- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Can I go to the bathroom now? Or do I need a definition first?

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens Against Mustard Greens, USA ) on March 30, 1999 at 18:17:26:

In Reply to: With many answers posted by Joel Jacobson on March 30, 1999 at 12:19:32:

: : Jacobson's posts all point to one thing: he wishes to steer us away from debates he can't win, and toward pseudo-issues

: Would've been courteous to bring even one of these to my attention. Oh yeah, the one's here don't even come close.

SDF: Forthcoming.

: : where he can anoint himself the Guardian of Fact whose Word (excuse me, his Idea) is Truth.

: You explicitly said "Words ARE Ideas" on this post. I fully concur that, yes, there are no ideas without landguage, but these are not the same things. When words=ideas then ideas become tied solely to the definitions of words; which in turn can be elucidated on through more words. Each word-idea can only be described by more words, ad infinitum. Eventually, we can solve this with two methods:

SDF: Why do we need a description for every word-idea? When a six-year old asks to go to the bathroom, we don't need a description, we say, yes, you may use the bathroom. It's not necessary to describe everything; descriptions serve a social purpose. We describe things in debates, for instance, because the abstractions we meant to "stand for" a physical reality do not "stand for" the same physical reality for our interlocutors (who are playing a different language-game), and so the hearers request a description in order to make the abstraction "stand for" for both parties. Look, if you want to play philosophical language-games with yourself, that's fine, but I'll continue to think of it as a pseudo-issue, because not everything need be described, defined, or explained.

: a) like Hume completely admit that words can be inferred into an infinite regress and begin to question any knowledge at all; this is pessimistic and skeptical of knowledge, but, at least, honest.

: b) like Hegel provide a reference contained within its own conclusion, a reference entirely self-contained and circular. When we do this reasoning we are simply placing an arbitrary foundation, originating in our particular viewpoint and opinion, and eventually concluding with the same foundation. Heiddiger did this and actually admitted it was meaningles nonsense, in fact, quite knowingly so.

: This is also what really happens to any idea that there is a specific source of knowlegdge that can provide a solid foundation for all other knowledge; historical materialism is one such foundationalist theory.

SDF: Knowledge is words, words mean something by virtue of a social convention, a language-game played by the users of words. Everyone "has ideas" if we're playing their language-game.

: Let me show you how ideas are not one-to-one words:

SDF: Ideas are words, though there is no one-to-one ratio.

: a) take away 10% of our words. It's pretty obvious to me that doing this would not seriously impact our ideas and, thus, our lives.
: b) take away 10% of our ideas. Here we would have a major upheaval in society and many of our words would cease to lose their meaning; we might even lose 10% of our words in the process
: c) Henry For conceived of cars before the word car ever existed.
: I'm sure I could come up with more.

SDF: Why does there have to be any "one-to-one"? When we use the word "idea," we mean that each "idea" is in fact a verbal expression of words, one word or more. How are we to "take away 10% of our ideas" or "take away 10% of our words"? The process of idea- and word-use is additive, not subtractive, new meanings are generated each time we speak. When Henry Ford conceived of "cars," he might have perhaps used another verbal description, using words. "Horseless carriage" = "car".

: Jacobson accuses others of 'philosophical definitionism' while

: Definitionism (my word by the way) is an activity a person engages in and appears in two ways:

SDF: You're DEFINING here. Do you risk an infinite regress or a circular definition? No. So stop trying to use the "infinite regress" and "circular definition" argument as a weapon against the arguments of others.

: First:
: a) take a commonly used phrase with many different usages depending upon the person using them such as "social class".
: b) define "social class" using the reference made to your particular mind such as "relation to the means of production"
: c) transfer this particular reference of your mind back to the term "social class".
: d) couch all discussions you have with others using the term "social class" as your particluar mind's reference to social class.
: e) people must outright accept or reject your views as proper or invalid; where before there was no Identity of Opposites, one has been created through definitionism; we have not made analystical progress, and in fact have widened the gulf for separates us from meaningful social dialog with othe individuals.

SDF: "We" haven't made analytical progress if "you" do not accept, if you reject, "my" frame of reference. Perhaps such acceptance of the other's frame of reference has to be made with a willing suspension of disbelief (if we believe the other is engaging in fantasy), as we might accept J.R.R. Tolkien's frame of narrative depiction when reading The Hobbit -- if we read The Hobbit, we can appreciate Tolkien's frame for narrative depiction without having to believe that hobbits, elves, dwarves, goblins, and dragons are real things, simply by recognizing Tolkien's definition of such entities as his own.

Similarly, when arguing, we can ask for definitions of phrases such as "social class" by asking for their translation into phrases we DO understand, just as we might understand "hobbits" by reading Tolkien's narrative comparison of hobbits with descriptions of human beings we know.

If "social class" is analytically useless, it is because the phrase "social class" groups things together which are necessarily dissimilar. I've presented the rituals C-M-C and M-C-M as showing how the phrase "social class" groups things (things existing in particular societies embedded in time and space) according to an important similarity they contain.

: Second:
: a) take a various assortment of assortmetn of phenomena, selected by your particular mind, and bundle them together into a reference you call a certain label (say, "capitalism")
: b) claim that this essence of "capitalism" is what dominates and dictates the various forms of structures found to coincide with it. While many particulars may be different within two manifestations this is to be ignored as, well, the two must actually be the same essence "capitalism" underneath all the surface dressing. (Just ignore the fact that the initial essence came from your mind anyway).
: c) claim taht "capitalism" has only one alternative called "socialism". Provide a few vague platitudes (make them good such as "social" or "compromise") to make the person feel good about this particular "essence" (which is only from your mind anyway).
: d) imply that "capitalism" is evil and taht the only alternative is "socialism".

SDF: See above.

: People doing this are simply using definitionism, i.e. words, in order to slip their opinions and viewpoints into supposed "social analysis". I take back my previous comment. "Definitionism" as I personally refer to it simply describes people who don't argue with ideas or concepts from their value systems, but merely with words.

SDF: I still have no means of distinguishing ideas from words.

: engaging definitional assertions about the essential nature of economics ("economics is about choice") and socialism ("true socialism requires unlimited production").

: If you have ever opened any economics textbook you'd know that the first few pages give a more detailed analysis of what I said in a few words.

SDF: So? You're still doing what I said you're doing.

: When I say taht economists study the choices people make I make general non-exlusionary references to what, well, economists actually do. By non-exclusionary I mean taht I have not laid down specific rules about what "economics" is and isn't. The same cannot be said for definitionisms such as "capitalism", "socialism", "exploitation", "alientation", the whole M-C-M analysis,and I could go on.

SDF: I thought you were refering to what people do, i.e. make choices. I've described elsewhere how people's "choice" can be described analytically in other, sometimes more useful, terms. And as for economists, you were discussing "what economics is about," not what economists do. Economists also eat food and go to the bathroom; but economics is not about eating food, nor is it about going to the bathroom.

: And socialism promised that there would be no more scarcity. Meaning taht there would be no more desire in the world; i.e. all social needs would be fulfilled. However, any one person has a different idea of what "socially needed" entails

SDF: We can have all the "ideas" (verbal descriptions) we want about "what 'socially needed' entails," but people will remain physical entities needing food, water, shelter, clothing, a social framework, a nutritive relation to their particular environment.

: and, in my opinion, these conflicting ends would require unlimited resources and, thus, production for "socialism" not to quickly degenerate into war between people of like values. The issues relating to this were such:

: a) "socialism" will satisfy all needs
: b) there are potentially, and currently, unlimited needs.
: c) so either production will be unlimited or "needs" will be limited
: Deathy claimed taht needs would have to be limited but no one has ever given me an explanation about how this could happen (behaviorists maybe?) except the vauge platatude "compromise", to which I am replying today.

: Not to mention words ("You like most on this room actualy use words as if they determined one's ideas").

: I think you're refering to "Behaviorists believe . . . behaviorisms do not" comment. Hey, in my defense, there are a lot of Hegelians here and they don't believe in behaviorists except as abstractions of the ideology of behaviorism; just like individuals are only abstractions of society. I was serious, and not being pedantic, and wanted to establish that there is no such thing as behaviorism outside of people who, at one time or another, advocate an idea called behaviorism.

SDF: Your point about the words of behaviorists being?

: : Verbal hide-and-go-seek is Jacobson's option when he doesn't want to debate issues or facts.

: Maybe if you could give some examples I'd change the error of my ways.

SDF: You just deny the validity of words if you don't like the argument. You've done it several times in your lengthy debates with RD. Try the method of explication-begging I suggested above.

(paranoia omitted)

: References are tools we use to operate in life.

SDF: Not all of us use the same references.

The refernce "end the IMF" has a particular reference we don't need to find any particular essence for it. "Capitalism" is merely a nominal reference for convenience and references a vast and complex array of both interrelated and unrelated phenomena. Thus, the words "abolish capitalism" are meaningless and an essentialist definitionism.

SDF: You're arrogating all references to the ones you use, that references you don't use are "meaningless" simply because you don't use them. "Capitalism" isn't "meaningless" to me, and I think I've gone into great detail as to why I believe "capitalism" to have a meaning.

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