Hegel the idealist villain?

The legacy of the debate between materialism and idealism is dated now and springs from the generation of the hegelian aftermath, itself the aftermath of the kantian generation. In many ways Hegel remains a puzzle and his ‘absolute idealism’ remains far more controversial than the kantian ‘transcendental idealism’ which isn’t about the ‘transcendental’ but about the way ‘mind’ is fretted by a series of categories, space/time being examples. It was perhaps inevitable that someone like Hegel should try to respond to Kant whose views ironically resemble in disguise those of something like the Advaita Vedanta of the indic legacy.
To critique this legacy in terms of science was a no-brainer, and yet that gesture backfired, and Marx was a victim of that triumph of scientism in the near wasteland of post-hegelian speculative philosophy.
In an age of quantum mechanics, what to say of string theory, the issue of idealism is not so clear cut as it was to the ‘materialist’ revolution which turned out to be a pyrrhic victory that ends up losing the idea, if not idealism, of ‘freedom’ to the crypto-idealist concepts of causality.
Why cripple socialism with such a complicated debate by trying to enforce one pole of a false duality? It is not the job of socialism to resolve the debates of metaphysics. If socialist futures carry basket-case philosophers to new dialectics, so be it.

Source: The eonic model beyond materialism/idealism – Darwiniana

 The eonic effect/model confirms but moves beyond Hegel…

In the final analysis Hegel offers a mystical view of history: we need to arrive at the category of (quite postdarwinian) evolution (the ‘eonic’ evolution of civilization) and there indeed we can posit a conceptual format of the ‘evolution of freedom’…

Hegel’s search for the universal patterns of history revealed a paradox: freedom is coming into being, but is never guaranteed

Source: What is history? Nobody gave a deeper answer than Hegel | Aeon Essays

 Marxism and the black hole of hegelian confusions

Is there such a thing as a marxist who isn’t confused by Hegel? And, no matter how much one tries, marxists will always navigate back into the hegelian swamp and confuse themselves.
Mars and Engels lived through a remarkable moment in the history of philosophy but missed the key beginnings in the era of Kant. By the time of Hegel a kind of obscurantism had been constructed by those who did not understand him, and that has cast a shadow over the left. And the reaction tokened by Feuerbach in the 1840’s shows the sudden reversal toward the kind of outcome we see in Marx/Engels embracing an equally confused materialism, the ‘historical materialism’ emerging in 1848 period and beyond.
I have always been mindful of the way Schopenhauer denounced the way a whole generation was confused by Hegel and the way the Kantian revolution was frittered away in a strange brand of mystical idealism. His denunciations of Hegel may be obsessive but they went on and on for decades. Schopenhauer himself has a limited yet elegant and brand of kantianism that was immensely popular at the end of the nineteenth century. Too bad the left didn’t embrace a version of that. Its historical materialism is a millstone around its neck. In fact, rarely considered is the phase of German ethical socialism and the Marburg school at the end of the nineteenth century, a robust correction to the philosophical confusions of the marxists with their hegelian muddle, confusion over dialectic and extreme materialist scientism. How could such a mess have arisen? Marxists, as if to fulfill the prophecy of Schopenhauer, have sown an immense confusion into the middle of humble efforts to found socialism, which doesn’t require the Hegelian phantom or its marxist upside-downism.
The left needs a simplified history of philosophy, a critique of historical materialism, a starting point in Kant (and/or the beginnings of philosophy in ancient Greece), a look at the issue of scientism, the Romantic movement and its reaction. Hegel’s reaction to Kant is a most difficult issue and the one-sided take on Hegel, and that preposterously in the middle of an internecine battle with idealism, has turned the history of socialism into a farce of bad philosophy, and a near majority of turned-off leftists manque.
The left would be better off stripping socialism of its marxist wrapper and starting over with something more usable than the strange black hole era of post kantian philosphy.

The inversion of Hegel’s dialectics is based on the assumption that it is the “self-development of the idea” of which, therefore, the dialectic of facts is only the image, while the dialectic in our…

Source: MR Online | Engels on the importance of Hegel to Marxism

From Newton to scientism via Hegel: the marxist pseudo-science and its discontents…


Marx’s package/marxism is definitely a brilliant achievement but it belongs to an earlier era when naive scientism ruled along with physicalist reductionism and people still thought that sciences along the lines of newtonism physics could be wrought for any given subject matter, including sociological and historical subjects. You cannot create a science of history based on causal theories aping Newton.

There was actually a revolt against this in the Kantian corpus and even the Romantic movement. But Marx was determined to be the founder of a scientific discipline along the lines of hard science and the result was the clunky edifice of historical materialism with its economic slant. The end result looks impressive to some, but literally hundreds of critics have protested the result, and many have protested the way in which economics matched with reductionist scientism claims the mantle of a scientific subject, believing in which is then a prerequisite for socialism. What a disaster. Small wonder revolutions on the left have all failed. And those critics started early, even in the later nineteenth century. The entire reign of marxism has been among the true believers who have never looked critically at the subject and take the whole thing on faith. At this point, although the faithful still cling to the subject and graduate from courses indoctrinated in a set of fallacies of theory, the left has to move on. Added to all this is the issue of dialectical materialism which made a set of fallacious causal theories compete with a crackpot version of Hegel’s thinking on triads and dialectic.

In a way this applies onto to the claims for science and the theoretical aspect of historical analysis: if you set aside ‘theories’ of history and economic fundamentalism you can adapt a great deal of what Marx did empirically in the areas of class, and theory as ideology. Note that marxism itself is an ideology disguised as theory. The idea is that the claim that something is science will induce belief, and that actually worked in the era of the second international but the whole game was in decline even as bolshevism got underway. And it rapidly became obvious that the whole package was an incomplete void with empty labels like ‘socialism’/’communism’ that were an invitation to social systems even worse than the capitalist.

Marx did not invent socialism but his domination of the field ended up making the subject a kind of marxist monopoly. It barely dawns on anyone that you don’t have to take the marxist version on faith. It would be far better to start from scratch taking up some of the valuable parts of marxism as relevant but leaving historical materialism behind. Productive force determinism is such an archaic theory that it is puzzling it got off the ground, even in the nineteenth century. Values, ethics, free agency, and consciousness disappear in a frankenstein theory of the modes of production. Even a cursory study of history shows this economic fixation is wrong. And then the whole thing is set to denounce as ‘utopian’ any attempt to do the subject right as the clunking economic obsession is claimed as science. The result is that the left has long ceased to know what it is talking about. That said, a great deal of simple empirical observation has often been a cogent side line, as long as it doesn’t get turned into theoretical historicism. Frankly the so-called utopians won the argument finally, although the issue is not utopian, but a practical effort to consider/design social systems that are functional social systems with free agents, values, ideas of freedom, and practical social recipes rather than deterministic predictions of causal systems.

The problem is shared by economists in general who try to produce scientific models based on advanced math, all of it basically the differential equation which is not suitable for economics. Calculus was designed for physics, and every branch of physics has a new variant. But economists, especially the neo-classical ones, presume to study whole economic systems as a set of laws mimicking newtonian formulas. The results are a set of fallacies. So the issue of theory and ideology is a common disease.

In general theories of history have always failed in the sense of trying to find historical laws based on causal reasoning: the whole subject recoils from this approach because history resembles a story with free agents rather than a mechanical system with causal mechanics. Kant gave plenty of warning of the whole problem but then Hegel, whether rightly or not tried to undo Kant with a system that was a hard to evaluate and certainly wasn’t suitable for founding socialism. It was an exploration of the future of religion perhaps, a part of the Reformation, a very tricky and perhaps failed attempt to answer Kant. But the reign of hegelianism, what to say of newtonianism, completely confused a whole generation and the result was a reaction that ended up in the wilds of scientism in an attack on idealism, which was still another fallacious confusion. Physics adopts the idealist mathematics of abstract forms and studies subjects in a materialistic context with that idealist toolkit. The attempt to banish idealism was totally misguided. What on earth happened in the generation of Hegel to Marx/Darwin/scientism? All these kids just fell off their bikes. And the realm of quantum mechanics suggests the whole materialist interpretation is too limited, a surface phenomenon, just as Kant’s thinking might have suggested.

The remedy then is to be wary of fake sciences: we don’t need a scientific sociology to create socialism. We need to create a praxis that studies what futures it intends and the resulting assumptions historical free agents who act in terms of values. The whole history of the marxist left and its succession shows the way its adherents thought in terms of abstractions they forbade themselves to define and the result failed in all cases because they had no idea what they were doing even as they thought historical inevitability would solve all their problems. The result was that the hopeless junk of figures like Stalin actually came to be thought of as communism. Amazing.

But in reality the definition and construction of a socialist or communist is not so arcane: it is a practical effort that takes into account the issues of democracy and authority, practical economic systems beyond hair-brained theories, the nature of markets and possible substitutes, and, since we think in terms of communism, the question of private property. That’s hard, but the terms of discussion are not so hard: they are practical. The marxist legacy confuses because it got some things right, supposedly: the issue of private property, descriptive histories of capitalist economics: these it wishes to replace. By all means, but not on the basis of bad theories or a few cliches about planning. I think that in fact the older left was right about revolutionary options and the question of private property. But they made a mess of the result, and as a result many have recoiled into social democratic niceties. To replace private property with state ownership is not going to work: it creates a new bourgeoisie of one-party thugs.

At least it is clear that revolutionary options are not so simple and that marxist thinking even as it honorably upheld revolutionary expropriation was not equal to the task of a revolutionary social foundationalism. Not surprising. But the left has to invest in a new thinking cap to bring back to life the future option of a new society. It is not enough to champion the abstraction ‘socialism’, create a revolutionary moment and then proceed with a one-party claque promoting state capitalist bureaucratic solutions to the undefined terms of the starting point. The older marxist left in this sense will never get a second chance, and yet will dominate all other efforts to start over.

need for a critical marxism, the failure of ‘theory’ confronting praxis…//Marxism: A Method, Theory and Practice | Left Voice

This is a reasonable summary of marxism in a nutshell and also a good list of the problems of the whole ‘ism’ as we discover the need to upgrade the subject.
We have endless posts here on all the issues but in a quick take our critique has a range of issues:
we critique ‘theory’ and caution that marx’s ‘stages of production’ theory is flawed and the stages of epochal transformation as science, feudalism, capitalism, communism is hardly a scientific theory at all and we must not assume that some teleological mechanism will guarantee its action: we must assess the limits of capitalist economy and act as free agents on the basis of values beyond scientific claims to define and then construct a real socialism/communism. The latter are not guaranteed by history because they have no absolute definitions but we can sense that marx beyond theory was indirectly right: we can derive the axioms of communism in terms of values, such as equality and fairness, as we analyze the failed implications of capitalism. Failure to perform these tasks has left the radical game without direction, endlessly repeating the mantras of marxist shibboleths.
In general theories of history are an unsafe area for grand generalizations. Marx’s historical materialism thus produces a theory of history in a grand sweep. But historical theories are almost always failures and histomat has ended up as target practice for critics.
Marxists have a problematical relationship with hegel, but there is a simple solution: move beyond historical materialism to a larger and balanced study of the history of philosophy and science. Look at kant: his essay on history suggests a number of issues that are far more practical, viz. the progression to a perfect social constitution, than the ‘endgame’ of hegel who is a commentary on issues raised by a long history of philosophy: better to embrace a larger field in an ironic take on dialectic: the latter however is confused by marxists. The idea of material dialectic as some science known to marxists is complete nonsense and the whole legacy of dialectic has been almost a torpedo sinking the whole subject.  Hegel is a mysterious thinker and it is inadvisable to base one’s  legacy on his vatic obscurities. Base the canon on something more tangible, to start.
The distinction of ‘utopian, scientific’ socialism is thus misplaced: marxism has not produced a science in any reasonable account, so ironically the ‘utopian’ stands at the end as the real survivor. The term ‘utopian’ is wrong, or prejudicial: we should instead consider the subject the ‘practical task’ of defining a socialist or communist commonwealth and the values that support it, not as historical laws, but as gestures of men freely creating a successor to capitalism. There is no guarantee of this according to historical laws because ‘history’ only produces a starting point that must be realized in practice.

The central question for those awakening to political life today is this: What is Marxism, and what does it mean for our political analysis and practice? To begin to answer this question, we must see Marxism not only as a theory but as a method of analysis and a political practice.

Source: Marxism: A Method, Theory and Practice | Left Voice

Scientism in the era of the anti-hegelian movement…

Marx’s reductionist scientism has crippled the left. You would think that after Kant and Hegel the left could have produced a more intelligent framework than historical materialism. But that’s just the point: the obsession with Hegel in the era of the 1840’s was so extreme that an equally dubious positivism took root and has probably done more to undermine the path to socialism than any other ideological idee fixe.
Continue reading “Scientism in the era of the anti-hegelian movement…”

don’t let marxists confuse you…//Introduction to the Revolutionary Philosophy of Marxism – part two

What a hopeless foundation for attempts to create a new society! We have critiqued Marx’s claims for science, but the quagmire of philosophic inderterminacy is an equal liability. Hegel and the source of dialectic make a fascinating historical exploration, but how on earth did making sense of this set of enigmas become the foundation for attempts to lead beyond capitalism? The result has been the whole garbage of dialectical materialism, material dialectic, and claims for a foundational science (with Hegelian whispers) that doesn’t exist. It is a failed strategy. To try and repeat it is lunacy. And the public won’t listen.
Schopenhauer made the claim/jibe that everyone who studied Hegel was confused for life and lost the power of thought. It seems so when reviewing marxism.
The crisis of capitalism requires something practical and free of attempts at the critical moment to be distracted by the subtleties of philosophy dressed up as scientism, and vice versa. The result here is that marxists have no clear program and no practical plan of action. And every student of the subject ends up confused.
Their theories contributed to the downfall of bolshevism and turned the idea of communism into an arcane mystery that must be elucidated by a cadre of experts who in fact are as confused as the plebs with their theories are designed to control the working class with a priestly arcana.
The american rebs, in their bourgeois democratic finery, at least produced a successful revolution, however limited. Their troopers needed no theory to grasp the basics of a new republican, soon democratic, sort of, politics. If they had had to study something as arcane as marxism we would never have had the american experiment.

In the second part of his new introduction to The Revolutionary Philosophy of Marxism, Alan Woods explains some of the fundamentals of the Hegelian dialectical method and how these apply to both the natural world and human society. He also details how Marx masterfully applied the dialectical materialist method to his study of capitalism, and in so doing laid bare its inherent contradictions.

Source: Introduction to the Revolutionary Philosophy of Marxism – part two