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August 6, 2006

Berger on philosophy

Berger argues “there has rarely been a more optimistic philosopher” than Hegel because Hegel believed in history as a positive force (38). [I might need to read him!]

Then he goes on to describe Marx’s genius, which was “to prove that this force – the force of history – was subject to man’s actions and choices” (38). [Finally – a concise, pinpoint definition of Marx’s main point!] “The always present drama in Marx’s thinking, the original opposition of his dialectics, stems from the fact that he both accepted the modern transformation of time into the supreme force, and wished to return this supremacy into the hands of man” (38).

[I read this with a flutter of panic. Have I misunderstood, still, and will this destroy the argument I began to make in my comps answer for Briankle? But I think not, because Marx in use, the discourses I’ve heard of Marx, the times and moments when the term “dialectics” or “dialectical” is used, consistently refer only to the former part of his equation. If there is an implication of “returning supremacy” to persons it is buried. And buried so deeply that no one, until Berger, of all the people I’ve had this argument with, has been able to articulate the latter empowering part of the equation. If it is so seminal, why is it not easier to say? Why are there so few examples? Which is why I argue that Bakhtin’s conception of dialogics serves better – it is premised on the future, on possibility. Dialogics acknowledges the past but does not confine itself to it. I would argue, that when Marxist dialectics is invoked as the explanation for some human success over institutionalized systems, it is coopting the more precise and more accurate conceptualization of dialogics, it is trying to colonize it and claim credit for something it has not adequately articulated. In Bakhtin's terms, dialectics ıs monologic. sigh. Do you think I will be ready for my defense?]

Berger continues: Marx’s “thought was – in all senses of the word – gigantic. The size of man – his potential, his coming power – would, Marx believed, replace the timeless” (38). [No wonder he was and is so compelling. But this message is not evident to an outsider, it has been coded within a discourse that takes it for granted. Not only coded, but I would say obscured by the very term, dialectics, clearly coming from dialect, which is a variation of a particular language, a derivative, another version of the same thing (with unique, local modifications).]

<two fish.jpg A painting of two colorful fish, displayed in a window at an angle with the sun leaving one partly in shadow

The wikipedia definition (linked above) defines dialectics as "an exchange of proposition (theses) and counter-propositions (antitheses) resulting in a synthesis of the opposing assertions, or at least a qualitative transformation in the direction of the dialogue" (emphasis added).

:-) Only a step in the direction of dialogics - which puts logics into a process of exchange, not just ideas.

Posted by Steph at August 6, 2006 6:02 AM


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