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Monday, May 02, 2011

Denying God

"Marx, like Comte, does not permit a rational discussion of his principles -- you have to be a Marxist or shut up. We see again the correlation between spiritual impotence and antirationalism; one cannot deny God and retain reason." -- Eric Voegelin

13 comments:

  1. Voegelin is unfair to Marx.

    Discussion of Marx' principles?

    He was not a man of principle. He was prone to changing his mind over and over, and did not believe in rigid doctrine or even general principle.

    Two of his quotes, for now, should suffice.

    "I don't know what I am, but I do know I am not a Marxist."

    "Ideology is to understanding of the real world what masturbation is to sex."

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  2. So, dialectical thinking and materialism are not Marxist principles?

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  3. Getting into devil's advocate mood, a principle is a fundamental truth from which one derives all of one's idea. But Engels called dialectics a "working tool".

    I think between a principle and a merely convenient tool, there could be a big difference highlighted, right? Principles are like rigid absolutes, while tools are occasionally imperfect but otherwise useful items.

    It depends on how you use the tool.

    Where formal logic is useful for, say, applications in mathematics and hard sciences, dialectic is useful for understanding social life. Neither formal logic or dialectic has to be reduced to a fundamental truth to answer everything.

    I doubt the followers of Marx, Engels,.etc would try to apply dialectics to math and science, for example.

    Of course, I could be wrong, but either way, I wonder whether you would agree? About the way I put it, I mean?

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  4. Marx thought that his "materialist conception of history" was merely a guideline for studying it. He wouldn't have consider it a principle.

    What I don't understand is how Voegelin considers "god" to be. His phrase "one cannot deny God and retain reason" doesn't make sense to me.

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  5. I think you guys are nitpicking over the word "principles." If Voegelin changed it to "general guidelines" the passage would be little different.

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  6. Well, I consider a principle something more "hard" than a general guideline. For instance, take any Rothbardian and compare him to the way David Friedman would consider the NAP. That's the difference between a principle and a guideline.

    Still, his phrase doesn't make sense to me (and I would also say that it may only make sense to those who have read Voegelin). What's the role of God in reason according to him? Or maybe the question should be: what is God to him?

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  7. In fact, Prateek and Ivan, what you are bringing up is an *illustration* of Voegelin's point: when pushed on principles, Marx would equivocate, deny he had principles, etc.

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  8. Related: http://www.libertarianstandard.com/2011/04/24/is-libertarianism-a-gnostic-or-utopian-political-movement/

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  9. "Still, his phrase doesn't make sense to me (and I would also say that it may only make sense to those who have read Voegelin)."

    I'm afraid that may be so. Rather than butcher his thought by chopping it into a blog size piece, let me say I posted this as an inducement to read Voegelin, and not as a conclusive argument.

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  10. Ivan: Plauche ignores the difficulty that Voegelin quite definitively listed liberalism as a gnostic movement, and gave extensive reasons for doing so.

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  11. I thought so, I sent it just for you to see how many people fall in the "Voegelin trap". Anyway, I'd like to read him, but his books are difficult to find in my country. I just found a copy of "The New Science of Politics", which I'm planning to buy.

    Going back to your original post, it's difficult to see it as an inducement to read him if you post such an esoteric quotation without further explaination!

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  12. Well, Ivan, I was hoping that quote might be enticing rather than esoteric. Voegelin is, after all, solidly within the mainstream of Western philosophy in the opinion being expressed.

    I'm posting something new to that effect in a moment.

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  13. For some reason, as I went to sleep last night, this quote appeared in my mind again, and I understood what it meant.

    It's a bit like a discussion between an atheist and a religious guy.

    If you have to debate a science-and-rationalism atheist on the merits of religion, you must use scientific arguments to defend religion or get lost.

    If you have to debate a Scientific Socialist, you must preferably use that "Scientific" style of that given socialist, or there will be no common ground for debate. "Either you are a Marxist or shut up", as Voegelin said.

    Yes, Voegelin makes sense here. Just the way an atheist should probably play fair and let both the "supersitious" arguments and scientific arguments come in to play while discussing religion, may be a Scientific Socialist should consider allowing non-dialectic arguments to discuss Socialism.

    But to say you MUST use dialectic arguments to refute Scientific Socialism is to say, "You are only allowed to cut my tree's bark with a soft spoon."

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