FOM: wider cultural significance: polylogism

Stephen G Simpson simpson at
Fri Mar 19 16:39:23 EST 1999

In 3 Mar 1999 15:06:18 I said

 > According to Marx, logic is conditioned by non-logical factors.  In
 > Marx's specific version of the theory, the determining factor is
 > social class.  According to Marx, there are competing logics such
 > as `bourgeois logic', `proletarian logic', etc., based on social
 > class, and the only arbiter among them is raw power or historical
 > necessity.  ...

Then Robert Black in 3 Mar 1999 21:24:13, Martin Davis in 3 Mar 1999
13:48:29, and Mic Detlefsen in 4 Mar 1999 10:49:36 challenged me to cite
chapter and verse in Marx's writings.  

Following a reference provided by von Mises, I got Marx's book `The
Poverty of Philosophy' (International Publishers, New York, 1963, 233
pages; originally published in 1847) out of the library.  Marx's
chapter on method in the metaphysics of political economy is a rabid
rant against the objectivity of reason, logic, and science in general,
with special reference to political economy.  The basic thrust is that
there are no eternal or objective truths: all scientific thought and
in particular economic thought is determined by social class,
historical dialectic, and the means of production.

  The same men who establish their social relations in conformity with
  their material productivity, produce also principles, ideas and
  categories, in conformity with their social relations.  (page 109)

  Just as the economists are the scientific representatives of the
  bourgeois class, so the Socialists and the Communists are the
  theoreticians of the proletarian class.  (page 125)
Also, from the Communist Manifesto:

  Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your
  bourgeois production and bourgeois property, ...

I haven't yet found the phrases `bourgeois logic' and `proletarian
logic' in Marx's writings, but I'll keep looking.

How is Marx's doctrine of class-polylogism relevant to f.o.m.?  Well,
not everyone will agree that there is a connection, and even I
have to admit that the connection is somewhat tenuous.  Let me have a
shot at explaining it.

Many FOMers will say that Marx's doctrine of class-polylogism doesn't
apply to mathematics and f.o.m.  Even some Marxists make a
distinction, saying that mathematics and physics are not
class-conscious although the social sciences are.  It seems to me that
this distinction goes to the issue of the unity of human knowledge and
the place of mathematics within it.

The traditional understanding of logic is that it is a common
background or framework which binds all of the special sciences
together.  Is this correct?  How then can there be class-polylogism in
some branches of science but not in others?  If there are multiple
logics in f.o.m. but these multiple logics are not determined by
social class, then what is the determining factor?  Or is there only
one logic for f.o.m.?

-- Steve

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