FOM: wider cultural significance: polylogism

Michael Zeleny zeleny at
Sun Mar 21 09:24:47 EST 1999

Stephen G Simpson <simpson at>

>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, ...

None of the above establishes the desired conclusion, that according
to Marx there are no eternal or objective truths.  The giveaway of the
contrary implication is the apodictic modality of Marx's claims to the
effect that that all *political* thought (a qualification implicit in
the context) is determined by the factors of social class, historical
dialectic, and the means of production, which suggests that the theses
in question manage to escape the pitfalls of false consciousness, as
they are spelled out in _The German Ideology_.  Moreover, Marx clearly
acknowledges in that work and elsewhere, that several of his bourgeois
predecessors such as G.W.F. Hegel, David Ricardo, and Adam Smith, have
established certain characteristic philosophical and economical truths
impartially and objectively, owing to the special circumstances that
ensured their scientific validity within, and despite the bounds of,
their bourgeois cognitive horizons.

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

Don't waste your time.  For Marx, the one true logic is his derivation
from Hegelian dialectics, whose progression of thesis, antithesis, and
synthesis takes place diachronically, and hence without violating the
synchronic logical principle of noncontradiction.  Accordingly, this
circumstance allows later-day Marxist thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre
to reconcile dialectics with formal logic by restricting the purview
of the latter to the individual time-slices within the historical
progression of the physical world.

>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.?

Admittedly , the writings of Hegelian dialecticians feature numerous
logical embarrassments, the classic instance being the counterexample
of the formula "1=1" to the law of identity, on the grounds of the
left "1" differing from the right "1" in the obvious way, as parroted
by assorted luminaries ranging from Leon Trotsky to Alfred Korzybski.
But saddling Karl Marx with a doctrine of "class-polylogism" on the
basis of Ludwig von Mises' idiotic pastiche is on par with saddling
Kurt Goedel with the belief in the inconsistency of Peano Arithmetic
on the basis of ipse dixitisms by Eduard Wette.

Cordially -- Mikhail Zeleny at * MZ at **
God: "Sum id quod sum." ** 7576 Willow Glen Road, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Descartes: "Cogito ergo sum." * 323.876.8234 (fon) * 323.876.8054 (fax)
Popeye: "Sum id quod sum et id totum est quod sum." ****
established on 2.26.1958 ** itinerant philosopher * will think for food

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