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Difference between science and religion

  1. May 19, 2003 #21
    OK. we have a diagreement of terminology then and we will never agree on this topic until that is resolved. I would encourage you to read Tom's last post and participate in that discussion if you can. I think you will find that you're understanding is very differeent from others.
     
  2. May 19, 2003 #22

    Tom Mattson

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    No, it would not be wrong to say that. What happens is many, many controlled experiments are performed, and when the same result obtains for the same initial conditions (within experimental error), we say that there is an underlying law of nature governing the result. We then extend this to extraterrestrial observations. For instance, on Earth we can observe hydrogen spectra, and we can independently determine that the substance under study is in fact hydrogen. When we observe the same spectral lines in stars, we assume that the substance in those stars obeys the same quantum mechanics as substances on Earth, and so we conclude that that is also hydrogen.

    I suppose the assumption could be falsified by taking a sample from a distant star, observing the spectra in a lab, and finding hydrogen spectra from something other than hydrogen. This would indicate that there are different physical laws for different spacetime points. We assume that this is not the case because it is more plausible, and because we could never get anywhere otherwise.

    Since it seems to work, we stick with it.
     
  3. May 19, 2003 #23

    Tom Mattson

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    From my limited exposure to the subject, it seems that there is not one definition that is universally agreed upon. Here is what I have read on the subject:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/physicalism

    I have also printed out a couple of articles from Cog Prints (a cognitive science preprint archive). It seems to me that the main showdown between materialism and idealism (or dualism) is going to be in the realm of cognitive science, since the two schools of thought contradict each other specifically on the nature of the mind.
     
  4. May 19, 2003 #24
    This is not about terminology. Science explained God(s) and other superstitions long long ago (see psychology, sociology, mythology), and moved on forward to solve more useful problems. But if some people prefer to live in darkness, what can science do about it? Nothing.

    It is like trying to help someone who likes to smoke opium because opium shows him not harsh real life but sweet nice dreams.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 19, 2003
  5. May 19, 2003 #25

    drag

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    I agree. It would further be intresting to see
    if this is at all a conclusive subject, because
    currently I don't think there is a generally
    reasonable assumption that this is at all possible
    to do - as science sees it for now. As for the
    other side, it is probably worthy to note that
    even if an apparently conclusive reason and
    proof did appear there is no conclusive certainty
    that it will be accepted by that side, as many
    things aren't, despite its apparent proof. :wink:
    (Thanks for the link.)

    Alexander, I do not believe that even implied
    personal insults are an efficient way of
    communication here. Even if you think very lowly
    about various opinions I believe that disrespect
    of their owners will not get you far. :wink:

    Live long and prosper.
     
  6. May 19, 2003 #26
    You just have to look it up anywhere on the web or the dictionary.

    Matter is a philosophical category, denoting the outside world (outside of our perceptions of it), which is independend of our mind.
    It therefore denotes an objective reality which exists on it's own and outside of our mind, and is not dependend of our awareness or mind. This objective reality is reflected within our mind through our perceptions.


    Materialism, in contrast to Idealism, states that matter is primary, and consciousness is secondary.

    Matter is not distinguishable from motion/change. Nowhere and at no time can matter exits without motion or change, and motion or change can not exist without matter. Motion/change is the way in which matter exists.


    Note:
    Please distinguish the philosphical term 'matter' from the physical term 'matter'. In physics, matter is to be thought of as particles, which behave like point-masses, in contrast to light or radiation (photons and neutrinos). The philosophical term matter covers all forms of physical entities, including massive particles, energy, radiation, fields, etc.
     
  7. May 19, 2003 #27
    In no way I try to isult someone, you misunderstood. I just explain origin of Gods.
     
  8. May 19, 2003 #28
    §Matter

    Matter is a philosophical category denoting all that which exists outside of and independently of thought — objective reality. As a philosophical category, “matter” must be distinguished from any particular theory of matter developed by natural science and from its meaning in physics as mass as opposed to radiation.

    See Hegel's http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/sl/slbeing.htm#SL98n1_2" on this question.



    §Materialism

    Those philosophical trends which assert the material world (the world outside of consciousness) to be primary to thought, especially in relation to the question of the origin of knowledge. For materialism of all kinds, thoughts are pictures or http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/glossary.htm#reflection" in his critique of Empiricism.
    See http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm" [Broken][/i].
    See also http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/mean09.htm" [Broken]
    See also http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/help/mean08.htm#04"
     
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  9. May 19, 2003 #29
    Science as a human activity goes about implicitly assuming that
    1) There is an objective outside world, which exists on itself, and independend of one's mind.
    2) Nowhere in the whole course of history, there ware actors or forces outside of nature that influenced the course of history.
    3) Science assumes that the objective world, outside of our mind, can be known.

    That is why science can be thought of to have adapted the assumptions of materialism.
     
  10. May 19, 2003 #30
    Materialism and Idealism

    Materialism and Idealism

    Philosophical idealism and philosophical materialism are opposite camps in relation to the fundamental question in philosophy the relation of being and thinking. Does thinking reflect a material world which exists independently and outside consciousness, or contrariwise, is the objective world a product of thought or altogether a fiction?

    Marxists, in common with other materialists, answer this question unambiguously in the affirmative, but that is by no means the end of the problem of knowledge, the problem of the correspondence between thought and the material world. Can thought adequately apprehend the material world - the material world may exist, but is it knowable? Further, what are the respective roles of reason and experience in knowing? Do intuition and faith have a necessary role in knowing?

    Materialism and idealism have quite definite meanings in relation to epistemology (the study of the nature and validity of knowledge). Materialism is the correct standpoint and most people will have no hesitation in affirming the materialist position. However, maintaining a consistent materialist position proves to be no easy matter. Whenever we turn to reflect on things we will find it almost impossible to avoid momentarily reasoning along a line which, if looked at in isolation or if extended beyond a certain point, will show itself to be consistent with idealism, not materialism.

    Most of us, when surprised by a turn of events will choose to revisit our ideas, rather than deny reality and do not have any doubt about the priority of the objective world. Even the philosophical pedant who denies the objectivity of experience looks before crossing the road.

    Idealism shows itself usually in such presumptions as assuming that people do as they say, for example, or in extending a principle beyond the domain in which it is known to be true or failing to subject to criticism a belief that has in fact long out-lived its validity, believing that a person's social position is a matter of their personal choice, that social movement express "new ideas" rather than social interests, etc..

    In fact, 99 per cent of the time we operate within a particular system of concepts and the materialist or idealist content of our thinking and practice is determined by the content of this system of concepts. Most of the time we do not question the concepts with which we operate, but it is a merit of Hegel that he directed us to criticise the content of our concepts, rather than limiting ourselves simply to what follows from what.

    In other words, our capacity to act consistently as materialists is to a great extent limited by the philosophical content of the concepts we use in our practice. For example, if we only know the concept of "capitalism" as meaning "accumulating wealth", or "job" as some thing which is offered as some kind of gift by employers, or believe that "money makes money", then we cannot get close to a materialist understanding of day-to-day events and changes in capitalist life. To revolutionise your understanding of "capitalism" you are either the one person in a century who creates a new concept of capitalism, or you acquire a new concept of capitalism through Marxist education.

    Furthermore, materialism is limited by the level of development of scientific knowledge. If we unable to subject a given proposition to criticism, simply because we have no knowledge of the relevant subject matter or there exists no established body of scientific knowledge about the subject, we will have no choice but to reason idealistically, on the basis of guesswork! [Until we have the opportunity to scientifically investigate the matter]. If we deny ourselves the luxury of reasoning from unproven facts, presumptions and principles and guesses, we will be unable to reason at all.

    Thus it is that until the middle of last century, by which time the mass of scientific knowledge had built up to a certain level, idealism was the dominant "camp" in philosophy. The thousands of years of human culture before the middle of last century is proof that idealism is perfectly capable of producing valid knowledge. Or more accurately, the rigorous idealist line is even more difficult to adhere to than is the consistent materialist line. Despite the idealists' epistemological belief, objective reality enters into his/her thinking! And Hegel is the supreme example of this phenomenon.

    Attempting to adhere to consistent materialism means to continuously direct our attention to the source of knowledge in the material world, to be continuously aware of the genesis of our ideas from material life and to continuously subject the concepts with which we grasp the world to criticism. For this latter task, Hegel has given us the most powerful instrument.

    Subjective Idealism and Objective Idealism

    Subjective idealism is the variety of idealism which places individual consciousness as primary to the objective world. In its purest form, subjective idealism regards nature, society and history as nothing more real than one's fantasies and dreams. For instance, quantum physics gave rise to an upsurge of "physical idealism" at the turn of the century, a form of subjective idealism which asserted that the behaviour of sub-atomic wave-particles is dependent upon the consciousness of a human observer. It is also found in that line of thinking which says, too insistently, that "everyone has their own reality", and so on.

    Objective idealism sees the objective world as a product or expression of some entity of an ideal nature, but not the individual's own subjective consciousness rather an entity specifically greater than the human individual, be it named God, Gaia, The Supreme Being, Progress, Nature or some other product of human imagination.

    Hegel is perfectly correct in ascribing an objective existence to Logic, to insisting that thought has an objective content. But logic is but one abstract aspect of the objective world (even Hegel's wonderful version of logic); Hegel deifies logic, he makes it the governor and driving force of everything. Just as the capitalist who believes that "money makes money", the engineer who sees the world as a giant machine, the priest whose God is a Wise Old Man, the professional logician Hegel has elevated the object of his own interest into the Lord presiding over all.

    "Spirit"

    The material world is indeed "law governed", or "systematic". If we conceive any finite state of knowledge of the laws and properties of the objective world as something existing outside of human consciousness and give to it an independent, i.e. supra-natural, "governing" existence, then we have an apparently reasonable "objective idealism". And such a standpoint is closer to materialism (if we could say such a thing) than for example, the point of view of Kant, in which human knowledge is knowledge only of "phenomena" (i.e. the world as it is manifested to us in experience) while the world "in-itself" is unknowable. For example, to this line of thinking, even if we believe we have a theory to explain why the Sun rises every morning, in fact we have only a theory which reliably predicts that we will see and feel what we call Sunlight, but no knowledge of thing we choose to call "Sun". As materialists we must assert that these laws and forms which are known to us do indeed exist in the material world, and come to consciousness only because they exist objectively, although we must remind ourselves that these laws and forms are only a part or aspect of the material world. Never but never will human beings attain exhaustive (infinite) knowledge of the world. But we rightly believe that we have knowledge of the objective world which is adequate, more or less, to practice.

    Hegel wrote in the first decades of the nineteenth century a particularly marvelous summation of human knowledge as it existed at the time. There can be no argument but that human knowledge has rolled forward with immense speed and breadth ever since. Our collective knowledge of these most general laws let alone their "detail" is obviously far more profound than was available to Hegel.

    "Just as the dialectical conception of nature makes all natural philosophy both unnecessary and impossible, it is no longer a question anywhere of inventing interconnections from out of our brains, but of discovering them in the facts. For philosophy, which has been expelled from nature and history, there remains only the realm of pure thought, so far as it is left: the theory of the laws of the thought process itself, logic and dialectics." [Engels, Ludwig Feuerbach etc, Part IV]

    Just so long as we recognise that human knowledge is relative, so long as we do not elevate any particular and partial truth to an absolute, then we have no need of a God in any form.

    {to be continued}
     
  11. May 19, 2003 #31
    Materialism and Idealism [part 2]

    Materialist Dialectics

    In 1873, Marx summed up his difference with Hegel as follows:

    My dialectic method is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, the life-process of the human brain, i.e., the process of thinking, which, under the name of "the Idea", he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurgos of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of "the Idea". With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought. [The Afterword to the Second German Edition of Capital]

    "it's direct opposite"! No small difference.

    Like Hegel, Marx and Engels understood very well that their theoretical achievements were the outcome of a long period of social development. It is possible to understand these achievements only on the basis of an understanding of how the problems of philosophy have been posed and resolved in the history of philosophy. In this history, opposite tendencies in relation to different aspects of the problem of knowledge have interacted over long periods: idealism and materialism (the question of priority of matter or thought), rationalism and empiricism (the question of the priority of reason or experience), dualism and monism (whether the ideal and material are two different substances or two aspects of one and the same substance), etc.

    During this time, the development of human society, in particular the forces of production and the production relations resting upon these forces of production, not to mention the countless effects of warfare, conquest, language, exploration, etc., etc, etc., has radically transformed our relation to Nature.

    An approach to understanding what Engels meant when he said that: "The dialectic of Hegel was placed upon its head; or rather, turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet" [Ludwig Feuerbach, etc, Part IV], is to follow the development of the materialist thread in the history of science and philosophy in its main outlines up to Marx. This I will attempt to do, very schematically, in the next section, but for now we need to summarise why it is we call Hegel an idealist.

    Hegel's Objective Idealism

    In talking of the history of philosophy, in §13 of the Shorter Logic, Hegel says:

    For these thousands of years the same Architect has directed the work: and that Architect is the one living Mind whose nature is to think, to bring to self-consciousness what it is, and, with its being thus set as object before it, to be at the same time raised above it, and so to reach a higher stage of its own being. [Shorter Logic]

    This is a fairly explicitly idealist statement. The last words of The Shorter Logic are: "this Idea which has Being is Nature". Almost the last words of The Science of Logic are: "The Idea, in positing itself as absolute unity of the pure Notion and its reality and thus contracting itself into the immediacy of being, is the totality in this form - Nature".

    This is not a lot different from the Moslem's belief that every movement of every particle in the Universe is at the command of Allah, and an Islamic physicist is as capable as his atheist counterpart of elaborating the laws by which these movements may be described. The Christian Isaac Newton was able to create an enormously powerful mechanistic description of the world requiring only God to set the world into motion at some long ago time for the world to continue its state of motion forever after.

    In a sense, Marx's "turning of Hegel upon his feet" is just a small "correction", a matter of detail. The whole of natural science, Marxist political economy and any body of genuine knowledge can be asserted without bothering about this little matter of detail. The problem comes when our knowledge proves inadequate in the face of experience or otherwise when we have to create new concepts or new sciences - to make a new tool, rather than purchase one from the hardware shop.

    When Marx set about building a scientific theory of socialism he looked in the direction of the relations of production, not politics, law, morality or religion. This was a choice made on the basis of philosophical materialism.

    Hegel's logic was of great value in assisting Marx in arriving at a concept of capitalism as "generalised commodity production" and the commodity as a unity of exchange value and use value. But only Marx's consistent search for the roots of social, political and legal relations or concepts in the relations of production allowed this scientific discovery. Likewise, Marx drew not upon the history of the "idea of Socialism", but upon the actual history of people producing and reproducing themselves as the source material for his research.

    Karl Marx, The German Ideology

    The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way. The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature. Of course we cannot here go either into the actual physical nature of man, or into the natural conditions in which man finds himself - geological, orohydrographical, climatic and so on. The writing of history must always set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of people. People can be distinguished from animals by consciousness, by religion or anything else you like. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence ...[First Premises of Materialist Method]
     
  12. May 19, 2003 #32
    Brief history of Materialism

    A Very Brief History of Materialism

    I include this very brief, schematic summary of the history of materialist philosophy for two reasons:

    it is not possible to understand the objective idealism in Hegel's philosophy without following to some extent the problems with which materialism was wrestling in the period leading up to Hegel, and
    the understanding of this history is thus also necessary in order to understand how to approach Hegel's Logic as a materialist.
    As remarked above, the essence of philosophy is the relation between being and consciousness. In what follows, I have attempted to highlight the contradictions manifested in the development of this essence. Hegel's philosophy thus arises as the synthesis of these contradictions, itself a concrete Notion, expressing the history of its genesis in the history of Western philosophy up to his time.

    Galileo, Bacon and Descartes

    In the early sixteenth century, Francis Bacon and Rene Descartes both came to similar conclusions in relation to the state of the science and philosophy of their time. Bacon is quite clear:

    Since it seems to me that people do not keep strictly to the straight and narrow when forming their opinions or putting things to the test, I have decided to use all the means at my disposal to remedy this misfortune. For in nothing else does the aspiration to deserve well show itself than it things are so arranged that people, freed both from the hobgoblins of belief and blindness of experiments, may enter into a more reliable and sound partnership with things by, as it were, a certain literate experience. For in this way the intellect is both set up in safety and in its best state, and it will besides be at the ready and then come upon harvests of useful things.

    Now the beginnings of this enterprise must in general he drawn from natural history; for the whole body of Greek philosophy with its sects of all kinds, and all the other philosophy we possess seem to me to be founded on too narrow a natural-historical basis, and thus to have delivered its conclusions on the authority of fewer data than was appropriate. For having snatched certain things from experience and tradition, things sometimes not carefully examined or ideas nor securely established, they leave the rest to meditation and intellectual agitation, employing Dialectic to inspire greater confidence in the matter.

    But the chemists and the whole pack of mechanics and empirics, should they have the temerity to attempt contemplation and philosophy, being accustomed to meticulous subtlety in a few things, they twist by extraordinary means all the rest into conformity with them and promote opinions more odious and unnatural than those advanced by the very rationalists. For the latter take for the matter of philosophy very little out of many things, the former a great deal out of a few, but in truth those courses are weak and past cure. But the Natural History which has been accumulated hitherto may seem abundant on casual inspection, while in reality it is sketchy and useless, and not even of the kind I am seeking. For it has not been stripped of fables and ravings, and it rushes into antiquity, philology and superfluous narratives, neglectful and high-handed in matters of weight, over-scrupulous and immoderate in matters of no importance. [opening lines of the Preface to Natural History etc., Francis Bacon, 1609]

    Bacon proposes a systematic investigation of Nature, particularly mechanics, since "nature of its own accord, free and shifting, disperses the intellect and confuses it with its variety", and:

    In general I assign the leading roles in shedding light on nature to artificial things, not only because they are most useful in themselves, but because they are the most trustworthy interpreters of natural things. Can it be said that anyone had just happened to explain the nature of lightning or a rainbow as clearly before the principles of each had been demonstrated by artillery or the artificial simulacra of rainbows on a wall? But if they are trustworthy interpreters of causes, they will also be sure and fertile indicators of effects and of works. [op cit]

    and Bacon urged

    "Experiments of Fruit not ones of Light", "meticulous care and hand-picked trials, not to mention funding and the utmost patience besides".

    Already the great Galilei Galileo had begun on this project, timing the speed with which balls rolled down a ramp with an egg-timer, extracting from the mass of measurements the underlying principle exhibited in the motion, and thereby laying the basis for modern experimental science, mechanics and astronomy.

    Thus began the empirical trend of natural science which indeed laid the bass "for the building up of Philosophy", laying the greatest emphasis on experience as the source of knowledge.

    Hegel commented on this trend:

    Under these circumstances a double want began to be felt. Partly it was the need of a concrete subject-matter, as a counterpoise to the abstract theories of the understanding, which is unable to advance unaided from its generalities to specialisation and determination. Partly, too, it was the demand for something fixed and secure, so as to exclude the possibility of proving anything and everything in the sphere, and according to the method of the finite formulae of thought. Such was the genesis of Empirical philosophy, which abandons the search for truth in thought itself, and goes to fetch it from Experience, the outward and the inward present.

    The rise of Empiricism is due to the need thus stated of concrete contents, and a firm footing - needs which the abstract metaphysic of the understanding failed to satisfy. ...

    When it thus appeared that abstract metaphysical thinking was inadequate, it was felt that resource must be had to empirical psychology. The same happened in the case of Rational Physics. The current phrases there were, for instance, that space is infinite, that Nature makes no leap, etc. Evidently this phraseology was wholly unsatisfactory in presence of the plenitude and life of nature. [Shorter Logic, §37: Empiricism]

    Rene Descartes, on the other hand, shared Bacon's contempt for the reliability of the science of the day:

    I shall not say anything about Philosophy, but that, seeing that it has been cultivated for many centuries by the best minds that have ever lived, and that nevertheless no single thing is to be found in it which is not subject of dispute, and in consequence which is not dubious I had not enough presumption to hope to fare better there than other men had done. And also, considering how many conflicting opinions there may be regarding the self-same matter, all supported by learned people, while there can never be more than one which is true, I esteemed as well-nigh false all that only went as far as being probable.

    Then as to the other sciences, inasmuch as they derive their principles from Philosophy, I judged that one could have built nothing solid on foundations so far from firm. And neither the honour nor the promised gain was sufficient to persuade me to cultivate them, for, thanks be to God, I did not find myself in a condition which obliged me to make a merchandise of science for the improvement of my fortune; and, although I did not pretend to scorn all glory like the Cynics, I yet had very small esteem for what I could not hope to acquire, excepting through fictitious titles. And, finally, as to false doctrines, I thought that I already knew well enough what they were worth to be subject to deception neither by the promises of an alchemist, the predictions of an astrologer, the impostures of a magician, the artifices or the empty boastings of any of those who make a profession of knowing that of which they are ignorant. [Discourse on Method, Rene Descartes, 1632]

    {to be continued}
     
  13. May 19, 2003 #33

    drag

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    Well, I'd like to point out that since science
    currently reasons about all things being
    interconnected directly (or at least reasons that
    there is an inability of proving the opposite),
    there is no real objective reality.
    Thus, at least this aspect of the definition
    appears to be kin'na self-referential and
    vague. I mean, if you can not draw a distinct
    line between your mind and the Universe then
    the above definition, at least, gets a bit
    scrambled. Wouldn't you agree ?

    P.S. An intresting sidenote:
    If you, for example, consider the Universe in
    a microscopic time period then from QM's conclusion
    of lack of identity you might say our mind is
    possibly the entire Universe on this time scale.
    Fascinating ! :smile:

    Live long and prosper.
     
  14. May 19, 2003 #34
    brief history of Materialism [part 2]

    Moreover, Descartes asserted that experience cannot provide valid knowledge without the aid of understanding which cannot in principle be attained through reliance on sense perception:

    ... even the philosophers in the Schools hold it as a maxim that there is nothing in the understanding which has not first of all been in the senses,.... while neither our imagination nor our senses can ever assure us of anything, if our understanding does not intervene.

    To establish that foundation of certainty upon which knowledge could begin to be built, Descartes asked himself what he knew for certain. From this enquiry he was led to his famous maxim "I think, therefore I am". That is, I must absolutely doubt everything that is given to me by sense perception and every argument of Reason which calls upon prior principles, but as I think on this, I at least know that someone is thinking.

    Descartes approach considered on the one side Mind, and on the other matter. Confronted with the mystery as to how the mind, which was utterly without extension or any corporeal form, could apprehend the objective world, which had extension and other physical properties, Descartes was led to conclude that there existed a special organ somewhere in the skull, which connected mind with matter!

    Descartes' somewhat idiosyncratic solution to the problem of the correspondence of mind and matter, is typical of his speculations on Nature - filled with brilliant insights, but lacking the very solid basis which he sought through the rigorous application of Reason. Descartes himself contributed brilliantly to the future of natural science through his invention of Cartesian Geometry, in which spatial forms are identified with algebraic formulae - the single most important tool for theoretical representation of the material world in almost all branches of natural science ever since.

    Descartes is thus described as a Dualist because he begins with a dichotomy between consciousness and matter, as two essentially different substances, whose correspondence must then be brought about "externally". Experience shows that consciousness corresponds to the objective world - and not just the consciousness of immediate sense perception, but Reason itself. But how is this possible?

    Descartes is a Materialist because he does not doubt the independent existence of the material world outside of consciousness, and accepts that this material world is given in sense perception. However, as a Rationalist, Descartes holds that the world beyond senses is knowable only through the activity of Reason. While Descartes pays his respects to the accumulated knowledge of his Age, his method is very much one which appeals to the reasoning activity of the individual thinker.

    Bacon, on the other hand, calls for a whole program of collective accumulation of knowledge. Clearly Bacon lays the emphasis upon Experience as the source of knowledge, and he does not question the capacity of Reason to arrive at truth through analysis of the data of experience, provided only that there is a patient, systematic and critical analysis of that material. For this reason he is known as an Empiricist.

    Thus, this period of the beginning of materialism at the beginning of the seventeenth century, is characterised by the contradiction between Rationalism and Empiricism. Galileo, Bacon and Descartes have laid the basis in materialist philosophy for the revolution in natural science, industry and social development.



    Spinoza, Hobbes and Locke

    Descartes' Discourse on Method had been published in 1637 at Leiden in the Dutch Republic, where there was a measure of religious freedom. The young Jew, Benedicto Spinoza was 5 years old at this time, born in Leiden from parents who had fled to the Republic to escape religious persecution. By the age of 27, Spinoza had been expelled from the Jewish community for his heresy.

    Spinoza had worked over Descartes' system, rendering it into the form of "geometrical" axioms and theorems, and then developed his own system which overcame Descartes' dualism. For Spinoza, God did not create the world (far less intervene in it), God is Nature. Nature is composed of substances which have attributes; Thought and extension are not two different substances, but attributes of one and the same substance. The conscious person manifests God in their thought and actions, their free will being that of Nature or God.

    By this device, Spinoza has done away with Descartes' dualism; his "geometric" exposition attempts to set for philosophy a foundation as rational and exact as that of geometry. However, despite Spinoza's solution of the problem of Free Will, Spinoza's Universe is totally determined, the is no Chance. Furthermore, while Spinoza has brilliantly resolved the problem of dualism, he has not provided any real method for the elaboration of knowledge. His system of axioms, like Descartes' supposedly "clear and distinct ideas given immediately to Reason:

    If any one should say, then, that he has a clear and distinct, that is a true, idea of substance, and should nevertheless doubt whether such substance existed, he would indeed be like one who should say that he had a true idea and yet should wonder whether it were false (as will be manifest to any one who regards it carefully); or if any one should say that substance was created, he would state at the same time that a false idea had been made true, than which it is difficult to conceive anything more absurd. And therefore it must necessarily be acknowledged that the existence of substance, like its essence, is an eternal truth. [Ethics, Spinoza, 1677]

    And Spinoza's "clear and distinct, that is true" axioms are put forth boldly from line-one of his Ethics, and made the basis of a series of theorems, lemmas and corollaries building up an entire system. But to the reader, they may as well have been pulled out of his back-pocket. Spinoza's Rational, Materialist, Monism had little influence until the mid-eighteenth century when he was one of many sources underlying the blossoming of "classical German philosophy". Subsequently however, figures such as Goethe, Haeckel and Einstein embraced Spinoza's materialist monism.

    Meanwhile in England, Thomas Hobbes set about working Bacon's doctrine of Experience into a philosophical system. Hobbes narrows the concept of experience as the source of knowledge:

    Concerning the Thoughts of man, .. they are every one a Representation or Appearance of some quality, or other Attribute of a body without us; which is commonly called an Object. Which Object worketh on the Eyes, Ears, and other parts of mans body; and by diversity of working, produceth diversity of Apparences.

    The Origin of them all, is that which we call SENSE; (For there is no conception in a mans mind, which hath not at first, totally, or by parts, been begotten upon the organs of Sense.) The rest are derived from that origin.

    To know the natural cause of Sense, is not very necessary to the business now in hand; ... Nevertheless, ...

    The cause of Sense, is the External Body, or Object, which presseth the organ proper to each Sense, either immediately, as in the Taste and Touch; or mediately, as in Seeing, Hearing, and Smelling: which pressure, by the mediation of Nerves, and other strings, and membranes of the body, continued inwards to the Brain, and Heart, causeth there a resistance, or counter-pressure, or endeavour of the heart, to deliver itself: which endeavour because Outward, seemeth to be some matter without. And this seeming, or fancy, is that which men call Sense; ... All which qualities called Sensible, are in the object that causeth them, but so many several motions of the matter, by which it presseth our organs diversly. Neither in us that are pressed, are they any thing else, but divers motions; (for motion, produceth nothing but motion.) But their appearance to us is Fancy, the same waking, that dreaming.

    And as pressing, rubbing, or striking the Eye, makes us fancy a light; ... [etc] and very object seem invested with the fancy it begets in us; Yet still the object is one thing, the image or fancy is another. So that Sense in all cases, is nothing else but original fancy, caused (as I have said) by the pressure, that is, by the motion, of externall things upon our Eyes, Ears, and other organs thereunto ordained. [Leviathan, Hobbes, 1650]

    {to be continued}
     
  15. May 19, 2003 #35

    drag

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    Hmm... heusdens, would it be terribly self-insulting
    of me to note that these people, not at all due
    to their intellectual level but due to
    the times they lived in and the experiences
    they had, were very confused in my opinion. :wink:
     
  16. May 19, 2003 #36
    Brief history of Materialism [part 3]

    This line of reasoning is taken further by John Locke, who counters Descartes' Dualism, and in particular his assertion that Reason is not given by Experience, but is innate. Locke equates sense impressions with "ideas" - "ideas of sense". "Ideas of reflection", he says, are the mind's reflection upon its own activity, going so far as to say that the mind is a tabula rasa - a blank sheet of paper, upon which Nature writes:

    Let us then suppose the mind to be, as we say, white paper, void of all characters without any ideas; how comes it to be furnished? Whence comes it by that vast store, which the busy and boundless fancy of man has painted on it with an almost endless variety? Whence has it all the materials of reason and knowledge? To this I answer, in one word, From experience: in that all our knowledge is founded, and from that it ultimately derives itself.

    Our observation, employed either about external sensible objects, or about the internal operations of our minds, perceived and reflected on by ourselves is that which supplies our understandings with all the materials of thinking. These two are the fountains of knowledge, from whence all the ideas we have, or can naturally have, do spring.[An Essay concerning Human Understanding, John Locke, 1689]

    Neither Hobbes nor Locke question the existence of the external world: it is objects that act on the senses, generating ideas; nor do they doubt the adequacy of the knowledge so given.

    In this period therefore, both the British Empirical school and the European Rationalists wrestled with the contradiction between dualism and monism.

    Berkeley and Newton

    George Berkeley, the Irish Bishop, was an avowed conservative and enemy of Materialism, and his contribution to materialism is that he took empiricism to "it's logical conclusion", as we say. Descartes showed that the object itself cannot be equated to our image formed of it by sense perception. Berkeley points out that, if all we have is "ideas of sensation" and "ideas of reflection", then we have no knowledge of anything outside consciousness at all, only knowledge of our sensations!

    It is evident to any one who takes a survey of the objects of human knowledge, that they are either ideas actually imprinted on the senses; or else such as are perceived by attending to the passions and operations of the mind; or lastly, ideas formed by help of memory and imagination - either compounding, dividing, or barely representing those originally perceived in the aforesaid ways. ...

    But, besides all that endless variety of ideas or objects of knowledge, there is likewise something which knows or perceives them; and exercises divers operations, as willing, imagining, remembering, about them. This perceiving, active being is what I call MIND, SPIRIT, SOUL, or MYSELF....

    That neither our thoughts, nor passions, nor ideas formed by the imagination, exist without the mind, is what everybody will allow --And to me it is no less evident that the various SENSATIONS, or ideas imprinted on the sense, however blended or combined together ...

    It is indeed an opinion strangely prevailing amongst men, that houses, mountains, rivers, and in a word all sensible objects, have an existence, natural or real, distinct from their being perceived by the understanding. But, with how great an assurance and acquiescence soever this principle may be entertained in the world, yet whoever shall find in his heart to call it in question may, if I mistake not, perceive it to involve a manifest contradiction. For, what are the forementioned objects but the things we perceive by sense? and what do we perceive besides our own ideas or sensations? and is it not plainly repugnant that any one of these, or any combination of them, should exist unperceived? [Of the Principles of Human Knowledge, George Berkeley, 1710]

    And this total impasse, British Empiricism has never overcome: "Matter" is an "abstract idea", of which we can have no knowledge, just like the psychologists who call themselves "Behavioural Scientists", because they can have no knowledge of someone else's consciousness, but more of this later....

    Roughly contemporary with Berkeley was Sir Isaac Newton. Newton followed the advice of Galileo and Bacon and made good use of the Rational tools provided by Descartes, and by systematic analysis of the data of planned experiment and the judicious use of definitions, axioms and formal logical deduction, and, in the case of his discovery of the Calculus not bothering too much if the exigencies of formal logical proof got in the way of a useful line of analysis, erected a mechanical explanation of the Universe which is absolutely stunning in its scope and power. Those who came after must truly have felt that there was nothing more to do but work out the details!

    Newton brought within a single law the motion of simple day-to-day objects on Earth and the motion of the Heavens, which were found to be simply "falling" around their epicentre, prevented from falling into the Sun only by the initial impetus which must have been imparted an indefinite time long ago in the past by God.

    Indeed, Newton pushed God, not out of existence altogether, but back to the "boundary conditions" of the Universe, with the task simply of decreeing the Laws of Nature and setting the whole thing in motion, and we humans to watch in wonder and admiration ... and understand.

    Berkeley the subjective idealist (he later gravitated to an objective idealist position, having the Universal Mind of God holding the world in existence) took the internal contradiction within empiricism to its absurd conclusion; Newton took its strength to its consummate completion in a rounded out mechanical view of the Universe, consigning God to the role of "pressing the Start button", and "the observer" is reduced to the role of a reference point in time-space; for Berkeley, the world exists only in the mind of the observer.

    Here the contradiction is between subjectivism and objectivism.

    {to be continued}
     
  17. May 19, 2003 #37
    Brief history of Materialism [part 4]

    The French Enlightenment and Hume

    This leap in scientific knowledge, accompanied by a crisis in the science of knowledge, is reflected in the philosophy of the Enlightenment. The wonderful flourishing of philosophy in pre-Revolutionary France laid the basis for the overthrow of Monarchy and all the crap of ages - Voltaire, Rousseau, Condillac, d'Alembert, Condorcet, Montesquieu, Gassendi, Fontonelle, Buffon, d'Holbach, Helvetius and Diderot.

    Many different views were to be found: D'Alembert was a sensationalist, Diderot a mechanical materialist, Rousseau a sceptic; some were Deists, some Atheists. All agreed that the advancement of science was inimical to oppression. The contradictions inherited from the previous period were not resolved, but the material for a way out of the impasse was accumulated. Above all, what was achieved by the Enlightenment was the beginning of an understanding of knowledge, personality, consciousness as a social product: inequality was the result of private property, feudalistic beliefs the result of feudalistic upbringing, Nature played upon the senses, and society played upon the person, people are formed by nature and society.

    What is this egg? An unperceiving mass, before the germ is introduced into it; and after the germ is introduced, what is it then? still only an unperceiving mass, for this germ itself is only a crude inert fluid. How will this mass develop into a different organisation, to sensitiveness, to life? By means of heat. And what will produce the heat? Motion. What will be the successive effects of this motion?

    Instead of answering me, sit down and let's watch them from moment to moment. First there's a dot that quivers, a little thread that grows longer and takes on colour; tissue is formed; a beak, tiny wings, eyes, feet appear; a yellowish material unwinds and produces intestines; it is an animal. This animal moves, struggles, cries out; I hear its cries through the shell; it becomes covered with down; it sees. The weight of its head, shaking about, brings its beak constantly up against the inner wall of its prison; now the wall is broken; it comes out, it walks about, flies, grows angry, runs away,-comes near again, complains, suffers, loves, desires, enjoys; it has the same affections as yourself, it performs the same actions. Are you going to assert with Descartes that it is a purely imitative machine? Little children will laugh at you, and philosophers will retort that if this be a machine then you, too, are a machine. If you admit that between the animal and yourself the difference is merely one of organisation, you will be showing good sense and reason, you will be honest; but from this there will be drawn the conclusion that refutes you; namely that, from inert matter, organised in a certain way, and impregnated with other inert matter, and given heat and motion, there results the faculty of sensation, life, memory, consciousness, passion and thought. You have only two courses left to take: either to imagine within the inert mass of the egg a hidden element that awaited the egg's development before revealing its presence, or to assume that this invisible element crept in through the shell at a definite moment in the development. But what is this element? Did it occupy space or did it not? How did it come, or did it escape without moving? What was it doing there or elsewhere? Was it created at the instant it was needed? Was it already in existence? Was it waiting for a home? If it was homogeneous it was material; if heterogeneous, one cannot account for its -previous inertia nor its activity in the developed animal. Just listen to yourself, and you will be sorry for yourself; if you will perceive that, in order to avoid making a simple supposition that explains everything, namely the faculty of sensation as a general property of matter or a product of its organisation, you are giving up common sense and plunging headlong into an abyss of mysteries, contradictions and absurdities. [Conversation between Diderot and D'Alembert, Diderot, 1769]

    In Britain, David Hume responded to Berkeley's challenge with a good British compromise: "Well, we can't know for absolute certain that the Sun will rise tomorrow, just because it always has before, but we can be sure enough for practical purposes":

    All reasonings concerning matter of fact seem to be founded on the relation of cause and effect. By means of that relation alone we can go beyond the evidence of our memory and senses. ... The hearing of an articulate voice and rational discourse in the dark assures us of the presence of some person. Why? Because these are the effects of the human make and fabric, and closely connected with it. If we anatomise all the other reasonings of this nature, we shall find that they are founded on the relation of cause and effect, and that this relation is either near or remote, direct or collateral. ....

    I shall venture to affirm, as a general proposition, which admits of no exception, that the knowledge of this relation is not, in any instance, attained by reasonings a priori, but arises entirely from experience, when we find that any particular objects are constantly conjoined with each other. Let an object be presented to a man of ever so strong natural reason and abilities; if that object be entirely new to him, he will not be able, by the most accurate examination of its sensible qualities, to discover any of its causes or effects. ...

    Who will assert that he can give the ultimate reason, why milk or bread is proper nourishment for a man, not for a lion or a tiger? But ... We fancy, that were we brought on a sudden into this world, we could at first have inferred that one billiard ball would communicate motion to another upon impulse, and that we needed not to have waited for the event, in order to pronounce with certainty concerning it. Such is the influence of custom, that, where it is strongest, it not only covers our natural ignorance but even conceals itself, and seems not to take place, merely because it is found in the highest degree.

    ... In vain, therefore, should we pretend to determine any single event, or infer any cause or effect, without the assistance of observation and experience.

    Hence we may discover the reason why no philosopher, who is rational and modest, has ever pretended to assign the ultimate cause of any natural operation, or to show distinctly the action of that power, which produces any single effect in the universe. It is confessed, that the utmost effort of human reason is to reduce the principles, productive of natural phenomena, to a greater simplicity, and to resolve the many particular effects into a few general causes, by means of reasonings from analogy, experience, and observation. But as to the causes of these general causes, we should in vain attempt their discovery, nor shall we ever be able to satisfy ourselves, by any particular explication of them. These ultimate springs and principles are totally shut up from human curiosity and enquiry. [An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume, 1772]

    Hume is a Sceptic; he demonstrates that while experience may teach us what to expect, it cannot give us necessity. Reason can give us necessity, but there is precious little known to Reason other than what is first given by experience. But the important thing is that he directs attention not just to the content of knowledge but its form. But Hume does not know where do draw the line; knowledge is always relative, but for Hume the world remained fundamentally unknowable. Maybe the Sun won't rise tomorrow - who can say?

    Diderot on the other hand, is absolutely confident that organic matter arose from inorganic matter, and thinking matter from organic matter, and continues to do so every moment, and that if we don't yet understand exactly how that happens, then every day we get closer and closer to understanding it - and his life work, the compilation of the Encyclopaedia, and his writings written to be read by the common people, he was putting it into practice.

    Diderot is an out-and-out materialist, but his materialism is the mechanical materialism of Newton; there is no scepticism there at all, his materialism is uncritical, Dogmatic. The further development of materialism, required the resolution of the struggle between dogmatism and scepticism.

    {to be continued}
     
  18. May 19, 2003 #38
    Brief history of Materialism [part 5]

    Kant

    The philosophical world into which Immanuel Kant entered was one riven by apparently irresolvable contradictions. The proponents of the opposing views hardly spoke the same philosophical language and their views seemed irreconcilable.

    Kant set himself the task of creating a science of philosophy which would allow these contradictions to be overcome. In particular he addressed himself to the scepticism of Hume:

    The celebrated David Hume was one of those geographers of human reason who imagine that they have given a sufficient answer to all such questions by declaring them to lie beyond the horizon of human reason - a horizon which, however, Hume was unable to determine. His attention especially was directed to the principle of causality; and he remarked with perfect justice that the truth of this principle, and even the objective validity of the conception of a cause, was based upon no clear insight, that is, upon no a priori knowledge. Hence he concluded that this law does not derive its authority from its universality and necessity, but merely from its general applicability in the course of experience, and a kind of subjective necessity thence arising, which he termed habit. From the inability of reason to establish this principle as a necessary law for the acquisition of all experience, he inferred the nullity of all the attempts of reason to pass the region of the empirical.

    This procedure of subjecting the facts of reason to examination, and, if necessary, to disapproval, may be termed the censorship of reason. This censorship must inevitably lead us to doubt regarding all transcendent employment of principles. But this is only the second step in our inquiry. The first step in regard to the subjects of pure reason, and which marks the infancy of that faculty, is dogmatic. The second, which we have just mentioned, is sceptical, and it gives evidence that our judgement has been improved by experience. But a third step, such as can be taken only by fully matured judgment, based on assured principles of proved universality, is now necessary, namely to subject to examination, not the facts of reason, but reason itself, in the whole extent of its powers, and as regards its aptitude for pure a priori modes of knowledge. This is not the censorship but the criticism of reason, whereby not its present bounds but its determinate and necessary limits, not its ignorance in regard to all possible questions of a certain kind, are demonstrated from principles, and not merely arrived at by way of conjecture. [Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Method, I, 2]

    Following a path which is reminiscent of that of Descartes, Kant attempts to establish those synthetic Judgements (i.e. truths which are not implicit in a given concept, which could be established by analysis], which are given to Reason a priori. These included the nature of time-space, and in the light of subsequent entirely unpredictable developments in physics, it must be agreed that little remains today of Kant's "synthetic a priori judgements".

    Kant also demonstrated that strict adherence to formal logic led to antinomies - self-contradictions: whether we are or are not to think the world limited in space and time; whether matter must be conceived either as endlessly divisible, or as consisting of atoms; the antithesis of freedom and necessity: whether everything in the world must be supposed subject to the condition of causality, or if we can also assume free beings; whether the world as a whole has a cause or it is uncaused. But, as Hegel later remarked in his commentary on Kant: Antinomies "appear in all objects of every kind, in all conceptions, notions, and Ideas". But for Kant: Logic is a pure intuition and "contains the absolutely necessary rules of thought without which there can be no employment whatsoever of the understanding". Thus, for Kant, the "world beyond sensation", the world "in-itself" remained inaccessible to Reason. Science could have as content only Appearances. Thus, the Critical Philosophy re-established Scepticism.

    Kant's achievement is enormous: he establishes a system of categories and concepts of philosophy which was the basis for the stunning development of Classical German Philosophy and later Marxism over the 50 years following the Critique of Pure Reason, and it remains the point of reference for all schools of philosophy which pretend to the status of science, up to the present.

    However, it has to be said that Kant failed in his project to provide the basis to overcome the contradictions plaguing philosophy, and in fact produced a philosophy which was riven by contradictions itself. In fact, it must be marked as an achievement of Kant that he proved that contradiction is inherent in thought.

    However, Kant's main contribution is that he focused attention not on the formal rules for joining concepts logical propositions, but upon the categories of Logic, upon the fact that in forming a concept, Reason operated with categories, and these categories had to be subject to investigation. Kant identified a series of "original pure concepts of synthesis that the understanding contains within itself a priori", viz.,: Unity, plurality and totality; reality, negation and limitation; inherence or subsistence, causality or dependence and community; possibility or impossibility, existence or non-existence and necessity or contingency.

    It would go way beyond the scope of a paragraph or two, to do justice to a critique of Kant's philosophy. Likewise, the usual study of Fichte and Schelling, who lie between Kant and Hegel in the rapid unfolding of classical German philosophy, cannot be attempted here.

    Suffice it to say, that in focusing attention on the critique of Reason, Kant set the direction and provided invaluable tools for the resolution of the crisis of philosophy which he attempted, but he did not himself achieve this resolution.

    This brings us to consideration of Hegel and the further revolution in philosophy which came after him, which is the subject of earlier chapters.

    It is worth noting, though, that Hegel wrote the Science of Logic in 1812-1816, and died before Charles Lyell demonstrated the development of the Earth's crust and Darwin published the Origin of Species (in 1859), let alone the discovery of the wave-particle nature of matter at the beginning of this century which demonstrated the validity of Hegel's dialectics at the most fundamental level of Nature and Gödel and Turing demonstrated the fundamental limitations of formal logic.

    {to be continued}
     
  19. May 19, 2003 #39
    Brief history of Materialism [part 6 and end]

    Summary

    It would go far beyond the scope of extremely brief and schematic sketch of the history of materialist philosophy to mention the natural scientific, technical and social developments that have accompanied the above philosophical genesis. But philosophical materialism, positive science, the forces of production and the social relations of production can only develop in definite relationship to one another.

    Further, like society and industry, knowledge develops according to necessary laws which among other things means that scientific understanding of psychology, history and society can only come after a protracted development of geometry, mechanics, physics, chemistry, biology, etc., and it can only be at a certain point in the development of science and industry that a scientific view of the development of human history is possible.

    Such a scientific view of human history and society is only possible on the basis of an exhaustive study of all facets of human life, a consistent search for the roots of social, political and ideological change in the conditions of material life, and a ruthlessly critical, dialectical and consciously historical and creative handling of concepts.

    This task goes beyond the competence of the professional logician, since having established the theoretical framework for the comprehension of theory and practice, the criticism of concepts requires revolutionary-practical activity.

    The foundations of such a standpoint were laid by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and is brilliantly summarised in Marx's Preface to The Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

    My inquiry led me to the conclusion that neither legal relations nor political forms could be comprehended whether by themselves or on the basis of a so-called general development of the human mind, but that on the contrary they originate in the material conditions of life, the totality of which Hegel, following the example of English and French thinkers of the eighteenth century, embraces within the term "civil society"; that the anatomy of this civil society, however, has to be sought in political economy. The study of this, which I began in Paris, I continued in Brussels, where I moved owing to an expulsion order issued by M. Guizot. The general conclusion at which I arrived and which, once reached, became the guiding principle of my studies can be summarised as follows. In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or -- this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms -- with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto.

    From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic -- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out.

    Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient, feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production -- antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence -- but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism. The prehistory of human society accordingly closes with this social formation. [Critique of political Economy]
     
  20. May 19, 2003 #40
    They are not the same premises then, but directly opposite to each other!
    Science makes no absolute claims about knowledge, but only relative claims. The course of history shows that science evolves, and can come 'closer to truth'. Science doesn't make the claim that one day, everything will be known. In that sense, science makes no absolute claims.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2003
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