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By Wellsy
#14774737
SolarCross wrote:What I mean by agency is an entity that wants things, all this metaphysical stuff about autonomous individuals and freewill that you tacking on is muddying the water a bit. You can certainly divide an "individual", a person's mind is not a literal atom (though atoms as in natural elements can be divided also - nuclear physics) the CIA had a program called Mk Ultra for doing that sort of thing. A lot of people that went through severe trauma or mental illness can suffer mental fracturing something cognitive dissonance but worse. And of course communists are very interested in breaking up people's natural minds to be refashioned for their purposes. It can be done.

Of course full autonomy is a rare thing that few enjoy, at best most of us, most of the time have only a partial autonomy and even that is won through some bargaining and no little sacrifice.

Freewill is also similarly compromised a lot of the time.

Agency is not however freewill it is just will.

The phenomena to which I am using the word agency to represent is something that can be directly experienced without words, concepts or abstractions, we are that experience.

I interject myself again to clarify that I think Potemkin likely agrees with you. As his mentioning of 'metaphysical free will' and 'autonomous individual' was to illustrate his view of abstracting and the nature of abstractions as opposed to being positions he held.
That I take it he doesn't believe in a metaphysical free will and instead likely maintains the sense of free will as summarized by Engels in my earliest post (his mention of it in older thread, was actually what actually informed me of such a perspective.)
To which I imagine he takes the same position that agency is simply the will of individuals and where they get shape that will is tied to their position in society and the forces that act on them within that position. And the only free sense of will is that of conscious awareness of ones self and reality, so that one's decisions aren't as arbitrary. For example, an understanding of nature allows me to manipulate fire and achieve possibilities not available without such an understanding and concrete conditions that make use of fire in certain ways possible. That one-sided views of reality keep us less free than we could be, because their one sidedness leads to half truths, and half truths don't allow us to be as informed as we could be in making a decision.

That its incoherent to conceive of ourselves abstracted from society and it's concrete conditions. And so we come into existence into a pre-existing world and where we land within society gives us both limitations and opportunities. That our society empowers us to do certain things because it sets the conditions of possibility, things are possible in an industrialized nation such as here in Australia that didn't exist many years ago. Certain ideas have garnered favor that allow me to speak within a certain social frame that weren't thought of or necessarily accepted years ago. And so reality is both what gives me the capacity to assert my will but not limitlessly.
Spoiler: show
http://rickroderick.org/205-nietzsche-the-eternal-recurrence-1991/
Another motto that grows out of this notion of The Eternal Recurrence is Nietzsche’s motto that he was in love with fate… loved fate… the love of fate. Because for Nietzsche there is something all so fateful about where you find yourself – you know, I mean, Nietzsche believed that you find yourself, as a matter of fact, growing up in certain communities with certain linguistic possibilities, historical possibilities, social possibilities and so on; about which you have no choice. You know, Heidegger‘s sort of sort of ergh, yucky way of saying this is that you are “thrown into the world”.

Another way to put the same point is, if you have ever seen this game “Class Struggle“; a Marxist dice game, you begin by rolling the genetic dice, okay. The high roll – If you roll high – you get… first of all the order in which you get to rolls helps to tell you something. You begin rolling with the whitest male rolling first, then on down to the darker males, then you go down and the last person to roll will be the darkest female in the room and as you roll the genetic dice; they tell you which class you are born into. And so the throw of the dice… and you may go “Oh that’s just silly” No!

I mean it’s… the throwing of the genetic dice does put you in certain positions and conditions of life to begin with that you did not choose. And for Nietzsche that’s a threat and an opportunity – both – the flipside of that crisis is an opportunity and that’s that whatever you condition, this kind of act of self creation can be undertaken and in fact sometimes spectacularly so when you are thrown into the worst conditions, and I can’t help but bring up now my favourite politician in the United States today, and so I can do it this time in a flattering example, and I am sure many of you don’t like this politician, a local politician, and that’s Jesse Jackson.

I think that in many ways Jesse Jackson is an exemplary human being, and in this strong sense, that coming from where he came, to engage in that act of self creation – which the media now goes “Oh well, you know, he puts on a mask, he plays a part”. Well, how long have they been around here? You know? Ho long have they been around the United States? Is that supposed to surprise anybody? No. It’s that it’s the quality of the performance – its how intimately it’s knitted in with self and against which obstacles that’s given it its drama.


And so beyond the individualized sense of free will based on Engels view of it.
Freedom does not consist in any dreamt-of independence from natural laws, but in the knowledge of these laws, and in the possibility this gives of systematically making them work towards definite ends. This holds good in relation both to the laws of external nature and to those which govern the bodily and mental existence of men themselves — two classes of laws which we can separate from each other at most only in thought but not in reality. Freedom of the will therefore means nothing but the capacity to make decisions with knowledge of the subject. Therefore the freer a man’s judgment is in relation to a definite question, the greater is the necessity with which the content of this judgment will be determined; while the uncertainty, founded on ignorance, which seems to make an arbitrary choice among many different and conflicting possible decisions, shows precisely by this that it is not free, that it is controlled by the very object it should itself control. Freedom therefore consists in the control over ourselves and over external nature, a control founded on knowledge of natural necessity; it is therefore necessarily a product of historical development.

We also have a sort of collective and concrete sense of Freedom derived from Hegel (I don't know Hegel and so rely on other's interpretation here as I did with Nietzche).
http://rickroderick.org/104-mill-on-liberty-1990/
For Hegel, freedom is more like a placeholder word. Let me try to explain what I mean by that. For Hegel, freedom is so important that it is the meaning and the point of human history in general. That if one asks about the bible: “Quickly, what’s it about?”, someone will go “The devil did it”, right? And that’s a quick account of the plot. Then if you ask Hegel quickly about history, Hegel will go: “It’s about how freedom wins”.

Hegel’s account of freedom is more sophisticated in a way than any I have given you up until now, because it is deeply historical. Here’s what I mean by that. In any given historical epoch, Hegel says: “Show me the obstacles that Human beings saw in their path to realising their concrete goals and the overcoming of those obstacles will receive the name Freedom”.

Now, the nice thing about that concept of freedom is it is a free concept of it, which means it allows each generation to pursue freedom’s goals, maybe reformulating them anew. All I have done is backtrack the 19th Century, contrast positive and negative freedom… tried to do that. But the Hegelian concept is historical and reminds us that when we formulate these goals… they are the work of each new group that comes along in the struggle for freedom.

For Hegel, freedom isn’t either external or internal or positive or negative. Freedom is not something which people have, to quote Alasdair MacIntyre, “Hegel’s view of freedom is not something that people have. It is what they are”. When they don’t have it, they aren’t. And that doesn’t mean they disappear, it means they are not human without it.

And so in a sense, we can be free to do certain things that we couldn't before in less materially developed circumstances. For example, it was impossible to travel around the world, to communicate with someone real time across the country, the possibilities in many things have expanded as our societies have developed concretely and along with that so has our intellectual potential improved with it which works to improve the material possibilities.

And so, I share all this to just spout some thoughts and clarify that I think you're likely on the same page as others here and don't espouse views that might be met with some pushback.

TANGENT:
Spoiler: show
And I suppose what I was hoping to stumble onto in all my emphasis on human consciousness and considering base and superstructure in a crude way was to imagine how such a will manifests or is shaped more specifically. That there is the sense that our consciousness is shaped by our concrete experience and social interaction. It seems we have an advanced sense to interpret the world in order to satisfy needs and wants in creative ways... https://www.marxists.org/archive/mikhailov/works/riddle/riddle3b.htm
But this speaks to the likely origins and nature of man, but not with such specificity that I can be more explicit as to how industrial capitalist production lead to a shift in individuals consciousness and as an aggregate, emerged a new ideological/superstructure to challenge take over the old one. Though they of course aren't discrete categories, in part because economic development is not developed in unison. That I had some vague sense that gender ideology was inherited from the past along with the material conditions. And that shifts in the base generally correspond in some sense to shifts in the superstructure. But it seems vague in what sense, because it might be that a lot of women react to the material condition of being left destitute in industrial capital by appealing to politicians and trying to advocate for things they see as helping them address their material circumstance. That some women were able to see possibilities that did not exist previously because the world had changed and they erupted into action because of tensions within such change.

And I of wonder if this is how Hegel's dialectical view of history (In an extremely crude form, because fucked if I know much about Hegel) as progressing in the form of a spiral.
That history progresses through one thing being negated by an opposite and then the negation is negated by a sort of balancing of the original thing and the negation into a sublimated whole where the old ways are retained but in a unique form.
So one example used in a youtube video by School of Life 'Philosophy - Hegel' is attitudes towards sex. Where one starts from the Victorian era that is characterized as restrictive, to the post-pill/sexual revolution era, which negated the Victorian era by moving to an extreme in the opposite direction. Having been restricted for so long, things like the pill and marketing in conjunction with other favorable conditions lead people to feel like that having sex = liberation. Though of course, the pill having helped women not be so necessarily restricted in some ways by pregnancy had its benefits it also served to justify sexual aggression of men who saw them as more readily available.
But we can see a response to this by some in the modern age where this negation (post-pill/Sex. Rev.) is being rejected in its strong hedonism. Where people are looking for meaningful relationships without being overly restrictive over sex. People who don't judge people as harshly for their sexual behaviour unless they consider it reckless in terms of health and social impact (ie cheating hurts people).
And so a blending of the elements of attitudes in the Vic. Era. asserts the importance of love, intimacy, bonds that are beyond that of the flesh with the sex. rev.'s greater opportunity for sexual experience, but based within respect of one another as people rather than viewed purely as instruments for physical gratification.

That in this case of one extreme to the opposite, to a balance being based on the tendency of human beings to often be reactive. Where they think one thing is good by simply opposing everything of the former because of some parts of it that are deemed negative. But quite often and this seems to be something very wise of Hegel, is that there is something of value in positions that we might even oppose. That truth is often a blending of things rather than positing that a one sided abstraction/perspective is the entire truth (ie Materialism Versus Idealism, Empiricism Versus Rationalism etc). That both aspects touch on something true of reality.
If I understood formal logic well enough I might even ramble on about Hegels improvement upon logic. As I am curious to how one overcomes the static nature of logic many still use. That unlike Ficthe, Hegel didn't do with away logic but confronted the difficulties within it head on and developed it to it's epitome. Which then Marx of course then tweaked a bit so it no longer had its objective idealism but changed to dialectical materialism. And his work holds implications I sense for important parts of logic like law of identity (A=A), contradiction (A=B Vs A= Not-B) and the excluded middle (1 true, 0 = false). And this is why he is important to understand for those of us who wish to understand Marx as my reading of those that summarize the history of philosophy briefly is that Hegel's logic is the epitome of all logic before him. And that today many still operate within the realm of Kant and are unaware of Hegel's criticism of him and his own work on logic. Which I take is in part because of the history of Russel and G.E. Moore not being so favorable to his work.
#14774779
SolarCross wrote:
What I mean by agency is an entity that wants things, all this metaphysical stuff about autonomous individuals and freewill that you tacking on is muddying the water a bit. You can certainly divide an "individual", a person's mind is not a literal atom (though atoms as in natural elements can be divided also - nuclear physics) the CIA had a program called Mk Ultra for doing that sort of thing. A lot of people that went through severe trauma or mental illness can suffer mental fracturing something cognitive dissonance but worse. And of course communists are very interested in breaking up people's natural minds to be refashioned for their purposes. It can be done.

Of course full autonomy is a rare thing that few enjoy, at best most of us, most of the time have only a partial autonomy and even that is won through some bargaining and no little sacrifice.

As Wellsy said, I basically agree with you. This, in fact, was my point - the philosophical concept of the "transcendence of the ego" was and is based on the concept of an autonomous individual who can be mentally abstracted from his or her social and material environment. Such an abstracted person is, of course, an illusion, an artefact of our one-sided thinking. Real people can, of course, be bent, folded, spindled and mutilated by their social and material environment, as history books and the news media teach us every day.

Freewill is also similarly compromised a lot of the time.

Agency is not however freewill it is just will.

Here is the fundamental conceptual problem with your position, it seems to me. You are conflating freedom of the will with the will itself. Of course people can will things; they do it every second of every day. But is that will free? And 'free' in what sense? Most of us, most of the time, do indeed have the capability of willing something, and then performing the action required to make that desired outcome become concretely real. I don't dispute that. And I also don't dispute that this capability presents itself to us as an immediately obvious truth. It is, in fact, the essence of what makes us human, and I fully endorse your assertion that:

The phenomena to which I am using the word agency to represent is something that can be directly experienced without words, concepts or abstractions, we are that experience.

But it is entirely possible to imagine having such a capability to will, yet that act of will being itself determined by the nexus of our social and material environment and our pre-existing personality, beliefs and culture, which themselves have been rigorously determined by our life history. So where is freedom? There is will, but there is no necessary freedom of that will, in an abstract metaphysical sense. The freedom arises, as Engels pointed out, through knowledge and awareness, which are forms of self-alienation. So long as we never think about our willing, so long as we merely accept it as a 'natural' or 'given' essence which never has to be raised to conscious awareness, so long will we be the prisoners of our environment and our personal histories. In Engels' words,"Freedom is the recognition of necessity." We must alienate ourselves from ourselves to acquire knowledge and awareness of the world around us and of ourselves, but then we must return to ourselves in an act of recognition in order to be truly free.
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By Dubayoo
#14774845
SolarCross wrote:To work against Spencer's scorn a little, the "Great Men" of history are those that have done something particularly notable with whatever it is they have inherited from their forebears even while others with a similar inheritance did nothing notable. Shakespeare stands out to us even today for the quality of his work and yes a vital ingredient of that is as Spencer says "the multitudinous traditions of civilized life without the various experiences which, descending to him from the past, gave wealth to his thought, and without the language which a hundred generations had developed and enriched by use?" but he was far from being the only playwright in Elizabethan England and the others also had comparable cultural inheritance without producing anything quite as good while Shakespeare with some talent and some will did something rather more with that inheritance than the others.

Julius Caesar of course had a vital inheritance of centuries of martial development to enable his adventures but then so did a number of other Roman generals yet it was he not they that chose to cross the rubicon and make himself dictator for life.

Even those things that we and the great men inherit are themselves the product of the actions and choices of men and women some of them could also be said to be great for creating it.

Yes Shakespeare had some literature already in existence for to inspire him but that literature such as the works of Plutarch could also be said to be the works of a "great man". :)

It goes back all the way, somewhere in our long lost prehistory some grunting ape man alone of all his fellows first figured out how to make fire without just waiting for lightning. That was great and it made him great for doing it. I think this is the meaning of Greatness.


The issue with the Great Man Thesis is it ignores how people can only become great men if others let them achieve what they will. You can have multiple people who each have equal ambition, drive, talent, etc., but if one is surrounded by others who interfere destructively while the other isn't surrounded by them (or if one is surrounded by others who interfere constructively while the other isn't), then you'll end up with two different results.

Likewise, striking fire only matters if others pick up the banner. You can strike fire, but if others don't care to acknowledge what you struck, then you won't change history. Sometimes, it takes a lot of people to strike fire before it gets acknowledged.

Then, you have times when fire is struck relentlessly, but you live in a stubborn community that won't care no matter what because it's content living in darkness.

It's times like that when you really wonder if people like Stalin and Mao were really bad. Yea, they might have killed millions of people, but if you kill millions who don't appreciate greatness, then is it really so bad? Granted you might argue that all those millions weren't given due process to judge their character appropriately, but then the issue isn't what they did. It's why and how they did it.

SolarCross wrote:I say we may as well go off-topic given that commenting on the OP's infantile raving is a lot less interesting than this "great man" tangent we have fallen upon.

So TIG what is your answer to MB's query on the place of agency in history for the marxist historian?

My own view is that human history is 100% agency, whether it is the great men whose names blaze through ages or the small men, the unsung heroes whose names rapidly disappear with their passing, whom are the primary drivers of history, it is still all agency.

These concepts of structure are just concepts plagarised from engineers to serve as metaphors for something that does not exist. The sum of human interaction that we can call civilisation or society is really nothing like an engineered product because there is no single designer with a master plan. Consequently "structure" is an exceedingly poor metaphor for the subject matter. The concepts produced by ecologists would serve better for a metaphorical descriptor because ecologies like human civilisation are emergent phenomena being driven by innumerable different competing and collaborating willful agents.

Well that is my amateur perspective anyway.


You can't argue that human history is 100% agency because of the nature of randomness.

If you have multiple people in a community that interacts over time, you have to account for how those people don't know each other's intentions, styles, strategies, etc. in advance of experience. As individuals, they might be able to imagine how to get things done when they act, but the question is about how they interact, not how they act. Multiple sides are trying to "feel each other out" and gamble on what each other's intentions are. Some people behave aggressively. Others assertively. Others are reserved. Some are passive. Some cooperate. Others compete. The list goes on and on.

History is about how these styles come together.
Last edited by Dubayoo on 11 Feb 2017 14:43, edited 1 time in total.
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By One Degree
#14774846
Dubayoo wrote:The issue with the Great Man Thesis is it ignores how people can only become great men if others let them achieve what they will. You can have multiple people who each have equal ambition, drive, talent, etc., but if one is surrounded by others who interfere destructively while the other isn't surrounded by them (or if one is surrounded by others who interfere constructively while the other isn't), then you'll end up with two different results.

Likewise, striking fire only matters if others pick up the banner. You can strike fire, but if others don't care to acknowledge what you struck, then you won't change history. Sometimes, it takes a lot of people to strike fire before it gets acknowledged.

Then, you have times when fire is struck relentlessly, but you live in a stubborn community that won't care no matter what because it's content living in darkness.

It's times like that when you really wonder if people like Stalin and Mao were really bad. Yea, they might have killed millions of people, but if you kill millions who don't appreciate greatness, then is it really so bad? Granted you might argue that all those millions weren't given due process to judge their character appropriately, but then the issue isn't what they did. It's why and how they did it.


Part of being a 'Great Man' is the ability to disregard what others think of you. The average person is kept down by the people closest to them. We don't like to see those we know as special. This is why many great men have terrible personal lives IMO. You must distance yourself from those closest to you to achieve greatness.
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By Dubayoo
#14774848
Sorry about the edit there.

In any case, it doesn't matter if you disregard what others think of you. I'm not talking about internal psychological intimidation. I'm talking about people's reputation in society.

For example, consider how you have to put references down on your resume when applying for a job.
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By One Degree
#14774852
Dubayoo wrote:Sorry about the edit there.

In any case, it doesn't matter if you disregard what others think of you. I'm not talking about internal psychological intimidation. I'm talking about people's reputation in society.

For example, consider how you have to put references down on your resume when applying for a job.


Yes, reading the edit helped. Defining what a 'great man' is might be part of my misunderstanding. I understand your arguments as applying to rising in the hierarchy. I am not sure this is the same thing as what makes a great man, depending upon how we define him.
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By Dubayoo
#14774859
Well it's the same thing really. Everyone from Thomas Edison to Julius Caesar had to start somewhere and continued rising in the ranks before reaching their pinnacle of greatness. Even if you want to consider the inheritance of dynasty, previous generations had to discover compatibility and socialize their way to the top among others with compatible styles.

Greatness does not happen in a moment even if history records it as happening in a moment. There is a gigantic narrative behind the scenes that often doesn't get written in the history books. Historians highlight the events that matter to account for their readers' limited attention spans whether it's because readers are busy or because they're not that bright. Even biographies that talk about people's lives only highlight specific events. They don't dig into the depths of people's states of mind or the states of mind in those who surround people.

That said, perhaps that's because people who read history tend to have a sense of fantastic romance. They want to interpret Great People to be who they want them to be. They look at the facts, believe some personality is blatantly obvious, and go with it.
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By SolarCross
#14775086
Dubayoo wrote:The issue with the Great Man Thesis is it ignores how people can only become great men if others let them achieve what they will. You can have multiple people who each have equal ambition, drive, talent, etc., but if one is surrounded by others who interfere destructively while the other isn't surrounded by them (or if one is surrounded by others who interfere constructively while the other isn't), then you'll end up with two different results.

A real great man would surely not flinch in destroying or otherwise neutralising those that blocked his will, or if defeated anyway find a way to make the defeat work for them. Great Men are winners not whiners.

This is hardly the issue with the Great Man thesis. Clearly the main issue is the unknown extent in which the Great man is being given credit for the achievements of all the nameless sub-great men involved with whom the historians can't be bothered to mention. We hear Napoleon won the battle of Austerlitz but of course he was not alone in that battle he had thousands of soldiers and officers helping him, do they not deserve some credit?
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By Dubayoo
#14775606
Even Superman isn't a god. The immense aren't invulnerable.

On top of that, the strong are often sabotaged in the process of development. You can be the most dedicated person in the world and still fail because others get at you before you actualize your potential. Actually, the argument you've used there is often taken as an excuse by saboteurs who would rather tear you down before building themselves up.

If anything, those who go down in history as Great People are the lucky ones who weren't targeted by others. Often, they are the second best because predators want to prevent the best from becoming what they can become. Part of maturity is realizing how your will only goes so far. Those with the most will power often don't lead because others with less will are inhibited less.

Put simply, 10-5<6. Also, 10<5+6.

On the side, this is the main problem with Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, etc. today. For all they clamor about personal responsibility, they fail to hold people responsible for their actions. They have become strictly business to the point of being hypercompetitive while forsakening the rule of law and order. Calling people whiners because they're frustrated by others who cheat doesn't make the world a better place. Likewise, for all they used to appreciate the difference between equality of opportunity versus equality of outcome, they don't care about equal opportunity anymore.
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By MB.
#14778502
Wellsy wrote:Within Feliks outline there is a strong emphasis on the social nature of human consciousness, which hints at the material basis of our thinking. That we aren't imbued with knowledge from some metaphysical deity nor are things somewhere to be found in the brain from conception. But human's nature and his consciousness is a social process, one of activity with the world, one in which he inherits the history of humanity into his particular self objectified in the form of buildings, technology, and the writing that disposes acquired knowledge upon him.


See here is where I see a highly ideologically driven assumption that is not actually true. It is necessary for the Marxist historical ethos to believe that humans are indeed Russeau-like blank slates upon which all their values are culturally generated through socialization and therefore the social structure of the society is more relevant than the human individual itself.

This is, of course, not true. The latest science is that the nature/nurture debate is about 50-50 with genetics playing a significant role that may not be convenient to accept for ideologues who want to believe that human identity is completely determined by socialization.

The obvious followup question is about the formalization of the structure itself: how did it emerge if not through human agency? Addressing this very concern, Wellsy goes on to write,

Wellsy wrote:That it does seem hard to quantify the influence and impact of Lenin, because in trying to isolate a thing one can end up going through all of history to many threads of factors that can all be considered to have played a part in the causality of things that lead to his place in history and outcomes of his actions. It just puts ones head in a whirl trying to grasp reality and its motion of everything and consider the effects of that motion. Because Lenins actions have real world effects just like anyones actions can have effects to certain degrees, where some actions play pivotal parts at what seem like pivotal events. To which I suppose someone like Lenin if we consider them free by Engels definition was able to be more active an agent in some ways, but then even those that might be seen as unconscious still have effects upon the world but they don't navigate it with the awareness of someone like Lenin. But then even someone who doesn't have a great grasp of things can react to things and cause significant change in what ever grasp they have of their situation, which can effect others and cause them to play a part. So an individual can be the small initial reaction that causes a cascade because somehow the conditions are ripe and so the cascade means that no individual is solely responsible for simply being the first in the reaction. Though this again sounds like mechanistic materialism and talking about a chemical reaction. To which I think of Billy Joel, We didn't start the fire, it was always burning since the world's been turning. Reality came into existence somehow and we ponder a beginning, but regardless its being put into motion and the particulars are many and complicated.


That sensibility you describe is an illusion (reduction) caused by our limited understanding, to be sure, and the true situation is that the social structure interacts with the agent in a reciprocal relation, as I think you'd agree. I think Stirner would argue here that the structure is a "ghost" that functions in the mind of the agent and reproduces itself in that sense- like the meme described by biologist Richard Dawkins.

Wellsy wrote:And so things like social relations which aren't empirical entities are just as concrete as objects themselves because they are features of the objective world. And thus there are many things that are in a sense very concrete and real and can be considered objective as existing external to the human mind, but in another sense exist only because we categorize it. That the idea of male and female is such a category, its how we've chosed to categorize our biology based on certain appearances, but without a human to categorize them due to consciousness there is no male and female as a concept, though the biological reality still objectively exists.


Seems that the dialectic undermines the monad at the metaphysical level- no wonder Marxism was unpopular with the clergy!

Wellsy wrote:To which I imagine he takes the same position that agency is simply the will of individuals and where they get shape that will is tied to their position in society and the forces that act on them within that position.


Sounds an awful lot like my conception of bounded agency, vis-a-vis bounded rationality.

TIG wrote:I favor toward structure because I think that the best ideas and the most powerful tyrant can be a rural barrister or artillary officer and remain that way if history provides no structure for them to do more.


But this is irrational because it suggests "history" is a thing with its own conscious agency, which of course it is not.

Potemkin wrote:The individual is inconceivable without being situated in a social context; after all, most people's ideas and beliefs are not their own but have been inculcated into them by society


But what defines the individual? Their particular atomic structure and genetic composition, or the ideas they believe in? By your definition of individualism here, social structure predated the individual and in-fact created the individual. In the modern sense of things there is some truth to this, of course, but in the paleolithic age, for example, it would be nonsense.

Potemkin wrote:the concept of an autonomous individual who can be mentally abstracted from his or her social and material environment. Such an abstracted person is, of course, an illusion


I think you are wrong, Potemkin. (Besides denying ego transcendence); You seem to want to have your cake and eat it here: If the social and material environment + the individual = the totality of human experience, then why do we need the social in the "structure" here at all? Could we not simply state that the individual is by definition a material construct, and the society, composed of individuals, is therefore a reflection of the material world? Why do you need to evoke the "ghost" of the social structure at all, when you admit that the material reality is the totality?
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By Wellsy
#14778558
EDIT: I know wish I had read more of Spirkin as I think he helps summarize things in 'Chapter 5. On the Human Being and Being Human'.
Where he explicitly states that the human being isn't a tabula rasa, but does speak to the social nature of humans where our nature isn't merely that of an animal but something that interacts with humanity's history of creation.
So skip my nonsense, he says much more clearly what I had hoped to get at. I'm really only doing a poor job of trying to regurgitate ideas such as his. Though I came to similar conclusions through other works when trying to understand dialectical materialism.

MB. wrote:See here is where I see a highly ideologically driven assumption that is not actually true. It is necessary for the Marxist historical ethos to believe that humans are indeed Russeau-like blank slates upon which all their values are culturally generated through socialization and therefore the social structure of the society is more relevant than the human individual itself.

This is, of course, not true. The latest science is that the nature/nurture debate is about 50-50 with genetics playing a significant role that may not be convenient to accept for ideologues who want to believe that human identity is completely determined by socialization.

I'm relucant to answer because this is a huge topic that I haven't immersed myself in to be able to boil it down to the crux of the matter (not that I'm any good at that anyway). But I will assert that whilst I am not some Marxian expert, I think to characterize the Marxist view point as positing a blank slate would be incorrect, even if without getting into specifics.

And it's incredibly difficult for me with such a poor grasp of the subject to try and quickly and clearly explain where I believe the differences of perspectives comes from.
I'm not sure what your worldview is, but I think it'll help my train of thought to begin from a point that I see as fundamental to many problems. One of unbridgeable dualities based within the limitations of Aristotelian logic, the most pivotal of which that I suspect is the fragmentation of man as clearly illustrated in Cartesian dualism.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/ilyenkov/works/essays/essay2.htm
We formulated this problem in the preceding essay. Spinoza found a very simple solution to it, brilliant in its simplicity for our day as well as his: the problem is insoluble only because it has been wrongly posed. There is no need to rack one’s brains over how the Lord God ‘unites’ ‘soul’ (thought) and ‘body’ in one complex, represented initially (and by definition) as different and even contrary principles allegedly existing separately from each other before the ‘act’ of this ‘uniting’ (and thus, also being able to exist after their ‘separation’; which is only another formulation of the thesis of the immortality of the soul, one of the cornerstones of Christian theology and ethics). In fact, there simply is no such situation; and therefore there is also no problem of ‘uniting’ or ‘co-ordination’.

There are not two different and originally contrary objects of investigation body and thought, but only one single object, which is the thinking body of living, real man (or other analogous being, if such exists anywhere in the Universe), only considered from two different and even opposing aspects or points of view. Living, real thinking man, the sole thinking body with which we are acquainted, does not consist of two Cartesian halves ‘thought lacking a body’ and a ‘body lacking thought’. In relation to real man both the one and the other are equally fallacious abstractions, and one cannot in the end model a real thinking man from two equally fallacious abstractions.

The body lacking thought is what one inevitably arrives at with mechanical materialism. And even within the whole nature nurture thing, mechanical materialists, even whilst allowing for environmental influences still try and present the human subject like a machine with hardware and software. But their philosophical view is incapable of capturing the consciousness that we intuitively believe exists within ourselves and is captured within idealism. This is the background that seems pivotal to a lot of misunderstandings. That Marxists want to blend dualities, not posit them as ontologically separate or start from an ontology that assumes their separation and then wonder why can't bridge the gap.

Now, to further clarify that Marxism doesn't entail no essential human nature, I think this will be illuminating.
this summary of Marx's conception of human nature by Erich Fromm.
Of course, Marx was never tempted to assume that "human nature" was identical with that particular expression of human nature prevalent in his own society. In arguing against Bentham, Marx said: "To know what is useful for a dog, one must study dog nature. This nature itself is not to be deduced from the principle of utility. Applying this to man, he that would criticize all human acts, movements, relations, etc., by the principle of utility, must first deal with human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch." [22] It must be noted that this concept of human nature is not, for Marx -- as it was not either for Hegel -an abstraction. It is the essence of man -- in contrast to the various forms of his historical existence -- and, as Marx said, "the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each separate individual." [23] It must also be stated that this sentence from Capital, written by the "old Marx," shows the continuity of the concept of man's essence ( Wesen) which the young Marx wrote about in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts. He no longer used the term "essence" later on, as being abstract and unhistorical, but he clearly retained the notion of this essence in a more historical version, in the differentiation between "human nature in general" and "human nature as modified" with each historical period.

In line with this distinction between a general human nature and the specific expression of human nature in each culture, Marx distinguishes, as we have already mentioned above, two types of human drives and appetites: the constant or fixed ones, such as hunger and the sexual urge, which are an integral part of human nature, and which can be changed only in their form and the direction they take in various cultures, and the "relative" appetites, which are not an integral part of human nature but which "owe their origin to certain social structures and certain conditions of production and communication." [24] Marx gives as an example the needs produced by the capitalistic structure of society. "The need for money," he wrote in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts, "is therefore the real need created by the modern economy, and the only need which it creates.... This is shown subjectively, partly in the fact that the expansion of production and of needs becomes an ingenious and always calculating subservience to inhuman, depraved, unnatural, and imaginary appetites." [25]

Man's potential, for Marx, is a given potential; man is, as it were, the human raw material which, as such, cannot be changed, just as the brain structure has remained the same since the dawn of history. Yet, man does change in the course of history; he develops himself; he transforms himself, he is the product of history; since he makes his history, he is his own product. History is the history of man's self-realization; it is nothing but the self-creation of man through the process of his work and his production: "the whole of what is called world history is nothing but the creation of man by human labor, and the emergence of nature for man; he therefore has the evident and irrefutable proof of his self-creation, of his own origins." [26]


When it comes to human nature in general, there are things that are quite intuitive about the nature of humans. A drive for sex, food, shelter and the basic needs that we held as humans since our ancestors. Human nature modified are the things that become needs as society itself develops, money becomes a need within the context of capitalism, it isn't a need that exists inherently within us. We weren't born with some need of money, but it becomes a need because it satisfies the same drives as mediated in the modern context.
But I don't believe these two can be separated for the majority of us, one can not find some isolated human nature in general from the social world. As the only person who is merely their drives (human nature in general) would be the animalistic feral child. But we aren't merely animals, we have consciousness, thought.
Spoiler: show
https://www.marxists.org/archive/mikhailov/works/riddle/riddle3b.htm
Academician N. P. Dubinin writes: “The possibilities of human cultural growth are endless. This growth is not imprinted in the genes. It is quite obvious that if the children of contemporary parents were deprived from birth of the conditions of contemporary culture, they would remain at the level of our most remote ancestors who lived tens of thousands of years ago. Whereas the children of such “primitive people” placed in the conditions of contemporary culture would rise to the heights of contemporary man.” [2]

https://www.marxists.org/archive/mikhailov/works/riddle/riddle3a.htm
From this standpoint the attempts to discover the specific nature of man’s inner world by analysing the physiological peculiarities of the sense organs and the brain are no more than relies of the anthropological interpretation of the human essence. And this being so, it is quite logical first to acknowledge the community of the natural, sensuous means of reflection in animal and man, and then introduce a highly important addition – the second signal system, language as a social phenomenon.

No one contests the fact that man inherited the means of sensuous perception from his animal ancestors. But the animal’s individual behaviour, its selective attitude to the objects of the external world are somehow predetermined by the sum total of biological needs peculiar to its species. The animal sees in the world around him only that which it needs to see, its perception is prepared by the evolution of the species and is, as it were, expected by the organism. “. . If an animal has no instinctive attitude to a given thing ... and the given thing is not related to the realisation of this attitude, then the thing itself virtually does not exist for that animal.” But an animal does see things that don’t exist for it. Yes, but how! Take Leontyev’s very apt analogy explaining how things and phenomena that have on direct biological significance exist for an animal: “You are walking along the street, absorbed in your own thoughts, you see houses, cars, you stop at crossings, you wait for the traffic lights to turn green. All this happens automatically, unconsciously or, as some people say, subconsciously, because your mind is occupied with your own thoughts. This is approximately how the animal sees the surrounding world, but with the one essential difference that it is not absorbed in its own thoughts, because it has none.

“Now let us take the analogy a stage further. You are in a hurry to cross the street, but are compelled to stop to let the traffic go by. If you are thinking of something else, you will look upon the traffic merely as a nuisance and not consider whether a bus or trolleybus, a car or a lorry is going past, and certainly not what make of car it is. According to the eminent German psychologist Jakob Uexküll this is precisely how the animal perceives its environment.” [Leontyev]

So the “sensuous stage” that we have in common with the animals cannot, in principle, provide a basis for conceptual generalisation. One can only pity the person who has to be content with such knowledge. In fact, this can only happen to a person who grows up, is brought up outside society. But such cases merely confirm the fact that the biological means of sensuous contact with the environment that we have inherited from our animal ancestor are not in themselves capable of any cognition unless they are guided by the socio-historical experience of generations.


Thus we aren't simply our drives/human nature in general. These drives are mediated through social forms, and those social forms are derived from society which is organized around the means of production that have been developed from humanity's labour to satisfy his needs from early on in human history.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/mikhailov/works/riddle/riddle3a.htm
Spoiler: show
We shall begin with the “moment” when the biological means of life-activity were finally deprived of their direct adaptive function and became, in a modified form, a natural “mechanism” of people’s social activity. In the formulation given by Marx and Engels this “moment” is described as the “first historical act”. The passage runs as follows: “But life involves before everything else eating and drinking, housing, clothing and various other things. The first historical act is thus the production of the means to satisfy these needs, the production of material life itself.” And this production is “. . an historical act, a fundamental condition of all history, which today as thousands of years ago, must daily and hourly be fulfilled merely in order to sustain human life.”

Production of the means of sustaining life is both the first historical act and a “fundamental relation” repeated billions of times throughout history and containing the fundamental (universal) contradiction of this act: “. . The satisfaction of the first need, the action of satisfying and the instrument of satisfaction which has been acquired, leads to new needs; and this creation of new needs is the first historical act.”

Consequently, in the process of production people acquire new needs, new abilities and the instruments for their satisfaction, that is to say, man takes shape mentally and physically along with all the social means of his life-sustaining activity. His ability to set himself aims, his ability to think, is also perfected, as are the instruments of this ability, from means of communication to the bodily organs (for instance, what A. N. Leontyev calls the functional organs of the brain).

It is from society that man has been able to develop so effectively, that in a sense that much that exists within men isn't something essential within his biology but outside him and only within him in his capacity to take it within his consciousness. In this sense, perhaps this is the blank slate that you criticize. It's unclear what you reject, whether one is of the position that language already exists within man. But I don't know what anyone would then make of the feral child or the cases of abused children who missed the opportunity to engage in the social interaction to learn a language. That here we can acknowledge man's innate capacity to learn language (within early years of development) but note that the language isn't within man himself. The language one learns exists within the person at the level of their consciousness, which is something distinct from the process that allows them to realized that capacity.

And whilst there remains things like the essential drives such as a desire for food or sex, how it expresses itself doesn't essentially exist within the person, in that their means to meet that needs is socially mediated. Man is neither purely his consciousness and rational, nor is he simply his base desires, his consciousness and unconscious relate to one anther.
And this is where a lot of modern day thinkers end up with all sorts of nonsensical investigations in the desire to find the particular gene or psychological mechanism for people's capacity to do something. They have to clarify that there are things that one simply won't find within a person's biology, because it's within the mind and that mind is developed in conjunction with others.
But this gets into some serious debates about the way people conceptualize the human, in part because many things within us are in the subjectivity and aren't specific parts or pieces in our body that designate a specific function. Perhaps one can find the parts of the brain that correlate with certain consious processes, but one doesn't find language.

Here we can get into the debates within sociobiology and evolutionary psychology, which originated from sociobiology, but put an emphasis on psychological mechanisms instead of overt behavior.
Sociobiology I characterize in a very crude manner as being behaviourism with an evolutionary twist. One observes overt behaviours and then begins to speculate to something innate within the person due to our evolutionary origins. But many behaviours aren't so much as something within ourselves but as mediated through our material and social conditions. That one has certain needs but one has to adapt to one's reality in order to satisfy that need.
https://www.marxists.org/archive/vygotsky/works/comment/vygotsk1.htm
Piaget bases his theory on what are supposed in psychoanalytical theory as two opposite forms of thought determination - the “pleasurre principle” and the “reality principle”. Vygotsky deals with this irrefutably and in true Hegelian style:

“the drive for satisfaction of needs and the drive for adaptation to reality cannot be considered separate from and opposed to one another. A need can be truly satisfied only through a certain adaptation to reality. Moreover, there is no such thing as adaptation for the sake of adaptation; it is always directed by needs”. [Thought and Language, Chapter 2]


So remember the drives and desires that are considered as human nature in general, the means to satisfy that desire is different for a woman who is upper class in a industrialized country like the US than it would be for a lower class woman or a woman in a different mode of production/economic development. Their position within a particular set of conditions would alter the way they behave whilst they'd all have the same human nature. So for example, we see women cheat more when they are powerful, something that wouldn't be realized prior to women obtaining power and a better position in a society. So if one universalized women's essential nature prior to post industrialization and improvement of women's rights, one would might try to find women's nature for monogamy which isn't something simply stuck within them but originates in the relation between them as humans and the world around them.
So for example we can consider a biological fact of women's ability to get pregnant and showing how that mediated by social relations and technologies, we can see changes in the trends in women's sexual behaviour without positing that behaviour as explained by some yet to be identified genetics. Because it is in her consciousness she is able to comprehend her reality and make decisions on how to act based on that understanding.
Evolutionary Psychologist try to posit particular psychological mechanisms, but there's a lot of debate around that because their conception of the brain is likely not sound. As they hope to find some particular part of the brain or process so that one can correlate mental states to some material mapping of the brain. But things seem to move away from the idea that discrete regions of the brain do any particular task but our mental life is non-localizable.
Here's a quote that I particularly like in trying to understand why attempts to find something so specific seem ill suited to understanding humans. It helps capture why evo. psychs. aren't likely to find any specific psychological mechanism and need to be broader when trying to conceptualize what is essential about human psychology.
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evolutionary-psychology/#MasModHyp
The second type of argument is one side of a perennial debate in the philosophy of cognitive science. Fodor (2000, 68) takes this argument to rest on the unwarranted assumption that there is no domain-independent criterion of cognitive success, which he thinks requires an argument that evolutionary psychologists do not provide. Samuels (see esp. Samuels 1998) responds to evolutionary psychologists that arguments of this type do not sufficiently discriminate between a conclusion about domain specific processing mechanisms and domain specific knowledge or information. Samuels articulates what he calls the “library model of cognition” in which there is domain specific information or knowledge but domain general processing. The library model of cognition is not massively modular in the relevant sense but type two arguments support it. According to Samuels, evolutionary psychologists need something more than this type of argument to warrant their specific kind of conclusion about massive modularity. Buller (2005) introduces further worries for this type of argument by tackling the assumption that there can be no such thing as a domain general problem solving mechanism. Buller worries that in their attempt to support this claim, evolutionary psychologists fail to adequately characterize a domain general problem solver. For example, they fail to distinguish between a domain general problem solver and a domain specific problem solver that is over generalized. He offers the example of social learning as a domain general mechanism that would produce domain specific solutions to problems. He uses a nice biological analogy to drive this point home: the immune system is a domain general system in that it allows the body to respond to a wide variety of pathogens. While it is true that the immune system produces domain specific responses to pathogens in the form of specific antibodies, the antibodies are produced by one domain general system. These and many other respondents conclude that type two arguments do not adequately support the massive modularity thesis.


And there are debates around the methodology as well, because it's dubious how one can accurately posit something as an evolutionary adaption innate to human beings and isn't something simply the product of one's interaction with the world.
http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/ldc/GrayEP.pdf
Spoiler: show
Evidence for a modular evolutionary adaptation?
The saga of cheater detection contains another cautionary tale for Evolutionary Psychology. Essential to the design of the mind is the ability to create new cognitive processes in response to the environment within one’s lifespan. In situations where the same environmental pressures that allegedly shaped a module to suit life on the savannah are still active today (as they are with cheater detection), much more stress needs to be placed on proving that the resulting cognition cannot be the product of the flexible mind. Cosmides and her supporters present two arguments in support of the notion that cheater detection is a specifically evolved characteristic rather than a product of learning. First, they claim that evolved modules function independently of general processing, are automatic, generally opaque to awareness, and domain specific. Second, they argue that evolved modules are common to humankind and found across cultures (Cosmides & Tooby, 1997). The implication that learning (or broader experiential effects) cannot produce similar outcomes is spurious.

A classic example of the distinction between implicit and explicit cognitive function is to ask bicycle riders what they would do if their bike started tilting to one side. Many bikers respond that they would lean to the other side to right themselves. This is incorrect and would result in the person falling off the bike every few meters. Surprisingly, people seem to be quite capable of riding over long distances with no mishap. When placed on a bike, if it starts to tilt, people turn the handlebars, using their momentum to right their center of gravity, avoiding the fall. This function is independent of general processing, exists without awareness, and is specific to the bike-riding domain. So do we have an evolved bike-riding module? The answer is obviously no. Obvious because there is an apparent learning phase to bike riding where people do fall off every few meters (and, yes, because of the paucity of bicycles in the Pleistocene). In an area where the learning phase is less apparent, and the Pleistocene pressure more plausible, such “modules,” created by the most fundamental of learning processes, can readily but incorrectly be heralded as evolved traits.

Cosmides and Tooby’s second method of inferring adaptation is equally problematic. Just because a behavioral trait is found across cultures does not necessarily mean it is a product of adaptive evolution. Comparative psychologists have emphasized for decades that species-specific behaviors can arise through species-specific patterns of experience (Gray, 2001; Gottlieb, 1976; Lerhman, 1970). People the world over eat soup out of a bowl and not off of a plate. Gravity acts the whole world over and people adjust their behavior in light of this. The whole world over there is a benefit to cheating (providing you don’t get caught) and a benefit to being able to know when you’re being cheated. The fact that cheater detection is crosscultural does not automatically mean it is an evolutionary adaptation.

And this is the gap where people take a leap of faith from observing trends and asserting an essential nature of people based on those observations, but what we observed isn't necessary the result of nature, but people's interaction with their environment.
p. 9
Spoiler: show
Consider another example showing how beliefs about sex differences cloud people's analytical vision. How often have we heard question like: will women who enter high-status jobs or political positions end up looking like men or will the result of their entry be a change in the way business and politics is conducted? Implicit in this question are a set of strong assumptions: men have essential personality characteristics and cultural orientations that have shaped the terrain of high status jobs and women have different essential personality characteristics and cultural orientations. The conclusion is that and women's entry into these positions unleashes a conflict between their feminine essence and the dominant masculine essence that has shaped the positions. Either the positions must change to adapt to women's distinctive characteristics or the women must become masculine. (It is perhaps telling that those who raise this issue usually seem concerned only with women entering high-status positions; it is unclear if women becoming factory workers are believed immune or unimportant.) The analytical flaw here i assuming that masculinity has shaped the character of jobs rather than that jobs have shaped masculinity. In her well-known book Men and Women of the Corporation, Rosabeth Kanter argued persuasively that the personality characteristics associated with male and female corporate employees really reflected the contours of their positions. The implication is simple and straightforward. Women who enter high-status positions will look about the same as men in those positions not because they are becoming masculine, but because they're adapting to the demands and opportunities of the position, just like men.

p. 42
Many authors have suggested that feminine personality characteristics (including a lack of drive) explain women's lack of success in climbing corporate ladders. Kantor has persuasively argued that these characteristics are really a direct result of structural conditions. Men placed in positions with no opportunities for advancement and with no effective power show the same personality and behavior characteristics as women in such positions. In the past, however, all women were condemned to occupy the positions without futures. Only men could realistically aspire to rise. Therefore we have good evidence that inequality produces differential motives to dominate weighed against no evidence of any inherent sexual difference in such motives


And this isn't to say that humans are purely determined by their structures, because again this would be working from the mechanical materialist view point which tends to treat 'nurture' as coming about as change in a passive biological form. Where the only way they can conceptualize change as a person's biology changing due to environmental pressures. What they can't explain and is outside the purview of their methodology and it seems their very philosophical view of the world (shift from certain assumptions for methodological sake to ontological positions), is the consciousness of the human subject. That Marxism isn't so one sided, it acknowledges the human consciousness that can't be examined by mechanical materialism. Which many materialists try to struggle against, not realizing that they often reduce consciousness to the mechanical processes and have to be slapped about.
https://arigiddesignator.wordpress.com/2011/02/17/kripkes-refutation-of-identity-theory/
Kripke’s argument simply establishes that mental states are not identical to brain states. It still is possible that they be correlated, maybe even concomitant phenomena. Materialists do not like this because they want to explain the mind with only reference to physical facts. As Searle points out, “[this argument] is essentially the commonsense objection in a sophisticated guise” (39, Rediscovery). The commonsense objection is that pains and brain processes are simply two different kinds of things.

And without going into detail as would probably be preferable, Marxism is a ontological position between mechanical materialism and forms of idealism in which again I blast more reading material as I think this is still a very light read for an introduction to what's going on. And I'm basically running out of steam.

But if recall the quote that man is neither a body without thought (mechanistic materialism), nor thought without a body (metaphysical self/idealism), then should see that Marxism's dialectical materialism rejects these one sided fragmented half truths and considers them as a whole within man himself. And it's within consciousness, which is social in nature as it is developed in relation to the society. Is something entirely untouched by the mechanical materialist perspective which can only hope to describe material processes, and often does a insufficient job trying to relate mind and matter. It's because it can't touch human consciousness that it repetitively tries to posit it's existence in some specific form in the body. It would ease their worldview to find the genetic coding that pre-determines us to a particular end like finding the right hardware and software in a robot that makes it do a particular action. Because they don't accept a degree of agency within humans based on our consciousness, idealism is the position that acknowledges such agency, though it posits it in some metaphysical realm.

And within our consciousness is our rational nature, the one that separates us from animals, but our unconscious (animal/human nature in general) exists in our unconscious drives and they work they mediate one another within our selves. Thoughts can precede feelings and feelings precede thoughts, the two are inseparable though when considering man as he is. And within this relation man is driven to act upon the world not only to satisfy his base desires but because he has a rational consciousness and society has developed itself through economic development, he doesn't act like an animal without any social sense. He has to mediate his desires and drives through the standards of society, he can't steal food, he has to buy it, he can't rape a woman, he has to seduce her.

And here we could get more into Hegel's perspectivethat transcends British empiricism where he resolves the combination of appearance/form and meaning/essence.
Where man doesn't simply see a sensuous world (empiricism) but he cognizes it and conceptualizes it in to parts and pieces (individuation) and holds it within his consciousness (rationalism). And for Marxists, it is through our actions, our social relations that any given thing has a particular meaning. This stuff is laid out in the previous page I guess. But here is the point that our consciousness, subjectivity is immersed in a sort of social culture, this is what the broadest form of ideology is, we're immersed in a sort of social meaning of things based on the relations of a society. And so our consciousness/subjectivity originates from outside us in a sense, though of course our material being is what gives us the capacity for all of this, we're not metaphysical souls. That it seems for Marxists' thought isn't simply language, it's a sort of consciousness that is derived through the process of interacting with the world, that men combines the appearance and essence of things within himself in conjunction with social relations organized by a mode of production. You don't merely put a label to water from the sky and call it rain though the sign itself is arbitrary, but rain derives its meaning from one's real world relations to it. A person who hadn't experienced what we call rain couldn't understand what one means when one says rain. Because the word without the content of what rain actually is sensuously, means nothing.

So perhaps this helps to frame what kind of nature Marxist's see :\
Pretty crude, but I think it might help to show how there are things that exists outside us that we take into our consciousness that we couldn't have if they weren't objectively there in society. And I think I might've been repetitive in trying to simply say that the the materialist position found within most people's thought lends itself to being unable to consider subjectivity. In their inability they try to explain it through genetics or some psychological mechanisms that determines that behaviour. But our consciousness is more complicated and we're able to mix our core desires and drives with the reasoning of our consciousness to satisfy them within socially tolerable standards.

The obvious followup question is about the formalization of the structure itself: how did it emerge if not through human agency? Addressing this very concern, Wellsy goes on to write,

That sensibility you describe is an illusion (reduction) caused by our limited understanding, to be sure, and the true situation is that the social structure interacts with the agent in a reciprocal relation, as I think you'd agree. I think Stirner would argue here that the structure is a "ghost" that functions in the mind of the agent and reproduces itself in that sense- like the meme described by biologist Richard Dawkins.

Indeed, reciprocal, that reality is complex and can't adequately be expressed through linear thought. Rather it's a non-linear system of which we can approximate probabilities based on the limitations of a thing under examination.


As an extra, I think I've found a nice quote for this subject recently in trying to look into human nature that captures the point you make about things emerging from human agency in a nice analogy.
https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/spirkin/works/dialectical-materialism/ch05-s04.html
Spoiler: show
The unity of man and society. A person's whole intellectual make-up bears the clear imprint of the life of society as a whole. All his practical activities are individual expressions of the historically formed social practice of humanity. The implements that he uses have in their form a function evolved by a society which predetermines the ways of using them. When tackling any job, we all have to take into account what has already been achieved before us.

The wealth and complexity of the individual's social content are conditioned by the diversity of his links with the social whole, the degree to which the various spheres of the life of society have been assimilated and refracted in his consciousness and activity. This is why the level of individual development is an indicator of the level of development of society, and vice versa. But the individual does not dissolve into society. He retains his unique and independent individuality and makes his contribution to the social whole: just as society itself shapes human beings, so human beings shape society.

The individual is a link in the chain of the generations. His affairs are regulated not only by himself, but also by the social standards, by the collective reason or mind. The true token of individuality is the degree to which a certain individual in certain specific historical conditions has absorbed the essence of the society in which he lives.

Consider, for instance, the following historical fact. Who or what would Napoleon Bonaparte have been if there had been no French Revolution? It is difficult or perhaps even impossible to reply to this question. But one thing is quite clear—he would never have become a great general and certainly not an emperor. He himself was well aware of his debt and in his declining years said, "My son cannot replace me. I could not replace myself. I am the creature of circumstances."[1] It has long been acknowledged that great epochs give birth to great men. What tribunes of the people were lifted by the tide of events of the French Revolution— Mirabeau, Marat, Robespierre, Danton. What young, some times even youthful talents that had remained dormant among the people were raised to the heights of revolutionary, military, and organisational activity by the Great October Socialist Revolution.

It is sometimes said that society carries the individual as a river carries a boat. This is a pleasant simile, but not exact. An individual does not float with the river; he is the turbulently flowing river itself. The events of social life do not come about by themselves; they are made. The great and small paths of the laws of history are blazed by human effort and often at the expense of human blood. The laws of history are not charted in advance by superhuman forces; they are made by people, who then submit to their authority as something that is above the individual.


The key to the mysteries of human nature is to be found in society. Society is the human being in his social relations, and every human being is an individual embodiment of social relations, a product not only of the existing social system but of all world history. He absorbs what has been accumulated by the centuries and passed on through traditions. Modern man carries within himself all the ages of history and all his own individual ages as well. His personality is a concentration of various strata of culture. He is influenced not only by modern mass media, but also by the writings of all times and every nation. He is the living memory of history, the focus of all the wealth of knowledge, abilities, skills, and wisdom that have been amassed through the ages.

Man is a kind of super-dense living atom in the system of social reality. He is a concentration of the actively creative principle in this system. Through myriads of visible and invisible impulses the fruit of people's creative thought in the past continues to nourish him and, through him, contemporary culture.

Sometimes the relation between man and society is interpreted in such a way that the latter seems to be something that goes on around a person, something in which he is immersed. But this is a fundamentally wrong approach. Society does, of course, exist outside the individual as a kind of social environment in the form of a historically shaped system of relations with rich material and spiritual culture that is independent of his will and consciousness. The individual floats in this environment all his life. But society also exists in the individual himself and could not exist at all, apart from the real activity of its members. History in itself does nothing. Society possesses no wealth whatever. It fights no battles. It grows no grain. It produces no tools for making things or weapons for destroying them. It is not society as such but man who does all this, who possesses it, who creates everything and fights for everything. Society is not some impersonal being that uses the individual as a means of achieving its aims. All world history is nothing but the daily activity of individuals pursuing their aims. Here we are talking not about the actions of individuals who are isolated and concerned only with themselves, but about the actions of the masses, the deeds of historical personalities and peoples. An individual developing within the framework of a social system has both a certain dependence on the whole system of social standards and an autonomy that is an absolutely necessary precondition for the life and development of the system. The measure of this personal autonomy is historically conditioned and depends on the character of the social system itself. Exceptional rigidity in a social system (fascism, for example) makes it impossible or extremely difficult for individual innovations in the form of creative activity in various spheres of life to take place, and this inevitably leads to stagnation.

I suspect it might be of interest to the OP to explore A. Spirkin's work as it seems like it might have fruitful material. I haven't read his work in any length and only stumbled upon it somehow where his piece on causality blew my mind wide open having not considered it as he expressed it yet.
Last edited by Wellsy on 21 Feb 2017 15:40, edited 3 times in total.
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By fuser
#14778577
As per nature vs nurture debate, I think there is a misconception going on in here. But first I would say that its absolutely not clear in purely scientific terms how exactly nature/nurture modifies a human behavior, the debate is still going on and there is no conclusive common ground.

But I think marxist here are talking about sociology whilst MB's point about nature/nurture is more in realm of psychology. For example, in 100 years from thinking that homosexuality is evil, women are inferior, at least the western world now hold views completely opposite to those that it held mere 100 years earlier, these dramatic changes happened because of nature i.e. changing socio-economical stances rather than any genetic mutation or manipulation.

To further add to my point, I fail to see how any one can claim that a society viewing a king to be divine or not can be genetically predisposed and in the meantime I agree with his point that genetics play an important role i.e. you can raise a child with world's greatest scientist and yet he may grow up as an imbecile with no grasp of basic sciences because of genetics, similarly a psychopathic serial killer still grow up as a psychopathic serial killer despite growing up in a serene peaceful monastery.

But then I will argue that these two things are completely different and one example cannot disprove the other.
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By Dubayoo
#14780413
The latest science in the nature/nurture debate is mostly irrelevant since many if not most people already believed that there is something innate that defines you, and that socialization is a result of how people's innate characteristics interact. People enjoy being romantic fatalists who believe their existence is guided by factors out of their control whether it's because they were chosen in life by some external force, or because they were doomed in life by some external force.

Basically, you just have a load of redundancy where people will say you're stating the obvious that they already knew.

As for ideologues, they're rather few and far between. This is the problem with academics today - they're focusing on such a slim minority in society that doesn't really matter, and they're getting run over by the majority while pretending it's not even happening. In real life, ideologues are looked upon as leftists in their pursuit of equality to overcome material constraints. Scientists get smashed by brutal hard power in the real world such that their experiments shatter in the midst of a social earthquake, and their betrayal of ideologues comes back to bite them over the long run.

This is pretty much what happened with Trump getting elected, and Trump supporters are still laughing at the left for not picking up on it. They really believe ideologues are the force that enabled him to win, but they ignore how Trump is a bully at heart who hates ideologues and so are his supporters who identify the left as being ideological(ly detached from reality).

Does agency reign supreme over structure in political debates? Yes... explicitly, but implicitly?

Implicitly, people know that structure comes first. They just encourage agency so people engage in pursuits in vain.

Oh... and there is no such thing as "our nature". Rule number one about human nature is different people are not just contextually, but structurally, different. Not only do different people have different emotions and thoughts, but different people also have different proportions of emotions to thoughts such that they might be emotionally or thoughtfully judgmental. Anyone who ever interacts in a group of people knows that negotiating your way in the group is about dealing with the different personalities people have instead of assuming everyone's the same.
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By Wellsy
#14782581
For all the the things I tried to think through I see that I don't have a satisfactory synthesis of angecy and structure, that at best I think there's good reason to infer that the two exist simultaneously but an explicit theory hasn't been illuminated.
Marx seems to likely have a synthesis in his mind but he doesn't make it explicit.
http://dostoevskiansmiles.blogspot.com.au/2009/04/on-dead-and-buried-marx-structure-and.html
However, Marx’s never formulated the problem of structure and agency in those exact terms.
...
Elsewhere, Engels confessed that he and Marx were partially to blame for the notion that historical Materialism is a form of economic reductionism. Since, Engels says, they had to over-emphasize the importance of economic determinates “vis-à-vis” their intellectual opponents who denied the significance of economic factors in history. This is a central problem in any attempt to interpret Marx’s materialist conception of history and the relative importance he placed upon structure and agency. In combing through Marx and Engels’ collected works, there are numerous exaggerated and overstated claims which are qualified at different points, but nevertheless provide the basis for misinterpretation. Althusser was not unaware of textual criticisms made of his reading of Marx, but dismissed them as vestiges of immaturity that survived after Marx’s epistemological break towards a scientific outlook.
...
The base-superstructure model is often the juncture point that Marx is declared to be an economic determinist and therefore highly weighted in favour of structural determinates over human agency. But this interpretation neglects the subtle difference between necessary and sufficient causes. The production of literature within the capitalist mode of production is not necessarily the production and expression of bourgeois ideology, but it does presuppose a level of economic surplus which allows individuals the time and means to pursue activities that don’t directly pertain to the production of the means of subsistence. In was this distinction between necessary and sufficient causation that lead Joseph A. Schumpeter to argue that the whole of Max Webber’s arguments about the elective affinity of Protestantism with Capitalism could be subsumed under Marx’s broader paradigm.


It is a shame I don't have the time to freely explore it as I'm beginning my uni year. But I have the impression that Andy Blunden might be doing something productive in his efforts to advance conceptual framework that captures both the agency of the individual but grounded in their real world context.
He seeks to do this through critiquing and trying to propose solutions to limitations of Cultural-historical Activity Theory (CHAT).
It seems that his views are detailed at length in his book 'An Interdisciplinary Theory of Activity'. I read a nice summary of his thoughts in a PDF that seems to try and boil down the book I think. Where he seems to put an emphasis on the notion of humans collaborating in projects. A nice review of his book can be found here.
I wish I could express what he details but I don't think I grasp the nuance of his points in large part because I don't know much about Activity Theory, it's history or the work of Vygotsky. But I do get the sense that his work is in the right direction of being able to consider the agency of people in relation to the world around them. So if there is some adequate solution to the duality of structure/agency, then I would recommend checking out his work and CHAT.
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By Wellsy
#14877918
Thought of this thread upon this book which suggests that as economics became an abstract field distinct from the political economy it actually created a gap for sociology. The fragmentation of them from one another, seems to be implied as creating the inherent dualities found in sociology at it's foundations. The economy as abstracted from society, and society from the economy .
http://libcom.org/files/marx,%20marginalism%20and%20modern%20sociology%20-%20clarke.pdf
p. 224-5, 231-2
Weber offered an acute, and extremely influential diagnosis of the contradictions of modernity, the only such diagnosis which stands comparison with that of Marx in recognising that the ‘substantive irrationality’ of modern society is not simply a pathological deformation of a rational normality, but is inherent in the process of ‘rationalisation’.
Weber recognised that the contradiction between the ‘formal rationality’ of modern society and its ‘substantive irrationality’ is not simply a matter of an arbitrary subjective evaluation, but is an objective feature of modern society, expressed in the conflict between systems of values, and within the individual personality, which has objective historical consequences. But unlike Marx, Weber could not get to the roots of this contradiction in the alienated forms of social labour because he saw such forms of labour as rational. Thus he remained trapped within a dualistic theory of capitalist society in which the individual subject confronts an objective social world which is indifferent to meaning and impervious to action, whose objectivity is defined functionally, in relation to ends which have become d
...
Although sociology can define its object and formulate its methodology within the framework of the theory of action, the theory of action cannot provide the ultimate foundation of sociological explanation. The theory of action abstracts the individual from the social relations within which alone she exists as a social individual. Thus a formal sociology, like that of Simmel, which seeks to explain social relations as the product of the subjective orientation of action, can never achieve such an explanation, since any such explanation presupposes a substantive context for social action which is defined by the very social relations that the reference to action purports to explain. On the other hand, the theory equally abstracts these social relations from the action of individuals, through which alone they are reproduced and transformed. The result is that a ‘structural’ sociology ends up referring the explanation of the social relations of capitalist production to the functional requirements of their own reproduction, a circularity which is only broken by the marginalist ‘naturalisation’ of capitalist social relations, as the rational expression of the natural and technological conditions of social existence.

This dilemma pervaded Weber’s sociology, but it was not of Weber’s making: it is the constitutive and irresoluble liberal dilemma on which modern sociology is based. Weber evaded rather than resolved it by limiting the scope of sociology to the interpretative understanding of concrete social situations, and representing the dilemma as the inescapable fate of humanity.

Weber’s liberal empiricism provides an attractive way out of the liberal dilemma. Weber’s methodology of the ideal type even provides a means by which sociology can aspire to a degree of generality, giving a semblance of intellectual rigour to sociological empiricism. However the methodology of the ideal-type is unable to provide any rational foundation for the generalisations which it produces, because it provides no other grounds for the abstraction on which it is based than the empathic understanding of the motivation of the hypothetical actor. While most sociologists may be content to tell plausible stories, and to give such stories a spurious scientific authority by backing them up with statistical investigations, sociology cannot be content to take its object — social relations and social institutions — as given. These social relations and social institutions have a systematic social significance that it is the task of sociology to elucidate by elaborating the systematic connections between norms, values, social relations and social institutions. To evade the liberal dilemma is not to resolve it.

The liberal dilemma lies in the contradiction between the voluntaristic theory of action, which is the necessary basis of any liberal democratic theory that believes that a legitimate social order is compatible with the freedom of the individual property owner, and the naturalistic theory of social structure which defines the objective constraints which characterise such action as social. This dilemma defines the terms within which modern sociology has developed. However, the two poles of the contrast are not independent of one another. Rather they are constituted as complementary, but mutually exclusive, perspectives on society by the ideological abstraction of the individual, on the one hand, and nature, on the other, from the historically developed social relations of capitalist production which alone mediate the relation between the individual and nature and within which alone nature and the individual exist socially. Thus modern sociology is condemned to exist within a world defined by a series of abstract dualisms which reflect the inadequacy of its foundations but which nevertheless structure sociological debate: structure–action; object–subject; positivism– humanism; holism–individualism; society–individual; explanation–understanding; order–conflict; authority–consent. Through all the twists and turns of sophisticated theoretical debate the same themes constantly recur. It would be tedious to go through every ‘original’ thinker in detail. In the next sections I can only indicate the Achilles heel of modern sociology in the broadest outlines (c.f. Clarke, 1981).

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