Posts Tagged ‘Science

03
Apr
10

Live Long and Prosper?

If you were to look up “Communism” in a philosophy book, you’d probably find it under a section dealing with “Materialism”. The problem with this is that the popular meaning of the word “Materialism” has changed radically over the years. In terms of philosophy, the original meaning of “Materialism” was a category of philosophies primarily concerned with the concepts of property and their effects on human society/history. If I were, however, to use the term “Materialist” today, it would commonly be assumed that I was referring to the idea that the end goal of life is to accumulate wealth (radical hedonism, essentially). This is a recurring problem with many terms connected to Communism- in Marx’s day, “Socialism” meant a society embracing shared property and rejecting the class system, today we use it to refer to a politico-economic system where the majority of property is owned and managed by a massive government- but perhaps that’s off topic.

The issue with trying to categorize Communism in philosophy is that Marx was rather critical of philosophy as a whole. He asserted that analyzing the world should not be an end but merely a means to bring about change and advancement (“Philosophers have merely interpreted the world. The point, however, is to change it!” -Karl Marx, “Theses on Feuerbach”). While Communism definitely does offer a socio-politico-economic perspective, to claim that Communism is an all-out philosophy wouldn’t be quite correct. While most philosophies make some basic assumptions about the purpose of life (hedonism, as much pleasure as possible; Socratic philosophy, preparing for death;  aesthetic realism, finding harmony in life; the list goes on and on), Communism on the other hand functions more like a scientific theory than a code of ethics or an understanding of existence (indeed, one of the reason people find Marx so hard to read is the fact that he treats economics almost like a branch of physics). Don’t misunderstand me- Marx did have convictions. He saw the exploitation of the proletariat as the principal factor in the toppling of Capitalism and the class system and believed that the toppling of the Capitalism and the class system would propagate justice and equality. It’s like a scientist discovering that running electricity through a gas filled bulb not only creates light but it is his moral imperative to run electricity through a gas filled bulb and create light. As a result of all this, you’ll find no single, coherent Communist philosophy but rather a number of philosophies espousing Communist political theory. On one side you have philanthropic, altruistic humanist communists who have become Communist out of love for their fellow man. On the other side you have cynical and bitter antisocial communists who have become Communist out of a belief in morality rather than man (the author falls into this category). And between these two extremes you’ll find any number of other philosophies- religious Communism, green Communism, Anarcho-Communism, etc. If there’s a mainstream philosophy out there, you’d be safe to bet that there’s a Communist version of it (baring, perhaps, Ayn Rand-style Objectivism).

Now one might argue that the exact same rules apply to Capitalism. “Capitalism is a socio-economic theory too. You can hold any philosophy or worldview and still be a Capitalist!”.

Now this is partly true. You can indeed be a Capitalist and hold the purpose in life to protect and preserve the earth and all its natural wonders. The problem is that if you also accept Capitalism, you have to maintain that it is perfectly legal (and indeed, a basic human right) to purchase a mountain, to prevent anyone else from walking on it, and if the owner so chooses, to blow it to pieces.

“Alright, so Environmentalism and Capitalism don’t mesh so well- but there’s still a ton of other philosophies out there.”

Absolutely, and they too don’t seem to mesh well with Capitalism. If you hold the purpose of life is to live honestly and decently, then you’re presented with a number of challenges (the primary of which is that in Capitalism, the highest profits come from underpaying and overworking your employees and overpricing your products- not exactly honest or decent, is it?). If you declare that the end goal in life is to live long and prosper and see your family happy and secure then you have to deal with the fact that this is the wish of not only you but a large percent of humanity and since in Capitalism there’s only so much room at the top you’ll have to viciously compete with your neighbors for this lifestyle (unless you’re born into it, in which case you just have to worry about the huddled masses eying your house and pool. Even if you believe that the sole purpose of live is to live in decadence and luxury, you have to contend with the very definitions of the words. Do two houses in Monaco count as decadence and luxury, or should you get a yacht as well (or more importantly, will you be any more happy and fulfilled with the yacht than you are now?).

So essentially, no matter what your philosophy is, it has to be accepted that in all likelihood, you’d be able to pursue it better in a society free from Capitalism. You want peace and happiness for your family? Maybe you should opt for a system where a starving homeless man is going to gun down your wife/husband for her/his necklace/wallet. You want to be able to do whatever you love doing? Maybe you should opt for a system where you aren’t forced to take whatever job pays the bills, no matter how painful or bland. You want to be able learn everything there is to know about a subject? Maybe you should opt for a system where education is a high-priced commodity available only to some.

Maybe you should opt for Communism.

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25
Jun
09

The Evolution Will Not be Televised

According to the WordPress blog, The Bible and Society, Communism is inherently linked both to Darwinism and to Atheism (odd, considering that whether or not the theory of evolution is true, it can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a higher power). And while the blog does indeed point out certain facts about Marx, Engels, and Lenin’s rather anti-religious stances (a topic to be covered later), it is there that accuracy ends.

One of the best ways to determine whether or not a publication on Communism is dependable is to see what is said about pseudo-Communists such as Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse Tsung. If the article treats them as what they were- socialist tyrants masquerading under the name of Communism- then the article is probably well researched and scholarly. On the other hand, if Stalin and Mao are labeled simply as Communists with no reference to the disparity between their regimes and true Marxism (as is so in this post), then at least one of three scenarios must be assumed: (1) the article is propaganda designed to appeal to the emotions instead of the mind, (2) the article is poorly researched or based on misinformation, or (3) the author- for whatever reason- is biased. Since the days of the Cold War and McCarthyism are long since over, it’s safe to assume that this isn’t propaganda. Since the article lists a number of sources, it is clear that research is not the issue (though were painfully few sources actually by Marx). Therefore, we must conclude that the author has a bias, though exactly why isn’t determinable.

With that in mind, let’s analyze the post.

“The Darwinian Foundation of Communism” (http://lovingword.wordpress.com/2009/06/11/the-darwinian-foundation-of-communism/) by Jerry Bergman begins with the words “Darwinism as a worldview was a critical factor, not only in influencing the development of Nazism, but also in the rise of communism and the communist holocaust…”. As has been previously discussed, the actions of the USSR, Maoist China, North Korea, and Cuba are the actions of semi-Socialist dictatorships- not Communist republics. Because of this, the “holocausts” created by these countries are not as a result of Communism in any way, shape, or form. One can no more blame the devastation created by Mao’s “Great Leap Forward” on Karl Marx than one can blame the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition on Jesus of Nazareth or the Reign of Terror on the ideals of Democracy. A simple, hard fact of life is that wherever we have values, there will be those willing to commit atrocities under the guise of those values. It’s the same with Marxism and for this reason, we must ignore the sections pertaining to Stalin, Mao, and other so-called “Communists” and focus solely on the question of whether true Communism is related to Atheism and Darwinism.

Let’s deal with Atheism firstly.

Now the author cites a number of references speaking on the subject, however, the fact that we have a number of comments referring to Marxism as atheistic does not make them so. After all, one could compile a series of publications claiming the sun to revolve around the earth and it wouldn’t change the fact that Copernicus was right, not Ptolemy. For the truth, we have to look directly at the writings of Marx, Engels, and other founding fathers of Communism.

Now please do not misunderstand- Karl Marx was an Atheist. In his view, God did not exist except as a creation of man for the purposes of placating the exploited proletariat, or working class. However, the fact that Marx was an Atheist does not make Marxism atheistic. After all, one could never argue “Mr. Grey is a Buddhist, Mr. Grey owns a company, therefore that company is Buddhist” or “Titian was a talented painter, Titian was Italian, therefore all Italians are talented painters”. It would be a logic nightmare. Now one could argue “Marx was an Atheist, all Marxists are exactly the same as Karl Marx, therefore all Marxists are Atheists.” Now this would be correct in that it doesn’t create a logical fallacy, however it isn’t actually true that all Marxists are brooding, bearded German philosophers. Now Marx, Engels, and Lenin were very anti-religious in their writing- even to the point where Marx referred to religion as the “opiate of the people”. Now this would appear to clinch Jerry Bergman’s argument, were it not for a literary criticism technique known as “Situational vs Mandatory”. According to this rule, whenever interpreting a text, one must ask the question “does this statement/rule/command/etc. apply only to the time or situation in which it was written, or is it to be considered mandatory for all time”. As ironic as it might seem, this technique is most often used in the study of religious texts, primarialy the Torah, Bible, and Koran. The question must be asked “When Marx called religion the ‘Opiate of the people’, does this imply that all religion for all time is detramental to society, or was this a mere condemnation of the state of religion at the time?”.

To answer that, we have to look that religion Marx’s time. The revivals of the past having subsided, the Christian church (Christianity being the only religion Marx would’ve been directly exposed to) would’ve been more cultural than actually religious, essentially and institution used for prestige and, in some cases, power over the masses. For example, in New York state during this time there was an industrialist who had issues with his workers addiction to alcohol. Their excessive drinking would cause them to show up late to work (if it all, on some days) and generally lowered the level of production. To solve this problem, the industrialist had his workers “converted” to Christianity (Christians generally being biased against alcohol at the time). As a result, the workers stopped drinking and became more productive. Now at first, this might seem like a great thing- after all, the industrialist helped his employees kick and addiction. And while that is true, the fact remains that the employer did not do so out of humanitarianism or moral obligation- he wanted to profit more off of his workers, using religion as a means to an end. This event was by no means isolated- during Marx’s lifetime, religion truly was an opiate to subject the masses to the will of the rulers. Considering this, it’s easy to understand why Marx- and to a lesser extent, Engels and Lenin- would condemn religion in their works. Whether or not religion still is the opiate of the people is a subject hotly debated among Communists, however it is universally agreed that Communism is not necessarily Atheistic (and the argument works backwards as well- to varying degrees, almost every religion mandates some form of Communalism, particularly in Christianity).

Reading Marx and Engels and the like, it is easy to become confused and believe (wrongly) that Communism is inherently linked to Atheism. It’s also easy to overlook this.

Not so with Darwinism.

Exactly how the author arrived at the conclusion of “Marxism and Darwinism are inherently linked” is- quite frankly- hard to grasp. Throughout the article, Bergman makes assertions that “…Darwin and Marx were truly comrades…” and that “Marx believed his own work to be the exact parallel of Darwin’s…”.

To make these statements shows a genuine (and appalling) ignorance of Marxism. Bergman claims that “the communist core idea [is] that violent revolution, in which the strong overthrow the weak, was a natural, inevitable part of the unfolding of history from Darwinist concepts and conclusions.” The strong overthrow the weak? This is the exact opposite of Marx’s argument in The Communist Manifesto. Marx describes the proletariat as exploited victims- the bottom of the social food chain. If anything, Marx’s ideology is linked to the Christian doctrine of the “last becoming the first”. Marx does have some similarities in that he divides up history in periods (as Darwin does), however one would be hard pressed to find a worldview where history is viewed otherwise. Christianity divides time up into periods repeatedly (see the prophet Daniel’s vision of the kingdoms)- yet no one accuses Christianity and Darwinism of being linked. Granted, Marx and Darwin share a belief that the world is shaped through struggle, but again, so do most worldviews- including Christianity (the “war in heaven” and the “…struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world…”). Was the author of this passage a Darwinist? Hardly. Once again, we have a logical fallacy in the article’s argument. One could never argue that “Miss Jones admires Martin Luther King Jr., Miss Jones wrote a book, the book is based on the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr.”- the book might be about Martin Luther King Jr. or it might having nothing to do with him. There might be similarities between Miss Jone’s book and the teachings of MLK, but they might be a result of a shared source (Ghandi’s teachings on non-violent protest, for example). In short, just because there are similarities between Marx and Darwin, or just because Marx admired Darwin does not make Marx’s philosophy in any way based on Darwinism. If anything, Capitalism– not Communism- is based on the ideal of the “survival of the fittest”, rather than Marx’s ideals of cooperation and revolution of the exploited.

All in all, one can forgive misinterpretations of Marx- he’s not always the most coherent author and after all, to err is human. To repeatedly make connections where there none, to associate false-Communists with Marxist philosophy, to twist Marxism and to make it appear to be based on unrelated philosophy, and, above all, hypocritically condemn Marxism for aspects that even Christianity has- this is unacceptable, particularly from a person of Bergman’s education and standing. Bergman might disagree with Marxism- he’d be within his rights to hate it. To lie about Marxism or indeed, any worldview, is unacceptable no matter what the circumstance.