The left needs to re-examine the early modern and especially to consider the confusion created in the wake of hegel. How to consider the latter is very tricky, but the rigid division of materialism and idealism that arose in reaction to his generation has proven a curse of barrenness and a slavery to scientism and reductionist fundamentalism. Continue reading ” Idealism cast as the villain?”
The left needs a new and broader set of perspectives beyond the dated positivistic perspective that marx adopted in the name of scientific socialism, which ended up in pseudo-science, while the so-called ‘idealists’ were able to posit a more humanistic socialism that could appreciate the realm of values. Continue reading ” Toward a new leftist humanism”
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.
We have often cited the figure of J.G.Bennett who in mysterious connection with the rogue sufi Gurdjieff (who brought a version of ancient Samkhya into the west) resolved most of the problems, at least in principle, that tend to confuse modern humanists and secularists. The source of this material is not clear but its origins must be in the influence of Samkhya on early christian theology in a remarkable distortion by theists followed by an unknown passage through islamic culture.
For a brief moment, during the composition of The Dramatic Universe (especially Vol. I) in the late forties, fifties and early sixties a new synthesis of philosophy and science with a distant echo of Samkhya, of all things, produced the most obvious exit strategy from the unnecessary dualisms of ‘spiritual/material’ that haunt western thought, and one of whose major collisions is the generation of post-kantian hegelianism/marxism. The result has a curious, almost suspicious resemblance to Schopenhauer’s thinking but without the ‘thing in itself’ and its its relation to the phenomenal. The theme of ‘will’ enters in a realist format and the triad of ‘being, function, will’ elegantly lifts philosophy out of the spiritual/material dualism. The overall result is a universal materialism in the manner of Samkhya, where there the element of being and the factor of ‘will’ make that materialism into a robust model that is not stuck in scientism.
Unfortunately, Bennett introduced a lot of extraneous material into his remarkable foundation and his later works are entangled in the dark world of Gurdjieff with his dangerous occultism and rogue black magic. Bennett hadn’t a clue to all that but ended up being a propagandist for Gurdjieff and wrecked all his later books in that vein.
But if one can proceed with The Dramatic Universe and evade its numerous pitfalls, a resolution beyond idealism/materialism can be achieved and it would be easy to recast this in a practical version. But everyone would then be under the shadow of some dangerous sufis and their meddling into anything that even remotely shows their ‘copyright’.
It is enough to point to the needless confusions of the idealism/materialist debate, and to the way the ancient Samkhya tried to embrace materialism in a new form of yoga. It is a lesson that could be relearned and adapted to an exodus from the futile Hegel/Marx debate/swamp. With a sense of deja vu as to the modern case, Indian Samkhya as such shows signs of a lost earlier antecedent and in the form present in the Hindu world shows a contraction of some vanished tradition.
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 left needs to re-examine its darwinian views. Sadly, they are frozen in place (although Marx was suspicious of darwinism) even as the old paradigm is collapsing. However, paradigms come and go and there is need for a completely generalized view of evolution that stands above the biochemical substrate. No matter how hard you try you can’t reduce evolution to chemistry (in its current form). The issue isn’t complex: the causal mechanics of chemistry is not able to explain how life emerges and it can’t even discuss the issue of consciousness.
The left is so confused it can’t read anything that isn’t hard core scientism and yet marxists struggling with Hegel should know better. Our approach has nothing to do with Hegel but that philosopher was alert to the way some ideation factor must exist. We don’t have to get into Hegel or debates over idealism and materialism. Our account speaks on its own terms at a metalevel, as afar as it can.
This account smacks of idealism, but it is nothing of the kind: the point is that some form factor emerges in evolution and this is behind the reifications of life. However we don’t see that directly.
Our discussion is like describing some process on a scratch note book, an eyewitness account of what we see and an inference that we don’t see everything. It is totally baseless to call that ‘idealism’.
The equations of physics would then be idealism…
In the end the question of evolution is intractable for the reasons above and yet we can see how easily we can at least provide a overall model. The result is simple, elegant and adapted to specifics…
Note that the ‘evolution of freedom’ applies to history and see the way in which free action and system action ‘tutor’ freedom as it were and more directly show democracy, socialism and communism as ideas emerge in periods of transition.