose true essence is 'the substance' -- 'Fruit'….

 

"Having reduced the different real fruits to the one 'fruit' of abstraction -- 'the Fruit', speculation must, in order to attain some semblance of real content, try somehow to find its way back from 'the Fruit', from the Substance to the diverse, ordinary real fruits, the pear, the apple, the almond etc. It is as hard to produce real fruits from the abstract idea 'the Fruit' as it is easy to produce this abstract idea from real fruits. Indeed, it is impossible to arrive at the opposite of an abstraction without relinquishing the abstraction….

 

"The main interest for the speculative philosopher is therefore to produce the existence of the real ordinary fruits and to say in some mysterious way that there are apples, pears, almonds and raisins. But the apples, pears, almonds and raisins that we rediscover in the speculative world are nothing but semblances of apples, semblances of pears, semblances of almonds and semblances of raisins, for they are moments in the life of 'the Fruit', this abstract creation of the mind, and therefore themselves abstract creations of the mind…. When you return from the abstraction, the supernatural creation of the mind, 'the Fruit', to real natural fruits, you give on the contrary the natural fruits a supernatural significance and transform them into sheer abstractions. Your main interest is then to point out the unity of 'the Fruit' in all the manifestations of its life…that is, to show the mystical interconnection between these fruits, how in each of them 'the Fruit' realizes itself by degrees and necessarily progresses, for instance, from its existence as a raisin to its existence as an almond. Hence the value of the ordinary fruits no longer consists in their natural qualities, but in their speculative quality, which gives each of them a definite place in the life-process of 'the Absolute Fruit'.

 

"The ordinary man does not think he is saying anything extraordinary when he states that there are apples and pears. But when the philosopher expresses their existence in the speculative way he says something extraordinary. He performs a miracle by producing the real natural objects, the apple, the pear, etc., out of the unreal creation of the mind 'the Fruit'….

 

"It goes without saying that the speculative philosopher accomplishes this continuous creation only by presenting universally known qualities of the apple, the pear, etc., which exist in reality, as determining features invented by him, by giving the names of the real things to what abstract reason alone can create, to abstract formulas of reason, finally, by declaring his own activity, by which he passes from the idea of an apple to the idea of a pear, to be the self-activity of the Absolute Subject, 'the Fruit.'

 

"In the speculative way of speaking, this operation is called comprehending Substance as Subject, as an inner process, as an Absolute Person, and this comprehension constitutes the essential character of Hegel's method." [Marx and Engels (1975), pp.72-75. Italic emphases in the original; bold emphasis added..]

 

So, Hegel's philosophy is full of empty abstractions which "the ordinary man" would never dream of concocting. In view of the other things Marx had to say (recorded above and below), it is reasonably safe to conclude he also thought this of Philosophy in general.

 

Here, indeed, is what he thought about philosophy and language in general (taken this time from The German Ideology):

 

"One of the most difficult tasks confronting philosophers is to descend from the world of thought to the actual world. Language is the immediate actuality of thought. Just as philosophers have given thought an independent existence, so they were bound to make language into an independent realm. This is the secret of philosophical language, in which thoughts in the form of words have their own content. The problem of descending from the world of thoughts to the actual world is turned into the problem of descending from language to life.

 

"We have shown that thoughts and ideas acquire an independent existence in consequence of the personal circumstances and relations of individuals acquiring independent existence. We have shown that exclusive, systematic occupation with these thoughts on the part of ideologists and philosophers, and hence the systematisation of these thoughts, is a consequence of division of labour, and that, in particular, German philosophy is a consequence of German petty-bourgeois conditions. The philosophers have only to dissolve their language into the ordinary language, from which it is abstracted, in order to recognise it, as the distorted language of the actual world, and to realise that neither thoughts nor language in themselves form a realm of their own, that they are only manifestations of actual life." [Marx and Engels (1970), p.118. Bold emphases alone added.]

 

From this it is quite clear that Marx thought that Philosophy was divorced from real life and was based on distorted language (i.e., it was "the distorted language of the actual world") -- which is, of course, exactly what Wittgenstein concluded. More importantly, however, he also recommended a return to the use of ordinary language as a way of undoing the damage -- again, just like Wittgenstein.

 

From later in the same work we read the following:

 

"With the theoretical equipment inherited from Hegel it is, of course, not possible even to understand the empirical, material attitude of these people. Owing to the fact that Feuerbach showed the religious world as an illusion of the earthly world -- a world which in his writing appears merely as a phrase -- German theory too was confronted with the question which he left unanswered: how did it come about that people 'got' these illusions 'into their heads'? Even for the German theoreticians this question paved the way to the materialistic view of the world, a view which is not without premises, but which empirically observes the actual material premises as such and for that reason is, for the first time, actually a critical view of the world. This path was already indicated in the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher -- in the Einleitung zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie and Zur Judenfrage. But since at that time this was done in philosophical phraseology, the traditionally occurring philosophical expressions such as 'human essence', 'species', etc., gave the German theoreticians the desired reason for misunderstanding the real trend of thought and believing that here again it was a question merely of giving a new turn to their worn-out theoretical garment -- just as Dr. Arnold Ruge, the Dottore Graziano of German philosophy, imagined that he could continue as before to wave his clumsy arms about and display his pedantic-farcical mask. One has to 'leave philosophy aside' (Wigand, p.187, cf., Hess, Die letzten Philosophen, p.8), one has to leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality, for which there exists also an enormous amount of literary material, unknown, of course, to the philosophers. When, after that, one again encounters people like Krummacher or 'Stirner', one finds that one has long ago left them 'behind' and below. Philosophy and the study of the actual world have the same relation to one another as onanism and sexual love. Saint Sancho, who in spite of his absence of thought -- which was noted by us patiently and by him emphatically -- remains within the world of pure thoughts, can, of course, save himself from it only by means of a moral postulate, the postulate of 'thoughtlessness' (p.196 of 'the book'). He is a bourgeois who saves himself in the face of commerce by the banqueroute cochenne [swinish bankruptcy -- RL] whereby, of course, he becomes not a proletarian, but an impecunious, bankrupt bourgeois. He does not become a man of the world, but a bankrupt philosopher without thoughts." [Marx and Engels (1976), p.236. Bold emphases alone added. Quotation marks altered to conform to the conventions adopted at this site. Links added.]

 

We may take the above as an expression of Marx's own farewell to Philosophy -- in that he intended to "leave [it] aside" and devote himself "like an ordinary man to the study of the actual world" --, which is, of course, one reason why he famously said this:

 

"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it." [Theses on Feuerbach.]

 

He elaborated further on this in the 1844 Paris Manuscripts:

 

"It can be seen how subjectivism and objectivism, spiritualism and materialism, activity and passivity, lose their antithetical character, and hence their existence as such antitheses, only in the social condition; it can be seen how the resolution of the theoretical antitheses themselves is possible only in a practical way, only through the practical energy of man, and how their resolution is for that reason by no means only a problem of knowledge, but a real problem of life, a problem which philosophy was unable to solve precisely because it treated it as a purely theoretical problem." [Marx (1975b), p.354. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

So, according to Marx, "philosophy is nothing but religion rendered into thought". It must, therefore, be "left aside", and one has to "leap out of it and devote oneself like an ordinary man to the study of actuality"; that is because Philosophy stands in the same relation to the "study of the actual world" as onanism does to sexual love. Furthermore, Philosophy is based on "distorted language of the actual world", empty abstractions and fabricated concepts. No wonder then that Marx contrasts practicalities and a desire to change the world with the pursuit of that empty and pointless boss-class discipline called "Philosophy".

 

And we know that Philosophy is a ruling-class form-of-thought, since Marx told us it was:

 

"The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance. The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think. Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age: thus their ideas are the ruling ideas of the epoch...." [Marx and Engels (1970), pp.64-65, quoted from here. Bold emphases added.]

 

Notice how Marx pointed out that:

 

"The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.... Insofar, therefore, as they rule as a class and determine the extent and compass of an epoch, it is self-evident that they do this in its whole range, hence among other things rule also as thinkers, as producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age...." [Ibid. Bold emphases added.]

 

The elite thus control the production and distribution of ideas that represent their interests and how they see the world, and because of that they control education:

 

"The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas; hence of the relationships which make the one class the ruling one, therefore, the ideas of its dominance." [Ibid.]

 

They rule also as "thinkers", and they do so in "its whole range"; they also rule as "producers of ideas, and regulate the production and distribution of the ideas of their age". As I have pointed out many times at my site:

 

It is worth adding that phrases like "ruling-class theory", "ruling-class view of reality", and "ruling-class ideology" -- used at this site in connection with Traditional Philosophy and the concepts that underpin Dialectical Materialism/'Materialist Dialectics', upside down or 'the right way up' -- aren't meant to imply that all or even most members of various ruling-classes actually invented this way of thinking or of seeing the world (although some of them did -- for example, Heraclitus, Plato, Cicero and Marcus Aurelius). They are meant to highlight theories (or "ruling ideas") that are conducive to, or which rationalise the interests of the various ruling-classes history has inflicted on humanity, whoever invents them. Up until recently this approach had almost invariably been promoted by thinkers who relied on ruling-class patronage, or who, in one capacity or another, helped run the system for the elite.

 

However, that will become the central topic of Parts Two and Three of Essay Twelve (when they are published; until then, the reader is directed here, here, and here, for further details.)

 

Now, it is certainly possible to identify these "ruling ideas" (follow the above links for more on this), but I have summarised this point in the following way (this was written for novices, but the points it makes are relatively easy to substantiate more fully, which I have done in other Essays published at my site):

 

As is easy to show, Hegel lifted many of his doctrines from earlier mystics and ruling-class hacks. These ideas have appeared in the philosophical theories of boss-class thinkers from ancient times until today....

 

Traditional Philosophy taught that behind appearances there lies a hidden world, accessible to thought alone, which is more real than the material world we see around us.

This way of seeing things was invented by ruling-class ideologues. They did so because if you belong to, benefit from or help run a society which is based on gross inequality, oppression and exploitation, you can keep 'order' in several ways.

The first and most obvious way is through violence. This will work for a time, but it is not only fraught with danger, it is costly and it stifles innovation (among other things).

Another way is to win over the majority (or, at least, a significant proportion of "opinion formers", bureaucrats, judges, bishops, generals, intellectuals, philosophers, editors, teachers, administrators, etc., etc.) to the view that the present order either (1) Works for their benefit, (2) Preserves and defends 'civilised values', (3) Is ordained of the 'gods', or (4) Is 'Natural' and thus cannot be fought against, reformed or negotiated with.

Hence, a 'world-view' that helps rationalise one or more of the above is necessary for the ruling-class to carry on ruling "in the same old way". While the content of this aspect of ruling-class ideology may have changed with each change in the mode of production, its form has remained largely the same for thousands of years: Ultimate Truth (about this 'hidden world' underlying appearances) can be ascertained by thought alone, and can therefore be imposed on reality
dogmatically and aprioristically.

 

Some might object that philosophical ideas can't remain the same for thousands of years and across different modes of production; this runs counter to core ideas in Historical Materialism. But, we don't argue the same for religious belief. Marx put no time stamp on the following, for example:

 

"The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man -- state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d'honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is, therefore, indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.

 

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

 

"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo." [Marx (1975d), p.244. Italic emphases in the original.]

 

The above remarks applied back in Ancient Babylon and Egypt, just as they did in China and India, in Greece and Rome, in the Middle Ages and they have done so right across the planet ever since.

The same is true of the core thought-forms found right throughout Traditional Philosophy -- that there is indeed an invisible world accessible to thought alone --, especially since Marx also believed that:

 

"...philosophy is nothing else but religion rendered into thought and expounded by thought, i.e., another form and manner of existence of the estrangement of the essence of man; hence equally to be condemned...." [Marx (1975b), p.381.]

 

This, of course, helps explain why Marx thought this entire discipline was based on distorted language and contained little other than empty abstractions and alienated thought-forms -- and, indeed, why he turned his back on it from the late 1840s onward.

 

In fact, after the mid-1840s, there are no positive, and very few even neutral comments about Philosophy in Marx's work (and that includes his letters).

 

So, what complex argument has HTN got to offer to neutralise the above very clear evidence? Wonder no more:

 

...but I think Marx and Engels long ago recognised that this is not where the core of bourgeois ideology resides and had completed their critique of Hegel by the end of the 1840s.

 

This 'argument' is on a par with someone telling us she heard a few years ago that an economist had refuted Das Kapital.

 

Is that the best HTN can do?

 

Seems so...

 

But, what of this?

 

Weirdly, whatever the merits of Wittgenstein's approach and its usefulness for "leftists", Rosa seems to believe that she must prove that Wittgenstein was on our side, was a leftist and not a mystic. She needs to salvage the character of the man in order to extol the virtue of his work (a good example of hero worship!). But is this really necessary? She should put more effort into showing how employing Wittgenstein's approach would help to improve the fortunes of the communist workers movement which, I believe, is her central argument.

 

Has HTN got anything specific to say about my argument and evidence that Wittgenstein wasn't a mystic, or that he was 'of the left'? Not a bit of it. All he does is focus on my supposed motives (and he gets these wrong, too, since in the Essay he skim-read I am critical of Wittgenstein, as I was in the original Essay, 'Marx and Wittgenstein'). But, he failed to notice my stated reasons for writing this new Essay (which also provides us with an answer to HTN's final point):

 

From the above it is now quite clear that Wittgenstein was indeed "a left-winger" (at least in the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s), just as it is reasonably clear he was a mystic for only a few years (during and shortly after World War One). We have also seen that the idea that he was a conservative (small "c" or capital "C"), or that his work only serves to defend or rationalise the status quo, aren't just misguided, is the exact opposite of the truth -- his method in fact brings, or can be used to bring to an end, two-and-half millennia of empty boss-class ideology (i.e., 'Traditional Philosophy') -- or, at the very least show it up for the self-important hot air that it is.

 

This isn't just an academic exercise. It is important to challenge the above view of Wittgenstein (widely held on the far-left), since it has served as an effective barrier to his ideas being appropriated by revolutionaries. There are now no good reasons to reject his work other than those that would apply to any other philosopher -- that is: whether or not his approach is sound and his arguments valid.

 

I haven't directly addressed these two issues in this Essay, but I have defended Wittgenstein's method in other Essays (for example, here and here), where I have also managed to show that the alternative approach adopted by Marxist Dialecticians (i.e., 'Materialist Dialectics') collapses into incoherence.

 

The long-term failure of Dialectical Marxism (note the use of the word 'dialectical' here; the non-dialectical version hasn't been tried yet) means that we have no other choice but to examine our core theory like the radicals we claim to be.

 

And this is where Wittgenstein's method, coupled with a return to ordinary language (as Marx enjoined), can come into its own.

 

Of course, HTN is now no longer a member of that failing party, the UK-SWP, so he will be acutely aware that that particular wing of Dialectical Marxism is hardly a ringing success story -- in view of its recent implosion over its handling of rape allegations against one of its leading members --, but are there any other successful wings of Dialectical Marxism?

 

But, how can Wittgenstein's method help prevent Dialectical Marxism continue along its by now well-trodden path toward oblivion?

 

First of all, the new Essay wasn't aimed at answering that question (as indeed I pointed out in the Essay itself).

 

Second, if I am right that Dialectical Marxism has been fatally crippled by the importation of ruling-class ideology, then it is of the utmost importance to (a) point this out, and (b) promote a method that will help disinfect Marxist Theory of this virus.

 

Now, HTN might disagree with this, but we will need to see far more persuasive and intelligent responses from him than the one he inflicted on the comrades over at RevLeft.

 

Is he capable of stringing one together?

 

His long and sorry record over at RevLeft hardly inspires much confidence. For one thing, he fails even to see there is problem!

 

Which is why I suggest he change his name to 'Hit the Bottle'.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

August West (but he now has a rather different pseudonym), had this to say (in reply to HTN):

 

I'm not sure you're reading her correctly.

Her long (but then again, it's RL so what did we expect) essay isn't to prove that he was a leftist, she even says that this probably can't be proved, but to prove that he wasn't a conservative. And to this extent, it's pretty powerful. So I don't think she was trying to bring him to our side (hero worship) but keep him out of the hands of the other side.

As for the boss-class ideology, it was Marx who said that the ruling ideas are always those of the ruling class. Hence 'western' analytic philosophy is nothing but. And no one did so good a job at shredding analytic philosophy to the ground than Wittgenstein (although Nietzsche deserves mention here).

So, yeah, I'd like to thank RL for the essay (I read half of it yesterday) and encourage others to read it. [Quoted from
here.]

 

I'd like to thank August for those comments, but he is wrong, I'm afraid; I did try to show Wittgenstein was a leftist. However, I am far from convinced he was a Marxist (even though many of his friends and pupils thought he was, or believed he was a 'Stalinist'), but he most certainly was profoundly influenced by Marxist ideas.

 

~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~

 

'Synthesis' had this to say:

 

I think this is an interesting take on Wittgenstein's influence. His "method" led to traditional philosophy being examined under what would become a post-modernist lens rather than being based on genuine class analysis. Academics still incorporate class into their analyses when using this method, but it is mostly in an flaccid, ineffectual way, politically speaking. [Quoted from here.]

 

However, as I pointed out in the Essay in question:

 

Certainly, postmodernists have used his work to motivate their own ideas (but so have anti-postmodernists; on that see here), but there is nothing 'postmodernist' in Wittgenstein's work (and I challenge anyone who disagrees to provide evidence to the contrary), but blaming Wittgenstein for postmodernism...makes about as much sense as blaming Marx for Stalinism -- or, if you are a Maoist or a Stalinist, blaming Marx for Trotskyism; or for Leninism, if you are a non-Leninist Marxist, etc. etc.

 

Moreover, my use of Wittgenstein's work is most definitely based on a class analysis.

 

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