Wednesday, 11 October 2017

'Scientific Socialism' as Soul Science (Wilberg on Wednesday)

Marxism beyond Materialism

The Marxist philosophy of ‘scientific socialism’ is usually thought of as a form of crude, materialist philosophy, as suggested by terms such as ‘dialectical materialism’ and ‘historical materialism’. That Marx’s understanding of both ‘materialism’ and ‘science’ was in fact completely at odds with that of modern materialist science was made clear in his Theses on Feuerbach, where he writes:

The chief defect of all previous materialism … is that the object, actuality, sensuousness, is conceived only in the form of the object of perception, but not as sensuous human activity … not subjectively.

The most basic scientific ‘fact’ of all – ignored in all modern sciences - is not the existence of a universe of perceptual objects, but rather the fact of our immediate subjective and sensuous awareness of such a universe. The problem is that‘subjectivity’, ‘consciousness’ or ‘awareness’ has hitherto only been conceived as the property of a point-like human ‘subject’ or ‘ego’, bounded by the body or even mysteriously localised in the brain. Modern science is precisely a materialism of the sort that reduces even the human body and brain to mere perceptual objects, and then finds itself in the impossible situation of having to explain how such objects can miraculously give rise to subjective awareness. In this science of the human body there is no place for the human being, who is reduced to a phantom of the brain, a homunculus looking out at the world through the peepholes of the senses.

But what if all seemingly localised and point-like centres or ‘subjects’ of awareness are the expression of non-local fields of awareness or subjectivity? What if subjective awareness is not a blank sheet on which we passively register sensory impressions coming from perceptual objects – but has its own innate sensuous qualities and patterns – for example the subjectively sensed lightness or darkness, colour and tone, levity or gravity of our moods, the subjectively sensed dullness or clarity of minds, the subjectively sensed size and weight, solidity or fragility of our bodies, or our subjectively sensed closeness or distance, warmth or coolness towards other beings? What if such sensed qualities and patterns of subjective awareness as such are the source of all ‘objective’ energetic and perceptual patterns or ‘gestalts’? What if ‘the soul’ is nothing suprasensible, insubstantial or disembodied, but is instead the bodily shape and form taken by such innate field-patterns and field-qualities of awareness? What if the very substantiality of our bodies themselves is the sensed and sensual substantiality not of some material body object of perception but of subjectivity as such? What if all the sensory qualities of nature are the expression of soul qualities - innate qualities of subjective awareness? What if these sensual qualities of the human being’s soul or inner nature can link us directly with the very inwardness or soul of nature itself? Then and only then, could we begin to comprehend Marx’s concept of a natural science of man that is at the same time a human science of nature.

This will not be a crudely objectifying, materialist science of the sort we see today, but a ‘subjective’ or ‘phenomenological’ science – a science of immediate subjective awareness and experiencing. More precisely, it will be a field-phenomenology of the sort articulated by the Marxist physicist and phenomenologist Michael Kosok in his seminal essay entitled Dialectics of Nature. For as he writes:

Subjectivity, phenomenologically, simply refers to a field of presence, i.e., an immediate non-localised gestalt, ‘opening’ or ‘awareness’ whose content is constituted by events of mediation of determination – by ‘objects’ of awareness … Subjectivity, as a non-localised field of presence is nothing but concrete immediacy, i.e., experience as an on-going process, in which the events or event-complexes present are any objects, products or structures appearing out of the field … be they symbolic systems, physical objects or egos.

It is precisely this PHENOMENOLOGY of awareness between field and events which at the same time expresses itself as a DIALECTIC of inseparable distinctions, or what in modern science is called a NON-linear field of relations. In a dialectic relation, all elements are grasped as elements OF relation and never simply as elements IN relation.

For Marx, revolution was intrinsically connected with the liberation of the human senses and of human subjectivity – the soul - understood sensuously. This means the liberation of subjective experiencing as an on-going process from its domination by any and all of its products – whether these take the form of scientific models and mathematical abstractions, religious myths and symbols, perceptual objects or material commodities.

The function of myth or abstraction – in science as well as society – which alienates a product from the process of experience is … to delimit all actual and conceivable experiences as expressions of that product.

Growth and genuine transcendence come only when one can re-grasp the relationship that exists between the process of experience and its products, realizing that products and results are neither ends (positive or posited goals), nor something to be denied (negative goals) but are rather the vehicles and means through which experience can enrich its self-mediated state of concrete immediacy and express itself in visible forms.

Degeneracy, however, sets in when the reverse takes place and man defines and delimits experience…in terms of its products and results. Such is the paradoxical challenge of existence – not to be ‘done in’ by the very products of its process!

So-called ‘false’ or ‘inauthentic’ consciousness is simply the product of ‘true’ or ‘authentic’ consciousness, instead of being the process.

Michael Kosok Dialectics of Nature

This is not ‘psychologism’ or ‘subjectivism’ in the narrow sense. For as Michael Kosok points out:

Emotional reactions, thoughts and object modifications are NOT examples of experience, but rather PRODUCTS of experience …

Ibid.

Such ‘psychical’ phenomena, like ‘physical’ phenomena all emerge or arise (Greek physis) from non-local fields of awareness. ‘Dialectic phenomenology’, with its recognition of the field character of awareness or subjectivity, is a subjectivism which avoids all solipsism and with it the false philosophical question of how much reality we can attribute to the subjective awareness of others – the question of ‘other minds’.

The so-called problem of the ‘other’ or of ‘other minds’ only appears if you think (Laing notwithstanding) that experience is private and in need of being communicated, i.e., that experience can be ‘owned’ like a commodity’.

Ibid.

The way we ‘privately’ experience others is automatically sensed by the other and automatically communicates to the other - just as does the way they experience us. Subjectivity or awareness is in essence reciprocal or ‘inter-subjective’. ‘Scientific Socialism’ is a new science of ‘soul’ understood as a social field of inter-subjective relationality – uniting the soul inwardness of human beings not only with that of others but with the aware inwardness or soul of all apparent ‘objects’ of perception. Understood in this way, ‘Scientific Socialism’ is ‘Soul-Science’, a revolutionary science that stands in radical opposition to all current forms of social and scientific reductionism – the reduction of the human senses to the single sense of ‘having’ that Marx wrote of, and the reduction of all immeasurable qualitative dimensions of human subjective experience to ‘objectively’ measurable quantities.

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