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29 Reviews







Cf. the article ‘Prc’)jugc’)s’ in Voltaire’s Dictionnaire phiZosophique.

XIIe Congr~s International d’Histoire des Sciences, Colloques, Textes des
Rapports, Actes, Tome lA, Paris, 1970, p.34.

T.S. Kuhn, The Copernican Revolution, Cambridge, Mass., 1957; Angus
Armi tage, The World of Copernicus, Wakefield, 1972; Alexandre Koyrc’) , From
the Closed World to the Infinite Universe, Baltimore, 1957, and The
Astronomical Revolution, London, 1964 (trans.).

George Sidney Brett, A History of Psychology (3 vols.), London, 1912

The word ideology was first used by the French philosopher Destutt de Tracy
(1755-1836) in his Elements d’ideologie (4 vols.), Paris, 1801-15. See
Raymond Williams, Keywords, London, 1976, under’ Ideology’ (trans.).

‘His [Napoleon’s 1 scorn of industrial hommes d’affaires was the complement
to his scorn of ideologists.” K. Marx, ‘The Holy Family’, in Karl Marx
and Frederick Engels, Collected Works, Vo1.4, London, 1975, p.123.

According to Marx, the political ideologies of the F:-ench and English during
the 18th century were hss far from their real found~tions than the
religious ideology of the Germans.

In the Communist Manif,?sto the illusion which consists, for the bourgeoisie,
in believing those social relations in which it is dominant to be eternal
is qualified by the notion of an ‘interest-governed conception’.

See, for eicample, Bentley Glass, ‘Maupertuis, Pioneer of Genetics and
Evolution’, in Forerunners of Darwin 1745-1859, B. Glass, O. Temkin, W.L.





Straus (eds.), Baltimore, 1959. A discussion of Maupertuis’ Venus
physique more in line with Canguilhem’s can be foun~ in Jacques Roger,
Les Sciences de la vie dans la pensee fran’1:,aise du XVIIIe si?!cle, Paris,
1971 (2nd edition), pp.468-487 and passim ‘(trans.).

Cf. Jacques Piquemal, Aspects de la pensee de Mendel, Paris, 1965.

Von Baer (1792-1876) was the greatest of the early 19th-century comparative
embryologists and the most able proponent of epigenetic thinking. The best
survey of his work remains untranslated: Boris Raikov, Karl Ernst von Baer
1792-1876. Sein Leben und sein Werk, Leipzig, 1968, but Jane M. Oppenheimer,
Essays in the History of Embryology and Biology, Cambridge, Massachusetts,
1967, is reliable. J. Arthur Thomson still offers the fullest account of
Spencer’s biological views: Herbert Spenc<:r, London, 1906. Also useful is
J.W. Burrow, Evolution and Society. A Study in Victorian Social Theory,
Cambridge, 1966 (trans.).

On Buffon (1707-88) see Jacques Roger, op.cit., pp.527-84; R. Wohl, ‘Buffon
and his Project for a New Science’, ISIS, 51, 1960, and P.L. Farber, ‘Buffon
and the Concept of Species’, Journal for the History of Biology, 5, 1972.

For Bonnet (1720-93) see B. Glass, op.cit., p.164ff, and Arthur o.

Lovejoy, The Great Chain of Being, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1936, pp.283-7
and passim (trans.).

See G. Bachelard, L ‘Activite rationaZiste de la physique contemporaine,
Paris, 1951, pp. 35-40 and ‘L’ Actual i tc’) de l’ histoire des sciences’ in
L’Engagement rationaZiste, Paris, 1972, pp.137-52 (trans.).

For an example of this approach, see Lester G. Crocker, ‘Diderot and
Eighteenth Century French Transformism’, in B. Glass, op.cit.,
pp.114-44 (trans.).


Women and Political Thought
Susan akin, Women in Western PoZiticaZ Thought,
Virago, 1980, £4.50
One of the central tasks of classical political
theory-has been to consider what kinds of social
organization are necessary, or possible, in the light
of human nature. A particular conception of human
nature (e.g. that humans are naturally aggressive)
carries with it a host of implications about the
kinds of institutions which are required to regulate
social life. This book explores the way in which
four political philosophers – Plato, Aristotle,
Rousseau and Mill – have characterised the nature of
both men and women. It also shows how some of their
ideas live on in the works of modern thinkers
(Talcott Parsons and Erikson) and in sexually discriminatory US court decisions.

akin’s central thesis is that, to arrive at a
conception of human nature, two quite different kinds
of questions have been asked, depending on whether
men or women are at issue. To establish the nature
of the male, the question ‘What are men like?’ has
been posed. Typically, men are seen as having a more
or less limitless potential, as individualistic,
assertive~ rational and creative.

To establish the
nature of the female, however, the question asked has

been ‘What are women for?’. Women’s nature has been
defined (by men) in terms of her perceived function,
in particular, her function as child-bearer and childrearer. The social institution in which these functions are to be enacted is the family. It is as
mother and wife that woman fulfils her essence, caring for her children and her husband, to whose
authority she is subject.

Both of these conceptions are prescriptive, though
in somewhat contradictory ways. Rousseau, for
example, condemned slavery as degrading to man’s
essence. It was, he said, both offensive to nature
and to reason ‘for a man to give up his life, freedom,
and right to himself, to another’ (quoted p.143).

Here a conception of man’s essence is used to condemn
an oppressive social institution. When it comes to
women, however, the situation is reversed. The
married woman is expected to renounce her freedom.

She is subject to her husband’s will, even to the
extent that ‘if he blames her, she is blameworthy;
and if she has acted innocently, she is guilty as
soon as she is suspected; for even preserving appearances is part of her duty’ (quoted p.165). Rousseau
is not (generally speaking) critical of this situation. He is critical of women who refuse to accept
their ‘natural’ role and to act in accordance with it.

Loosely, it is wrong for a man, but right for a woman,

to sacrifice his or her autonomy to the dictates of
another; it violates the essence of the male, but consecrates the nature of the female, for one to do so.

Rousseau is typical of a large number of liberal
political theorists who make general-sounding claims
about humanity and its rights and needs, and then
promptly deny their applicability to women, who are
usually thought of as embedded as wives and mothers
in the patriarchal family. Okin traces the functionalist approach to women back to Aristotle and beyond.

She shows how radical were some of Plato’s views
about women in the Republic, and how he subsequently
retreated to a more conventional position in the Laws.

She analyses Rousseau’s work at length, drawing out
the contradictions in his approach, while remaining
sensitive and sympathetic to his difficulty in transcending them. And she both praises Mill for his
sincere attempts to apply liberal principles to women,
and exposes the limits of his analysis imposed by his
assumption that women’s place is in the home. Despite
the vast amount of ground covered, Okin never relies
on rhetorical flourish to make her points: she doesn’t
need to. Her book is closely argued, immensely read-

able, and very persuasive. It should be prescribed
reading for everyone who is interested in the development of political theory – theory which has taken the
‘male-headed family, rather than the individual adult,
as the primary unit of political analysis’ (p.IO),
assuming that a woman’s interests are (or ought to be)
entirely convergent with her husband’s.

It is clear from this book that the sanctification
of the family, and the related conception of women’s
rightful function, is tied up with the institution of
private property. Men needed chaste and virtuous
wives – who were simultaneously sexually exciting in .””,,
the marital bedroom – so as to be sure that her
children were their rightful heirs. As Okin points
out, socialist theorists have been far less inclined
to take the family as a natural institution and have
been aware of its links with particular forms of
economic, and specifically property, relations. She
sees this book as laying the foundation for a further
study of their work. I look forward to its promised
sequel with keen anticipation.


John Krige

Social Darwinism
Greta Jones, Social Darwinism and English Thought,
Harvester, 1980, £22.50 hc.

This book has been timed right. Its appearance
coincides with two trends that redouble its importance. There are the obvious disputes about whether
sociobiology has political consequences, or is a
political theory fullstop. That alone, given the
spread of sociobiology in many countries, would make
a reassessment of social Darwinism (henceforth SD)
in ‘England’ important (I find the geographic limit
a little puzzling, though). But also there has been
a revival of disputes about the status of evolutionary theory generally, leading to many scientists
doing the rare thing of taking seriously philosophers’

objections to the standing of the general tenets of
Darwinian theory. The disputes within philosophy
about verification, falsification, paradigms and
research programmes have echoed sufficiently that
quite a few biologists now seem to be prepared to
query whether the theory of evolution ever has been,
or could be, proved. Coupled with this a revival of
religious fundamentalism, always ready to batten on
the slightest stutter over the validity of the naturalistic theory of evolution in order to trumpet,
without any interest in evidence, a renewed creationism. The book is relevant to both themes.

Jones’ book does many useful jobs. It begins with
a good, balanced view of Darwin’s own hesitations and
uncertainties. On the one hand was that side of
Darwin’s style that would spend weeks studying orchids, fascinated by the apparently absurd convolutions
of their petal structures: a cautious empirical observer, deeply delighted but puzzled by natural
history. On the other hand, and at times in his
later life increasingly important, was the social
commentator who had listened well at Malthus’ knee,

who knew Galton, and who carried close to his British
passport some typical imperialist attitudes to natives of other countries. I am also grateful for the
insights Jones provides into the views of evolution’s
other discoverer, Alfred Wallace: his odd socialism;
but most significantly how, after his visits to the
Malay Archepelago, he hesitated on the brink of
passing beyond a reductionist account of human evolution. It was there that he became perplexed over the
low levels of human population in areas rich with
food resources. Wallace was not able to think
through the implications of his realisation that the
low population was related to such things as division
of labour, patterns of work and levels of technology.

Jones takes us through the variety of forms that
SD took, and rightly does not underplay their complexity. Each strand sought to recast laws of human
nature, and to derive these recast laws from the
‘nature of the evolutionary process’. She sums up
the general object of her book at the end as having
been to

show how these ‘known laws’ were remarkably
fluid and how their constitution was an
historical and social process rather than a
scientific one.

We are therefore shown how the earliest social users
of the theory of evolution were able to interpret it
in a Spencerian manner, implying classically that
acts of state charity run counter to the law of
nature; on the other hand how others began to present
a case that it was whole populations that were
selected for, and that therefore action to preserve
the well-being of the whole could be evolutionarily
justified. This latter spilled over into forms of
(paternalistic) socialism. Jones nicely illustrates
how each of these positions was forced to negotiate
with the basic tenets of evolutionary theory itself


in order to make itself plausible. The theory could
be neither purely scientific nor purely political,
but had to come to terms with developments on both

So, for example, when the work of Gregor Mendel
was rediscovered at the turn of the century, each
(strand of SDian interpretation had to find a way of
coping with it, whilst maintaining the desired
political stance. Those who had tried to promulgate
a theory of the nation on the basis of a neoLamarckian use-inheritance (if you live long enough
, in one sort of society, it gets to your gonads) had
particular problems. On the other hand, socialists
who questioned the Fabian, smooth movement to utopia
took heart from its apparent emphasis on discontinuities rather than gradual changes.

Creating this sense of the striving to keep good
footing in both camps is the strong point, to my mind,
of Jones’ book. At the same time Jones does not
fully satisfy me that she has done what is necessary
to extract the common themes in the many forms of SO.

She does (p.187ff) suggest that sociobiology is continuous with all the classically recognised forms of
SO in having a strong streak of theoretical individualism, meaning that society is understood as a system of interacting individuals, whose interactions
are a function of their individual natures. (But
then, the grosser biological nationalisms would be an
exception.) She also identifies a Malthusian concern
with population in sociobiology. But it is not shown
why this is an essential part of SO; and it is not
intuitively obvious that, for example, post-war ethological SO in the hands of Lorenz etc has displayed
this concern. If anything, the core of her position
seems to be just the interaction of biology and
politics, rather than particular substantive content
to that interaction. Now that is important in itself,
but it has costs.

First, it makes it easier for sociobiologists to
claim that they, at least, have left behind this
interaction for a more purely scientific theory.

After all, as many reviewers of E.O. Wilson have said,
he is ‘so impressive’ in his collection of evidence.

Could we not see the modern theory as an attempt at
cleaning out the politics? We can easily imagine a
Dawkins admitting that they haven’t totally succeeded
yet. But perhaps their project is purely scientific.

For critics of the theory to be able to respond satisfactorily, we must be in a position to identify the
nature of the interaction between biology and

Secondly, she notes the debate that followed
Richard Hofstadter’s Social Darwinism in American
Thought. Hofstadter had tried to show that SO was
linked with a very specific kind of politics, harsh
competitive individualism. His critics replied that,
while that connection did exist, a complete range of
other political practices had sought warranty in
evolution. In essence, the dispute was over whether
SO constituted a single ideology with a particular
conceptual direction, or whether the theory of evolution was a sort of mythical resource to wh5_ch virtually any interest group could turn. Jones’ comment
on this is revealing. She accepts that there were
many varieties of interpretation, but
in politics some ideas survive and grow and
others do not. There were political and social
limits on the ‘free market’ of ideas …. So it
is possible to identify, even given the wide
spectrum of social Darwinists represented in
British and American society, a certain political
direction which Social Darwinism took as far as
its general social influence is concerned.

I find Hofstadter’s critics’ case too much conceded


by this. For he was arguing, as I understand it, that
the form of the ideas made them pre-eminently availabJe to the defence of combative capitalism. And I
think that there remains a substantive truth in that
case. Many of the pointers to this are in Jones’

book, but are not developed. In particular she
reveals again and again the aprioristic style of the
SDists, without discussing its significance. This is
an important beginning-point. For surely there is a
significant difference in style between an a priori
discussion of whether there is an immanent teleology
in evolution, and particular investigations of animal
species conducted by believers in such a direction.

Just because the two were often practised by the same
individuals does not make it necessary for us to see
them as a single practice. The interaction of biology and politics arises from the intersection of these
styles. It is important that, over and again, SO
schools have sought to deduce fundamental principles,
expectations, and moral and political rules from the
most general and abstract principles of evolutionary
theory. This enabled its practitioners to treat
human culture in very particular ways: marginalising
some aspects (work and production in particular, as
Jones makes clear (p.67)), finding some practices
unnatural (as both ethologists and sociobiologists
have”done), or ordering human societies on an evolutionary scale (something still common if more concealed than of yore). The fact that this style of
aprioristic derivation is rarely if ever totally
divorced from a style of empirical research (which
may on occasion be enormously illuminating – the
history of SO is full of examples of this) does not
alter their separate beginnings. But it does help
to explain something of the nature of the biology/
politics interaction.

So, when she discusses the impact of Bergson’s
Creative Evolution with its notion of an immanent
psychic process, we can see this as an example of
aprioristic style. It embodies a process of argumentation that runs as follows: there is a belief current
in the significance of social psyche (national spirit
or etc.). This is taken as a problem of evolutionary
theory. Commitment to an ontology in which all parts
of nature are functions of identical processes requires that if psychic processes are present in humans
they have to be present everywhere. Therefore
‘nature’ is examined for evidence of psychicness.

Which is why thinkers such as William MacDougal1
studied instinctual processes for what they will feel
like to an animal. Up until the last stage all is
aprioristic. But it allows the SDists to reflect
back on human life aspects of their original definition of ideas about the psyche, as though they were
empirical discoveries.

This is the common pattern par excellence among
Social Darwinists. Identical things happen with the
concept of selfishness in sociobiology, and the concept of ritual aggression with Lorenzians. (Incidentally, the minimal discussion of this last schOOl,
well represented in England by Desmond Morris and
others, is surprising). It is a mechanism for the
production of politics out of evolution, and it is
also the basis for the scientific interest of the
work of the SDists as well as the distortions in their
empirical research. Considering sociobiology for a
moment, it is without doubt true that as a motive to
research some of the deduced hypotheses have been very
fruitful. Equally it is true that by the logic I
described above, ‘descriptions’ that reek of human
normative life, and therefore invite the return of
those descriptions, now naturalised, onto human life,
keep cropping up to falsely inform their scientific
research. An example from B~rash will illustrate.

He discusses the tendency of male mallards to force

themselves on isolated females reproductively, as a
piece of evidence of the weakness of pair-bonding
among them. But he calls it ‘rape’. The nasty irony
is that rape among humans has absolutely nothing to do
with reproductive chances. But by its application to
ducks, whose activity is dictated by reproductive
strategies, the term tends to return to human life
naturalised. And it then chimes in with all those
notions of male sexuality as an outpouring of impulses
which can get out of control – all because it is ‘laid
down’ in male nature so to behave.

A piece of political commonsense goes through the
SD logic mill. Barash also discusses the fact that
among humans there is constant sexual receptivity.

Using the apriori logic of reproductive strategies,
he insists that women must be permanently arousable
as a way of cementing human pair-bonds, as a way,
crudely, of holding on to men. A priori interpretation via analogising with animals leads to a clear
political result: female sexuality is there for the
purposes of men, not for the pleasure of women. Out
of the end of the logic mill comes the reformed common
sense, now with the imprimatur of science. As I
write this, I have in front of me an article on makeup
for women: ‘But surely an essential motive for display
is competition for the best mate in the tribe, the
deeply programmed need to ensure that it is your
genes that make it through to the next generation’

(Guardian, 12 December).

I am not saying that this is incompatible with
Jones’ presentation, only that it remains wholly
implicit. In many ways, this is a pity since she has
bettered other accounts of such histories. For
example, she has rightly refused to allow the eugenicist and racist arguments to be detached from their
roots in SD (contra Chase, Gossett, Barzun and many
others). But at the end I am not left with a clear
view as to why it is important not to detach them.

If the critics of Hofstadter were right, then detachment is the answer. For racism, for example, would
just be a nasty motive in search of a spurious justification; the Darwinism has no logical connection
with the racism, and could as well by turned to antiracist purposes (an argument now in use by the sociobiologists).

The reason for not detaching them is, once again,
implicit in Jones’ account. The continuity of politics that I find in her clear, well-evidenced
accounts of all the varieties of social Darwinism;
the politics that makes eugenics and racism only
aspects of a programme; the politics that subsumes
all the differences between Adam Smith liberals,
collectivists, and Fabian socialists, is the poZitics
of the nation. All the themes embroidered on the
cloth of SD are themes of national strategy. It may
be strategies of imperialism and colonialism, in

which case the evolutionary backwardness of the colonial peoples becomes centred; it may be the threat
from trade unions, in which case either the moral
unity of the nation, or the bad breeding habits of
the lower classes, are given primacy. The hidden
premise throughout social Darwinism has been nationhood. I believe that it is just as true now of sociobiology, for all the apparent emphasis on this latest
SD on the genetic unity of humankind. In their theory
the idea of the evolutionary stable strategy for a
genetic population performs the central role; and
that shows a strong tendency to convert into a
political theory of the nation.

Tracing out the implications of this for SD as an
ideology is beyond all possible confines of this
review article. But it certainly throws light on
many little parts of this history. For example,
Jones quotes C.W. Saleeby in 1906 as attacking

I stand here as a biologist and my objection to
collectivism, for the present, is a biological
and philosophical objection …. The one final
objection to the trade union which says that a
clever workman may not work faster nor an
energetic workman longer than his neighbour is
that such a practice is fundamentally opposed
to natural selection.

The theme of nationhood is not apparent in such a
quotation until you realise that the premise of
Saleeby’s argument is that there is an apriori virtue
for the ‘whole’ in ensuring that the best succeed.

Otherwise, without question, the workmen who combine
to keep work comfortable, to keep piece rates good,
are clearly increasing their fitness!

So could socialism legitimately seek its justification in SD terms? I do not think it can, consistently. For the ends of socialism are not progress or
survival (the two metaphors for the nation that
underpin SD more than anything else), but human fun,
happiness and creativity. It is only’anotional
object, the nation, that can have goals inscribed
for it that have such metaphorical meaning.

Jones’ book, I have suggested, keeps such themes
implicit. I believe that they need spelling out.

For all this, it is a remarkably good book. Wellwritten and researched, it deserves better than a
typical Harvester price that makes it a cert. for
inclusion only in academic libraries. Also in my
paper today was this sentence by author Mervyn Jones:

‘Publishers are hopelessly caught up in what may be
called the British Rail syndrome: you raise prices,
so you lose customers, so you raise prices, so you
lose … ‘ Too true, too true.

Martin Barker

Women and Science
The Brighton Women and Science Group, Alice Through
the Microscope: the Power of Science over Women’s
Lives, Virago, 1980, £11.95 hc, £4.95 pb
It is now something of a truism that science is an

activity undertaken by a community which is welded
together by a shared network of commitments. In particular, the scientific investigation of reality
takes place within a theoretical or conceptual framework which underpins one’s fact-gathering. When inanimate nature is being studied there may be little

or no connection between this framework and the takenfor-granted assumptions of everyday life. But when
the object of investigation is itself an element of a
society into which one has been socialised since
birth, those assumptions can easily serve as an unquestioned backdrop for empirical research.

One of the aims of this book is to show how such
assumptions and value-judgements about women have
been built into the ‘scientific’ exploration of their
behaviour. For example, heterosexuality is the
‘normal’ way of expressing one’s sexual drives in contemporary Western culture. Coincident with this,
scientists have tended to assume that it is normal to
be straight and that what requires investigation and social control – are lesb:i.anism and homosexuality.

More generally sex differences have often been studied with a view to identifying, and stigmatising,
those who do not fit into conventional role stereotypes. This is part of a tradition of research which
has assumed that a woman’s only legitimate role is as
a wife and mother, and that her education and her
social opportunities and responsibilities should all
be dictated by that role.

It struck me while reading this book how important
-the male’s perception of the female’s reproductive
system has been in shaping his attitudes to women.

It is not simply that the fact that women give birth
to children is used as a basis for the argument that
their proper place is in the home. It goes much
deeper than this. For example, one 19th-century
physician alleged that women’s reproductive organs
drew ‘vital energy’ from her brain. The development
of mind was discouraged as it would produce a ‘repulsive and useless hybrid’ with undeveloped ‘maternal
organs’ (quoted p.6). Furthermore, the changes in
mood and temperament associated with the menstrual
cycle have long been linked with female inconstancy,
emotionality and irrationality. Man is sun, woman
is moon – dark, changing, romantic, sensual – and

always in need of control and discipline by rational,
logical, objective male-scientific investigation.

Very few women enter science, as Curran shows in
her first contribution to the collection. One reason
is that science allegedly requires just those qualities which our culture identifies with masculinity rationality, objectivity, emotional neutrality, individuality, etc. Women who enter science find, by
contrast, that there is a great deal of intuition,
commitment and downright prejudice in it. They also
find it competitive, self-assertive and bombastic, as
well as socially irrelevant. As one put it, in the
scientific world she entered ’emotional dishonesty is
blatant under guises of reason, objectivity and abstraction, and … the social reasons for doing
science are lost among the emotional needs of Western
men to achieve, perform and acquire status in the
eyes of their own sex’ (quoted pp.40-4l).

Like many such collections of articles, this book
does not quite have the cohesion or unity of theme
which my comments above might suggest. Put in a
positive light this means that there is likely to be
something of interest in it for people with widely
divergent concerns about the social impact of science
and technology. Personally I found the articles by
Birke and Best on Menstruation and the Menopause, and
by Walsh on the historical growth of contraceptive
technologies the most rewarding. This is not to say,
of course, that there aren’t other valuable contributions in the collection. In some cases, though, I
did feel that quotations about women were being
presented in isolation so that it was very difficult
to assess just how representative and influential
they were. Be that as it may, this is an interesting
and stimulating book, and it serves as a tribute to
collective work, and to the Brighton Women and Science
Group in particular.

John Krige

Easlea: Witches, Magic and Philosophy
Brian Eas1ea, Witch-Hunting 3 Magic and the New
Philosophy, Harvester Press, 1980, £25 hc, £8.50 pb
It used to be thought, or hoped, that the acceptance
or rejection of scientific theories could be achieved
on the basis of logical and empirical considerations
alone. This assumption was challenged forcefully by
Kuhn, whose historical studies indicated that quite
different considerations were, in fact, also involved.

During periods of revolutionary upheaval the founders
of modern science, it seems, were swayed by forces
over and above the imperatives of logic and of
empirical evidence, forces h:i.nted at in Kuhn’ s
gestalt-switch metaphor, but not analysed by him.

This fascinating and important book develops that insight, in particular by exploring the social pressures
that were brought into play along with the rise of
modern science. The new philosophy, as it was called,
never did exist in some abstract ‘third world’ nor
was it simply a new system of discourse. It was
embedded in the hearts and minds of ruling class men

whose allegiance to it was, in part, dictated by a
struggle for power: power over nature, power over
women, and power over subversive social elements this, in a nutshell, is Easlea’s argument.

One major stimulus to his analysis is an awareness
of the historical trajectory_of witch-hunting in
Europe. The persecution of witches steadily gained
momentum in Europe in the 16th century, it peaked
between 1580 and 1650, and it subsided dramatically
towards the end of the 17th century. During this
period tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people,
mostly women, died agonisin2 deaths at the hands of
men who believed they were curing the world of a diabolical scourge. Yet even as the witchcraze peaked
Gal i l eo was publ ishing some of h:i.s most important work
Persecutions declined at the same time as the mechanical philosophy was articulated by Descartes and
others, and modified by Newton under the influence of
the so-called Cambridge Platonists. Is this mere

In his Religion and the Decline of Magic Keith
Thomas suggested that it was not. He attributed the

disappearance of the belief in witchcraft to the rise
of the mechanical philosophy, which banished spirit
from the material world. For the magician nature was
suffused with vital principles which could be tapped
for good or evil; for the mechanical philosopher it
was dead and inert, its sole essential property being
extension. In a universe purged of spirit, and of
mysterious, occult forces, there was no longer a
medium through which witches could exert their diabolical powers. The ‘absurdity’ of witchcraft was
therefore made manifest, and that ‘by reference to
the achievements of the Royal Society (founded early
in the l660s – JK) and the new (mechanical – JK)
philosophy’ (Thomas, quoted pp.4l, 197).

-Thomas’ ‘remarks, while inunensely suggestive, are
rather simplistic. The intellectual developments
which rendered witchcraft ‘absurd’ raised more general
doubts about the role of spirit in the universe. When
Hobbes reduced spirit to matter, suggesting that God,
too, was corporeal, Joseph Glanvill, an early member
of the Royal Society, was scandalised: ‘If the Notion
of a Spirit be absurd, as is pretended; that of a God,
and a soul distinct from Matter, and Immortal, are
likewise Absurdities’ (quoted p.203).

Glanvill was one of a number of Englishmen who were
determined to preserve religion against the threats of
an overly mechanistic, materialistic philosophy.

Their’efforts paved the way for Newton’s concept of
gravitational attraction – the idea that bodies can
act on each other across empty space. Whereas for
Bentley gravity was ‘the result of “Divine energy”,
a manifestation of God’s active presence in the world’

(quoted p.182), Leibniz called it a ‘senseless occult
quality’ (quoted p.183), and regarded Newton’s innovation as a giant step backwards. As Hume stressed,
While Newton seemed to draw off the veil from
some of the mysteries of nature, he showed at
the same time the imperfections of the mechanical
philosophy; and thereby restored her ultimate
secrets to that obscurity in which they ever did
and ever will remain.

(quoted p .193)
In England at least the decline of witch-hunting
cannot therefore simply be attributed to the emergence of a mechanical philosophy which banished vital
forces from nature. The connection between the two
events, if there is one, must be sought in something
over and above the purely intellectual aspects of the
new cosmology. Easlea suggests that the persecution
of witches tailed off as ruling class men gained confidence in their ability to dominate nature and
society. This confidence was informed by their rejection of-the magical world view, by their espousal of
the mechanical philosophy in a form which was compatible with religious belief, and by their allegiance
to Baconian experimental philosophy. In turning
their backs on a mystical world view they consciously
distanced themselves from radical sectarians who had
become associated with it towards the end of the
civil war. Through reconciling science and faith
they scotched atheistic tendencies, while further
entrenching class rule. As one of their number put
it, it is ‘hardly to be doubted, but that if the
common people are once induced to lay aside religion,
they will quickly cast off all fear of their rulers’

(quoted p.22l). Lastly, by modifying Bacon’s methods
they saw themselves as the new ‘masters and possessors of nature’ (Descartes). In other words, although the new philosophy undoubtedly had immense
explanatory power, as Easlea shows, it was not for
that reason alone that it was adopted. When scientific ideas have social and personal implications,
participants in the historical process which culminates in their victory or defeat do not evaluate their
merits solely in the light of logic and experience.


Correlatively, to assess the rationality or otherwise
of theory acceptance we need to go beyond purely
internal considerations – and to ask when, or whether,
an advance(?) which entrenches domination and manipulation can be defended as reasonable.

There is another aspect to the espousal of Baconian empiricism by the Royal Society. Easlea emphasises that Bacon hoped to inaugurate the ‘truly
masculine birth of time’, and that his admirers in
the Royal Society regarded the experimental philosophyas ‘masculine’. Thomas Sprat, who wrote a prop,
agandistic history of the society soon after it was
founded, spoke of its members as courting a mistress,
nature; through their efforts ‘The Beautiful Bosom
of Nature will be Expos’d to our view, we shall enter
into its Garden, and taste of its Fruits, and satisfy
ourselves with its plenty’ (quoted p.2l3). Nature,
alluring and secretive, was to be ‘penetrated’ by the
light of reason, a prerogative reserved to men, whose
intellects had not been sapped by the excessive lust
and sensuality of the female. As Easlea puts it,
‘Into their male sanctuary the seventeenth-century
practitioners of natural philosophy not surprisingly
took with them attitudes and needs reflecting an
underlying preoccupation with that dangerous, mysterious, feminine sex, necessarily excluded from the
sanctuary because of supposedly inferior mental
ability compounded by excessive carnality’ (p.245).

Witches were of course persecuted by men, who
again thought of them as under the sway of undisciplined passions. The Malleus Maleficarum, published
in 1486 and essential reading for witch-hunters,
asserted that ‘All witchcraft comes from carnal lust,
which is in women insatiable …. Wherefore for the
sake of fulfilling their lusts they consort even with
devils’ (quoted p.8). Easlea suggests that this
desire to dominate women, which reflects the male’s
insecurity about his own sexuality, was an essential
driving force behind intellectual and s9cial developments in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is almost
as if witch-hunting declined because men, believing
that they could display their virility by dominating
a femal~ nature through the experimental philosophy,
no longer needed to reassure themselves of their
masculinity by persecuting helpless, hapless old
women whom they accused of copulating with Satan.

As Easlea points out, the witchcraze peaked during
periods of acute economic crisis. Indeed witches
were held responsible for all manner of social and
economic misfortunes. Also the persecution of
witches decreased dramatically in Restoration England,
when a substantial increase in wealth occurred. The
confidence which the ruling class had was thus partly
due, one suspects. to their growing economic power at
the dawn of capitalism – a point to which Easlea
alludes, but which could have been stressed a bit
more I feel. On the other hand it would be hopelessly
naive to look for a purely economic explanation for
the decline of witch-hunting. To do so would be to
ignore the breadth and complexity of the Scientific
Revolution to which this book attests. At times I
found the arguments difficult to follow. Sometimes
I was frustrated because I could not see what point
its author was making. On the other hand his difficulties reflect the fact that he is both breaking
radically new ground, and that Easlea is sensitive to
the many levels at which major historical events
occur. His book is essential reading for anyone who
wants to learn about the emergence of modern science
and its all too familiar alliance with ruling groups
who dominate and control both nature and society in
the name of reason.

John Krige

The Politicization of the Police

P. Hain (ed.), M. Kettle, D. Campbell, J. Rollo,

PoZicing the PoZice, Vol.2, John Calder, 1980,
£8.95 he, £4.50 pb
In October 1979 James Anderton, Chief Constable of
Greater Manchester, was interviewed on BBCl. He
remarked that he saw the role of the police changing
over the next ten or fifteen years. Crime, including
violent crime, would no longer lie at the centre of
police activity. ‘What will be the matter of greatest
concern to me,’ he said, ‘will be the covert and
ultimately overt attempts to overthrow democracy, to
subvert the authority of the state, and, in fact, to
involve themselves in acts of sedition designed to
destroy our parliamentary system and the democratic
government in this country’ (p.8). This important and
disturbing book describes the politicization of the
police-, and the associated threats to individual
liberty, not to say life and limb if one crosses the
path of the SPG.

The legitimation for their new role is claimed to
lie with public opinion – with a ‘silent majority’

that needs someone to speak up for law and order in
the face of the ‘big guns [sic] of every minority
group and sociological agency’ (p.22). Parliament
is too weak to act: the police are ‘very much on their
own in attempting to preserve order in an increasingly
turbulent society in which Socialist philosophy has
changed from raising the standards of the poor and
deprived to reducing the standards of the wealthy, the
skilled and the deserving to the lowest common denominator’ (p.14), as Robert Hark put it.

To preserve law and order the police have developed
a streamlined, centralised organisation which, in conjunction with sophisticated modern technologies, has,
as Campbell its it, placed ‘society at arms length and under observation’ (p.65). Some of these innovations can be justified in terms of the prevention and
control of crime. Yet their use in practice far
transcends this limited objective. Despite the veil
of secrecy in which they are shrouded, Campbell
describes how police computers are used as databanks
on which’information is stored on a vast number of
people in this country who have no criminal records
at all. Some of this information is based simply on
hearsay and gossip (e.g. that a man ‘fancies little
boys’), much of it is ‘unchecked bunkum’ ‘tinged with
the calculated guesswork of the officer who has
provided it’ (p.120). In 1962 a Royal Commission on
the Police noted, with some justification, ‘that
there is a kind of relationship between the policeman
and the man in the street in this country which is of
the greatest value’ (p.166). Today, if the Hunt
Saboteurs are to be believed, your friendly neighbourhood bobby may well be having the registration numbers
of cars parked in your drive at meetings recorded on
the Police National Computer.

As social turbulence increases, so the level of
violence which the police use to ‘contain’ it escalates. In the third part of the book Rollo describes
the horrifying activities of the SPG and other paramilitary organisations. The use of brutal violence
by this outfit against blacks, pickets, and demonstrators, and to defend the National Front’s ‘right’

to hold meetings whose prime purpose can only be to

inflame local residents ‘and to harm race relations,
makes for ‘sickening reading. ‘They have,’ writes
Rollo, ‘been either in the front line or held in
reserve at every major strike and political demonstration during the last six years’ (p.178). As some
members of the police themselves stress, far from
assisting local police, as they claim to be, the
‘heavy mob’ are destroying the last vestiges of trust
between the police and deprived communities.

A standard legitimation for the police’s increasing
and often violent involvement in political issues is
that Parliament is too weak to take action to curb
social unrest. Of course the kind of action which is
wanted is the legitimation of repression, with the
police acting as agents of social control in the name
of ‘public opinion’. What Parliament is not criticised for, of course, is its repeated failure to curb
the invasions of privacy and the threats to individual
life and liberty which the politicization of the
police involves. Nor is it criticised for failing to
engage seriously with the root causes of social unrest and instability, viz. an economic recession
which has put millions out of work and which has sent
millions more skidding below the poverty line.

One way of coping with this situation is to take
the advice of Sir David McNee: ‘Keep off the streets
of London and behave yourself and you won’t have the
Special Patrol Group to worry about’ (p.199). On the
other hand, rather than capitulate to intimidation of
this kind, we can strip away the myth the role of
the police is not a political issue, and that they
are the impartjal agents of justice. That would at
least make it possible to have a ‘continuing real
debate about the police (with the participation of
the police, of course) …. [covering] subjects like
police powers, operations, organization, training,
accountability and – not least – spending’ (Kettle,
p.59). This has its limits of course. But it is
surely an essential part of what is required to formulate a rational policy for police practice.

John Krige

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The Republic of Mathematics

Hans Sluga Gottlob Frege, Routledge
1980, £,12.95 hc.


& Kegan


During the 19th century: a science which Kant had
deemed incapable of advancing a single step and which
he styled ‘a closed and complete body of doctrine’

began to undergo a profound transformation. Mathematics, the queen of the sciences, began to examine its
own foundations. Something of the uncertainty of the
age had eaten into it; but instead of fragmenting
into autonomous disciplines like medicine and biology,
mathematics tried first to resecure its fundamental
tenets and tighten up its own doctrines.

For two thousand years it had seemed as if mathematicians were doomed to continue reasoning without
being aware of the logical principles underlying
their work. Then in 1847 George Boole set a bold and
desperate project into motion: in his Mathematical
Analysis of Logic he sought to create a mathematical
language which could simply, clearly, and unquestioningly lay bare all mathematical truths. More specifically, his concern was to develop an algebra of
logic capable of providing a precise notation for
handling the general and varied types of deduction
traditionally dealt with by logic. A parallel line
of enquiry, which became associated with the Boolean
programme. went one step further. Whereas Boole
tried to show that the notions employed in analysis
could be defined in arithmetical terms, that is, in
terms of integers and the arithmetical operations
upon them, the German mathematician and logician
Gottlob Frege attempted to subsume all mathematics
under formal logic. Like Russell and Whitehead, whom
he influenced substantially, Frege aimed to show that
alZ arithmetical notions could be defined as purely
logical ideas.

Both these projects have been described in detail

before; this book is novel and quite remarkable in
providing a near-complete historical background to
the systematization of logic. Sluga draws the connec- ,
tions between the goal of Frege’s work and the dream
of many 17th-century thinkers who wished to discover
or create a ‘universal language’. In both cases,
statements would be produced according to a strict
set of rules; no two statements would contradict each
other,making both systems consistent. Furthermore,
each system would completely fill its universe; both
would be complete and be capable of generating every
sentence or mathematical truth. Frege’s work raises
many issues in logic, mathematics, linguistics and
analysis; indeed. having read this account, it seems
impossible to hold to the same assessment of Leibnizian rationalism or analytic philosophy. If there is
one deficiency in the book it is that, apart from the
rather haphazard treatment of 19th-century materialism, Sluga doesn’t take Frege’s impact to its
(logical) conclusion.

Given the consensus of opinion that Kurt GOdel
shattered the illusion of a solid foundation for
mathematics by showing that even the most powerful
mathematical systems could not be shown to be consistent in the way Frege imagined, the neglect of his
work in this study seems to be a severe omission.

Though it is quite wrong to see G~del’s proof as
setting ineluctable limits to human reason (as E.T.

Bell does in his Mathematics, London, 1966), his work
as a whole might well dilute the optimistic tone
adopted throughout S]uga’s book. Balanced with a
reading of Nagel and Newman’s introductory text
~del’s Proof (London, 1976), this contribution to
the series ‘The Arguments of the Philosophers’ nonetheless constitutes the best survey of the rise and
gradual dethronement of mathematics and logicism.

Mike Shortland

Curti on Human Nature
Merle Curti, Human Nature in American Thought – A
History, University of Wisconsin Press, 1980
At first glance it seems curious that Merle Curti, an
American historian, has chosen apparently so philosophical a subject for his scrutiny. It remains
curious only until Curti’s personal motivation becomes
evident. The concept of human nature has been for
years at the centre of the theological and latterly
philosophical/political debate. The tracing of past,
redundant concepts for Curti is not only an exercise
in expert sifting of historical evidence, but also,
and for him more importantly, the way in which we can
learn from the past to direct our future. He significantly quotes the statement (p.407), ‘Without a
clear-cut map of man’s present understanding of his
own nature, no frontier of innovation is definable.’

Since such a map requires an historical account, this

is the task Curti has taken upon himself to accompljsh.

In this extensive and highly detailed book, Curti
returns to the very founding of the ‘New World’ and
meticulously traces the paths, both well-trodden and
scarcely visible, of images of man up to the 1950s.

He starts in a promising manner, stating his recognition of the relational nature of traditional ‘Old
World’ ideas now posited in a new, strange environment and recounting the way in which the Settlers had
to cope with an upheaval of conceptual terms when
confronted firstly with the Indians and then with the
‘Negro’. The initial (and arguably ever present)
optimistic mentality, the desire to construct a ‘new
man’ and to establish an open society were major
contributors to a certain development of their views
of human nature.

It is here that two main criticisms of his work
emerge. As a development of consequent ideas the

book is often illuminating and stimulating, but as a
work attempting to define man’s position in the world
it is very disappointing. Other than at the beginning
of the book on Indians and Negros his ability to
to relate ideas with actual circumstances in the
social world is barely detectable, and when it does
appear, it expresses itself in an overwhelming
generalised form. For example (p.2l7),
The new view [i.e. New Psychology] may be thought
of as a reaction against or supplement to the
stress on a self-sufficient individual, whether
derived from Emersonian idealism, the frontier
heritage, the competitive economic system or the
death of self-sufficiency in urban life.

(my brackets)
This sudden relational assessment is hurriedly inserted between description after description of who
thought what about human nature. The pattern is
fairly typical throughout the book and gives the
impression that Curti has unintentionally been carried
away by the traditional approach to history, i.e. the
uni-linear detailing of consecutive events – or more
accurately here, of ideas. It is here that the second criticism relates. Since very little information
is given as to the actual social situations existing
at any particular time, we are left dissatisfied by
not being allowed to determine what makes these concepts-specifically American. How do they differ
from concepts in European thought, and how do these
differences manifest themselves?

The third main criticism is that Curti seems aware
but unable to grasp how philosophical concepts are,
and especially the concept of human nature is, arguably, nothing more than a tool for legitimation.

Having no express content in itself it can merely be,
and often very effectively is used to propound or to
disclaim certain beliefs, thus immediately giving

weight to the beliefs and making them appear almost
as a priori facts. It is indeed significant that
people continually cling to a concept of human nature,
insisting on its substance as though the very meaning
of life were inextricably related to it. Yet a concept is a social/cultural creation and as such has no
inherent substance but exists to fulfil a function.

The concept of human nature as a legitimizing
force is clearly shown (although I suspect unintentionally by Curti) in the quashing of an emergent
women’s movement. The position of women, having
become an issue, was suddenly turned into an eulogizing of the virtues of womanhood, putting the emphasis
on the purity, goodness and benevolence of women.

It gave many women a sense of self-esteem in
the role of wife and mother by substituting
dignity and uniqueness for what had often seemed
to be fate or drudgery.

Had Curti continued after the first chapter to relate
the developments in ‘human nature’ with the developments in the social world, the force of the legitimation perspe~tive would have been powerfully revealed.

It seems harsh to criticise the work of a person
who, seemingly lvell-intentioned, has spent a great
amount of time and effort in the accumulation and reorganization of a mass of information and who has
succeeded in marking out the history of ideas in a
fundamental part of philosophical thought. To this
extent; Curti’s book is a worthy accomplishment, but
regrettably it leaves too many issues dangling and
perhaps more disturbingly has an underlying assumption that hopes one day to be able to ‘capture’ human
nature and thus make it amenable to prediction and

Hilary Dowber

The Fabric of Explanation
Stephen Gaukroger, Explanatory Structures, Harvester
Press, 1978, £12.50 hc
This book provides a broad and wholly novel assessment
of certain periods and figures in the early history of
physics and mathematics and deals especially with the
work of Aristotle, the medieval scholars in Oxford and
Paris, and with Galileo. As a contribution to our
understanding of this work, Gaukroger’s text is a
powerful and for the most part positive addition to
the epistemological history of the sciences (I have
examined the case studies in the book at length in
History of European Ideas, No.3, March 1981). Equally
important is that the concept of an Explanatory
Structure (ES) developed here can be used in a more
general way to specify the realm of the discursive,
to provide something approaching a typology of discourses and a means to differentiate and appraise
them, and to lay the basis for investigating how discourses are conditioned or constituted in the play of
social, cultural and scientific factors. It is this
concept, and its applications, which I shall examine
in this review.

Perhaps the best way of dealing with it is to look
at some of the preconceptions and received opinions
we might be expected to have of the history of science
Firstly, the period Gaukroger covers has been almost

universally defended as a progressive one. The religious and mystical characteristics of our ‘scientific
ancestors’ have been deemed to be mere side-steps, or
inconsistencies within otherwise accredited scientific
theories and enterprises. Histories of the sciences especially the ‘noble’, highly formalised varieties have laboured to excuse these deviations by referring
to non-scientific interferences or by invoking the
idea of man’s innate hostility to innovation.

Science, then, the object of such histories,
embodies a powerful but unspoken assumption: that it
can be reduced to the heartless pursuit of objective
knowledge. Consequently, this pursuit can be relied
upon to furnish us with criteria for the evaluation
of other subjective, circular, manifestly non-progressive disciplines, and for the classification of the
growth towards reason – or, towards the positive

Secondly, this history can be seen as different
from other kinds of history by virtue of the fact
that it alone can chart the accumulation of knowledge
which evidently, and measurably, leads to an increase
in our control over nature. These two historiographies may perhaps mirror the two conceptions of science.

The neutral, internally coherent view encourages a
restriction to the historical demonstratlon of internal growth; an emphasis on the biography and the
primary scientific treatise. The conception of

science as a tool for forging the environment, for
controlling nature stimulates interest in the external
stimuli which have led to this power.

These conceptions are, of course, largely caricatural – though we can all recognise features in them.

Even more striking is the fact that for both there
exists a solid and immanent distinction between
philosophy and science. As Bacon put it: ‘The
mechanical arts grow towards perfection every day, as
if endowed with the spirit of life. Philosophy is
like a statue. It draws crowds of admirers, but it
cannot move’ (quoted in B. Farrington, Francis Bacon,
p.69). Historians of science have measured this
growth, they have debated whether or not it is a continuous one, whether there are periods of incubation
before a new science is born, whether its growth
follows a steady path. They have, so it seems, done
everything possible except question the idea of
progress, of development, and of growth in the
sciences itself. The debate has been an intense and
in many ways interesting one but, because the notion
of progress has not been examined, it has tended to
mask the many levels involved in scientific change.

Even when biological metaphors have been adopted to
enrich the historian’s repertoire, the vocabulary of
maturation, incubation and evolution has been denied
metaphorical effect by being used in the framework of
simple contradictions like ‘continuism or discontinuism’, and ‘external or internal’.

The great strength of Gaukroger’s account is that
it takes a wide step away from this cosy and tedious
debate around scientific development. What is
offered in its place is an account of changes in what
counts as explanation in particular discourses. These
changes are conceptualised by means of the notion of
an ES of a particular theoretical discourse. The
notion is a complex one, and one which is only fully
grasped in particular case histories, but it can be
understood in outline in the way it imposes constraints. Firstly, on the kinds of things that are
ultimately appealed to in providing evidence; secondly, on what counts as admissible evidence both in the
forming of new concepts and in the assessment of the
adequacy of an explanation; and lastly, on the types
of proof and argument that can be legitimately employed in explanations. The aim in analysing ESs is
thus to understand the way in which explanations are
generated in particular discourses, to see why
scientists frame questions the way they do, answer
them the way they do, and to learn why they have confidence in certain types of evidence and not in

Whilst this general approach can be detected in the
work of historians like Clavelin, Koyr~ and Bachelard,
Gaukroger goes some way beyond these writers in
addressing problems about explanation which are not
purely epistemological. He also provides a much more
detailed treatment of the problem of recognising and
assessing explanatory failures. More pertinently
perhaps, he succeeds in avoiding a collapse into a
‘logic of explanation’ of the type that sets out to
provide rules circumscribing the necessary and
sufficient conditions to be met by ‘scientific’


A theory here is described as ‘anything which is,
or can be articulated in the form of a statement or
set of statements which purport to offer, or which can
be taken as offering, an explanation of something’

(p.3). A theoretical discourse is simply ‘any unified
set of articulated theories’ (ibid.). Although an
‘explanation of something’ is ‘to render it intelligible’ (p.13), that process is operative only within
certain discourses. Consequently, the criteria that
establish and so differentiate discourses are not
general methodological protocols but features

specific to each discourse.

Normally such identification proceeds according to
the nature of the ‘real object’ discourses study, and
disciplines are established along pre-given ‘natural’

lines, e.g. physics, biology and sociology investigate
the physical, biological and social aspects of nature.

The problem with this form of classification is that
it relies on such aspects announcing themselves to the
sciences rather than being – as is manifestly the
case – conceptualised by them. One might say, for
instance, that far from physical phenomena carrying
labels stating themselves to be such, these phenomena
are physical if and only if they are the referents of
concepts which specify precisely what physical
phenomena are.

A common alternative to this ‘natural’ typology
is to picture discourses as wide-ranging totalities
with social, political and theoretical dimensions.

This procedure clearly resists the arbitrariness of
the first kind of differentiation. But there is no
reason to expect social, political or theoretical
accounts to do more than illuminate the social, political and theoretical elements of a discourse. This
is precisely the problem with Kuhn’s notion of paradigm, which is expected to provide a sociological
account of epistemological issues and an epistemological account of social factors.

The term paradigm refers to a whole range of entities: a political institution, an epistemological
viewpoint; a philosophy and so on. As a result,
paradigm change can be viewed as ‘continuous’ or
‘discontinuous’ depending largely on what choice of
definition is used in writing up that change. If a
paradigm is equated with a way of seeing, the rejection of one paradigm for another is, like the gestaltswitch Kuhn compares with it, a sudden, subjective
and ultimately irrational process. On the other hand,
if the sociological dimension of a paradigm is
stressed, and it is pictured as a net~ork of commitments which disciplines scientific communities,
paradigm-change becomes a lengthy process of conversion which can be sociologically and rationally

The problem here is not just that paradigms are
vague and ambiguous notions, but that conflating
accounts which explain the relations between epistemological structures and those that explain the relations that hold between scientific communities gives
us no clear idea of how paradigms are formulated, or
of the factors which play an active role in their

Gaukroger argues for a differentiation of discourses in terms of their ESs, whilst stressing both
that such discourses are not reducible to them and
that an analysis of the constitution and function of
ESs illuminates only a range of conceptual problems
which arise in the discourses. The constraints that
an ES imposes were mentioned briefly above. A more
detailed examination of the elements that make up an
ES will make the form and effects of these constraints clearer. The first element, termed an ontology, is a structured set of entities in terms of
which explanations are provided. Clearly, the ontology of a discourse does not in itself suffice for
adequate explanation; it is rather the necessary
condition for something being counted as a possible

The second constituent is the domain of evidence,
which consists of a set of phenomena serving to specify what could count as the relevant information in
terms of which explanations could be assessed. The
domain of evidence includes what actually counts as
evidence but, because it is discourse-specific,
cannot itself determine that evidence. To the extent
that it sets limits to the phenomena that can be

appealp.d to, it imposes constraints on what can be
termed an acceptable explanation.

These two features of an ES are linked by a system
of concepts which connects the entities used in explanations with those demarcating admissible evidence.

Though this system might consist of elements which
are generated by the discourse in question, a more
general proof-structure might well be used to determine the form that explanations take, e.g. mathematical concepts could be used in the proof-structure of
a physical discourse. This structure again imposes
constraints – this time on the relations which could
hold between statements in a discourse – so as well
as being a guarantee for the correct formation of
such statements, for logical demonstrations and so on,
a proof-structure would also give guidelines to consequence and derivation relations and serve to specify how problems are posed and resolved.

An obvious condition to be met before discourses
can be compared is that the references of their concepts must be, if not identical, at least overlapping. Scientific boundaries are often difficult
to mark out since a theory has two different areas of
reference. It relates to those entities or phenomena
which are being explained, and to those entities
which it invokes to explain what is being explained.

The latter comprise, as we have seen, the discourse’s
ontology and the former is termed the domain of
investigation. Such domains are often problematic
because the phenomena that are being explained do not
share a common and stable ontology.

For example, the attempt to trace lines of continuity between the atomism of Democritus and Dalton on
the basis of similar domains of investigation is
suspect since it relies on equating the concept of
‘atomoi’ with that of ‘atom’. The first requires a
distinction between space and matter, whilst the
second relies on a connection between them. The same
goes, as Gaukroger shows. for attempts to establish a
common reference of domains of investigation between
Aristotelian ‘motion’ and Galilean ‘motion’; the
first being a qualitative notion of change, the second a purely quantitative relation in space. This
doesn’t mean that the manifestly different sense of
‘kinesis’ and classical motion are incommensurable,
but points to the importance of examining the domains
of investigation as elements ofa particular discourse rather than in an a posteriori fashion.

Applied to the history of physics and mathematics,
the notion of an ES shows that there is a fundamental
gulf between pre-classical and classical mechanics.

This discontinuity is however viewed as a very specific o,ne which involves changes in what counts as
explanation in physics. The account proposed by the
medieval scholars (Buridan in particular) marks an
advance in Peripatetic physics insofar as it resolved
a fundamental discrepancy in Aristotle’s ES.

Galileo’s account marks an advance insofar as it
resolved a discrepancy in Buridan’s ES. In so doing,
Galileo was led to revolutionise the manner in which
physical problems were posed in such a way as to
leave them open to mathematical treatment.

In sharp contradistinction to the ESs of Aristotelian and medieval physics, the concepts posed by
Galileo were not simply abstracted from experience
and the problems he posed did not usually correspond
to ‘real’ accessible situations. Indeed, the role
Galileo conferred on experiments involved a complete
reconstitution of the domain of evidence in physics,
a change in the proof-structure of the discourse and
a change in its domain of investigation. The effect
of Galileo’s innovation is fully discussed in this
book, and Gaukroger carefully and precisely documents
the levels and the basis on which developments in, or
of, physics took place. However, without dealing

with the case-studies in detail, it is possible to
point out some general drawbacks of the approach
Gaukroger has suggested.

Though we are informed that ESs are only one component of a theoretical discourse and that others do
exist, no indication is given of what these other
elements might consist of, or how they might affect
the assessments of different discourses. Even though
Gaukroger has eschewed a total history of scientific
development and tried to address questions relating
to the types of explanation generated in different
periods, the attempt to reduce these questions to the
five elements of an ES has the effect of obscuring though not precluding an analysis of – non-scientific
influences on scientific discourses.

Furthermore, whilst characterising discourses in
terms of their ESs suggests that traditional ways of
defining truth are invalid, criteria might well be
suggested to re-establish the notion of correspondance on the basis of elements of the discourse which
fall outside the ES, e.g. acceptance by the scientific community. Secondly, Gaukroger rejects the general
category of ‘science’ and the distinction between
‘science’ and ‘non-science’. He offers instead the
concepts of a theoretical and an a-theoretical

A discourse is deemed a-theoretical if it fails
to operate with a domain of evidence and (as
Gaukroger puts it) ‘hence does not have an ES’ (p.39).

Following this characterisation, it would appear that
common-sense, rational theology and Aristotelian
physics (and Gaukroger even suggests mathematics,
though tentatively) are accorded the same status and,
in terms of a common lack, are indistinguishable. In
fact things are, in my opinion, worse than this since
by arguing that explanation consists in ‘rendering
intelligible’ Gaukroger imples that describing and
redescribing are in themselves and of themselves
explanations. This, of course, cuts right across the
theoretical/a-theoretical distinction since it
permits ‘a-theoretical’ discourses to explain and
theoretical discourses to be tautologies.

Finally, Gaukroger employs a referential theory
of meaning and accepts that sense determines reference. Though it is difficult to judge whether we
have to agree with his views on reference in order to
accept and use his theory of ESs, it is unfortunate
that these are presented casually as ‘the only decent
theory of meaning we have’ (p.244). I say ‘unfortunate’ because Gaukroger’s uncritical reliance on the
work of Frege tends to import the latter’s ambiguities unresolved into his own text (see note 8 of my
review). If one accepts that the reference of a term
is determined by its sense, only well-developed
theories will be open to analysis. In many other
cases there will be a considerable degree of uncertainty; enough perhaps to pose a question mark over
the proof-structure of a discourse and therefore over
the possibility of rationally reconstructing it.

There is, though, no reason why with some modifications, along the lines suggested above, all types of
discourse could not be subjected to similar treatment
to that proposed in this volume. The consequence
will be to discard the view that science can be distinguished by its methodology, by its conventions or
by its particular paradigm or research programme.

Gaukroger ends his book by confessing that the tools
he elaborated in the opening sections to specify the
elements of an ES were crude but open to revision and
correction. The revision he has in mind is clearly
in the direction of refining these tools in other
historical analyses.

There seems good reason to hope that another
direction might also be taken: to examine other elements of a theoretical discourse to see how discourses

are formed within the space of the interaction of relations and forces of production. There is equally
good reason to hope that Gaukroger’s model would,
when applied to this end, dispense with the crude
model of economic determinism as effectively as it
did that of one-dimensional scientific development.

This being so, Gaukroger’s book should – and must have an impact far beyond the restricted confines of
disciplines like the history and philosophy of
science. Given the state of these disciplines, to
treat ExpZanatory Structures as simply a work of preor scientific hj_story would only be an excuse to
maintain those debates which have kept these disciplines so barren.

Mike Short1and

Norman Fisher, Economy and SeZf – PhiZosophy and
from the MercantiZists to Marx, Greenwood
Press, 1979


This book promises much in that the intersection of
the concerns of classical political economy with
those of classical German philosophy, and their Marxian synthesis, is explored with the intention of
illuminating the problem of self-alienation – but it
delivers little. The discussion, although detailed,
is confused and imprecise with no clear sense of
direction – just stress on ‘common actions’ and
‘social holism as an explanatory tool’. The book
stays at the level of texts; there is, indeed, a lot
of comparing one man’s text with another’s – but to
what purpose is not clear.

A main theme of the book is the relationship of
politics and economics – more particularly, Fischer
believes that mercantilism’s stress on the unity
achieved by law for economic agencies is more paradigmatic for political economy than the attempt to
‘disembed’ the economy and study it as a self-acting
whole. He also believes that the ‘mercantilist’

elements in Smith, Hege1, and Marx have been

The chapter on Hege1 is particularly weak. It
features a philistine attempt to carve out from the
PhiZosophy of Right a ‘synchronic theory’ (allegedly
‘contract’, ‘civil society’, ‘state’) thus doing
violence to Hege1’s systematic presentation (and
incidentally ignoring Hege1’s own remarks on the
relationship of this to historical sequences). This
shows, as indeed is clear from the book as a whole,
that the author has no sense of dialectic.

Chris Arthur

Garrett Hardin
Garrett Hardin. PY’omethean Eth’t.’cs, University of
Washington Press, 1980, £4.80 hc
Marx regarded the myth of Prometheus as the symbol,
par excellence, of human freedom. The true, thissided, significance of the myth would find its expression in the future society. So too for Hardin the
ethically Promethean has a dual aspect; he refers



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-AlteJtnative Ene~glj
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Labica: Marxism and Philosophy
Georges Labica, Marxism and the Status of Philosophy,
Harvester Press, 1980, £26.50 hc
This book is a prolegomenon to the subject of its
title: Georges Labica never establishes the status of
philosophy for Marxism, but by his method of establishing the conditions for such a relation, through
an examination of the problem of philosophy for the
young Marx and Engels, he proves himself to be an
astute observer on a journey frequented by so many
commuters that much of the scenery frequently passes
unattended. Labica consciously attempts to avoid a
‘germinative’ or teleological reading of the early
texts, and the result is a far clearer perspective on
the evolution of Marx and Engels than is usually
found elsewhere.

Labica’s starting point is that interpretation of
the origins of Marxism set forth by Engels in AntiDUhring, where the materialist conception of history
is held to have been formed at the meeting point of
German philosophy, French political theory and socialism, and English political economy. In each country,
respectively, an intellectual, political, and social
revolution had taken place, and the history of this
‘triarchy’ can equally be seen as the history of the
young Marx and Engels. We must, Labica argues, distinguish very carefully between the precise ways in
which Marx and Engels learned to ‘speak French’ and
‘speak English’, for this is not only the means of
understanding the European polygot that is Marxism,
but equally the key to the problem of a Marxist

One of Labica’s strengths is that he attempts to
give Engels full credit for the latter’s independent
contribution to the new language and conceptual formation. Engels stopped ‘speaking German’, or thinking
in primarily philosophical categories, before Marx.

The former’s 1843 Outlines of a Critique of Political
Economy, though it did not in itself overturn philosophy as the principal method 6f analysis, is nonetheless ‘a text by which we can date the advent of a
science’ (113-14). In Labica’s account Engels was
also the first to begin to rework the vital concept
of the proletariat, which in the GePman Ideology
supplants ‘species being’ as that which stands opposed
to modern social relations, now conceived as ‘bourgeois society’. The new discourse of the materialist
conception of history, moreover, is more closely
approximated in Engels’ Condition of the Work-tng Class
in England in 1844 than in any other pre-Geitmlan
Ideology text. All of these arguments are valuable
for rescuing Engels from a much undeserved obscurity
vis-~-vis the formation of Marxism, and Labica points
the way to further work on these problems.

Labica’s main task, however, is to illuminate the
fate of philosophy in the hands of Marx and Engels,
for only when this is completed is it possible to ask
whether a Marxist philosophy has any logical status.

Since, in Germany, Hegel was philosophy, Marx’s
Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Law must be understood as a critique of philosophy in general as well.

Feuerbach, of course, offered the most useful tool for
overthrowing Hegel, whose philosophical viewpoint was
that of modern political economy. The latter could
not be overcome by an inversion of its own terms; the
outside assistance of fetishism, species being, and
other categories was required.

Feuerbach, however, provided a way out of specula-

tive, but not all, philosophy. To effect the latter
required a historically-minded and politically committed political economy. In his account of this displacement Labica emphasises the key role of the
Critical Marginal Notes, written immediately after the
Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and before the
GePman Ideology. Here alienation is absent, ‘man’ is
no longer ‘real individual man’, but ‘the worker’,
species being gives way to ‘the community’ and the
‘human’ to the ‘social’, and the ‘human essence’ is
no longer viewed as an anthropological absolute, but
is instead juxtaposed to the ‘essence of the state’.

The stage is very clearly set for the dramatic demise
of philosophy.

An audience lured to attend only on the basis of an
intriguing programme may be disappointed in the final
act, however. Philosophy is stabbed innumerable times
with a variety of loathsome weapons ranging from the
notoriously deadly division of labour to the comparatively blunt Max Stirner. Philosophy refuses to
expire on-stage, however, and is carried, profusely
bleeding, into the wings. From the Gods the proletariat pours down its scorn. At this price we deserve a
final sobbing aria whereafter Philosophy may be quietly entombed. Alas, however, this brutal assault is
neither solemn nor tragic. Director Labica cannot
think of an ending; he seems instead to be asking
his audience to provide one.

Labica implies, however, that there are two plausible resolutions to the drama. The entire history of
philosophy becomes, in the GePman Ideology, ‘ideology’,
This is mystified and obscure in proportion to its
severance from real human relations through the
effects of the division of labour, each aspect of
which produces in its participants’ minds a specific
view of the world and all its aspects. These ideas
become ‘philosophy’. In the most traditional Marxist
account, ideology disappears either (in the vulgar
variation) with the abolition of private property
under actually existing socialism, or at some later
communist stage (in the ‘qualified optimism’ interpretation), when its root, the division of labour, has
been wholly superseded. In either case a Marxist
‘science’ guides ideology to its final resting place
among the artefacts of pre-history. Alternately, in
the interpretation usually associated with Althusser,
ideology may be understood as the result of all productive activity. Hence, so long as social life is
characterised by productive activity, ideology will
remain inherent in human relations and thinking.

Ideology in this view is the representation of material relations and necessarily accompanies these,
distorting them at the same time – except for a
select group of illuminati.

Labica’s dilemma results from a lack of preference
for one of these readings of the GePman Ideology.

He seems to entertain no doubts as to the ‘scientific’

status of historical materialism, but cannot decide
whether, or in what way, philosophy might bear any
relation to it. ‘The work~r,’ in Engels’ phrase,
‘creates even man’, and this does appear to imply
wholesale redundancy for philosophers, if solid employment for Marxian scientists. How can there be a
Marxist philosophy when the nature of every philOsophy is to produce a fixed system and distorted conception of the world? Labica considers the usual
escapes from this fate: isn’t a ‘scientific’ philosophy possible? (Consider, for example, V. Afanasyev’ s
standard text, Marxist Philosophy, Moscow, 1963, whose

hierarchy of values from an historical point o~ view,
appreciating both origins and an eventual passIng
away, but being able (most vitally) to express preferences in terms of values, i.e. enhancement of workIng
conditions rather than more consumer goods, or more
democracy at the expense of greater social chaos.

We should be grateful that Labica offers us no
ready solutions to the problem of a Marxist p~ilo­
sophy. Given its price it is unlikely that hIS book
will be widely circulated. It is, however, superior
to the vast majority of its type, and is as such a
very welcome contribution to a debate which, hopefully, has barely begun to take shape.

first chapter is entitled ‘Philosophy as a Science’).

Labica thinks not: Marx believed in only a single
science, history. Either we understand Marxism historically, as merely the sum of (or perhaps something
a little more than) its components, in which case,
for instance, we must see Marxist political economy
as something occurring between Ricardo and Keynes,
and Marxist socialism as occupying a position between
Proudhon and Jaur~s. Or, alternatively, we see Marxism as ‘the advent of a conceptualisation, which at
every point represents a saltus beyond the conditions
which allowed it to exist. In that case, Marxism is
neither a puzzle to which one can keep returning, nor
some extra piece added to such a puzzle. It is to be
judged only by the yardstick of its own fecundity’

Gregory Claeys


These seem to me a rather dubious set of alternatives, and an unhappy ending to what is, on the whole,
a very good book. Even on this final point Labica’s
intellectual modesty and integrity are to be credited.

It seems unlikely that his indecision results merely
from a crisis of faith in the party. The obligatory
references to Lenin and the virtues of ‘party men’

would not seem to indicate this either. The problem
is serious in a far more general way: it is the muchtouted poverty of Marxist theory. This ‘issue’ could
fill Radical Philosophy for the next decade, and of
course in a sense it invariably will and must. What,
then, can Labica ultimately offer such a discussion?

The main possible type of Marxist philosophy which
Labica fails to consider (though he points to it incredulously) is an historicaZ one. This failure
indicates a typical Marxist phobia: if Marx and
Engels’ views are historicised, their epistemological
status becomes historically relative. Instead of a
pure science hovering far above the squalor of actually lived history, we are left with a very useful
set of theories and methods, which are nonetheless
covered with a sticky, glutinous muck which, if it
alters in colour and texture, can never be cleaned
off. True would-be revolutionaries, of course, have
retreated in horror at the prospect of such uncertainty. Like gibbering relics from a home for old
millenarians they continue to ask for all or nothing,
science or ideology, truth or falsehood. Marxism has
never adapted well to the idea of putting grey on its

It is nonetheless possible to be persuaded that a
fully historicised philosophy has some logical status.

To organise and systematise ideas does not preclude a
recognition of their historicity, nor do historical
interpretations (even of the progress of the entire
humari race) become useless when it is recognised that
the needs of the present and the conditions creating
these often dictate the ways in which we view the
past, present, and future. Norruatively as well as
analytically, it is still possible to speak of a

Ernesto Grassi, Rhetoric as Ph-{Zosophy, Pennsylvania
State University Press, 1980
Rhetoric as philosophy is a surprisingly refreshing
examination of the history and significance of the
Italian humanistic tradition. Its context is a reaction against rationalism. We must look at humanism
again, according to Grassi, because philosophy, in
the tradition that moves from Descartes to structural
semiotics, has become dominated by models of scientific proof, and consequently by questions of a purely
formal kind.

Grassi traces the history of what he sees as an
excluded philosophical tradition. The conception of
rhetoric as philosophy is more profound and forceful
than is normally admitted. Rhetoric is not merely
the art of persuasion, it is the study of originary
thought (ingenium) and of the modes in which philosophy attempts to answer immediate human needs.

Instead of studying fundamental truths ‘. rhetoric,
from Cicero to Vico, examined philosophy as a form of
practice in a concrete situation of dialogue.

Rhetoric is thus seen as pre-eminently historical and
topical; it is an attempt to answer questions that
have arisen within a social and political context;
conceived as a dialogue philosophy strives for relevance and should know of no dichotomy between theory
and practice because it should never function in
abstraction alone.

In an atmosphere which is heavy with technical and
formal languages, this suitably elegant account of
another tradition is timely and ecumenical. Because
all thought is motivated there are strong reasons for
suggesting that its initial adoption of a purpose
should be admitted. This would facilitate both
honesty and criticism, it might also engender a
clearer and more effective discourse.

Peter Goodrich

thesis eleven

f. feher & a. heller
radical philosophy
cri tical econany
left cODlllunism
michael eldred
archaeology of marxism
mino vianello
crisis of marxism
alastair davidson
peter beilharz
poli tics in history
andrew wells
the transi tion
margaret rose


agnes heller
george markus
steven wright
alastair davidson
johann arnason
hans-georg backhaus
n. w. saffin
antonio gramsci


n. w. saffin
s. wakefield

eurocallllUllism: the fear
of power
replies to feher & heller
material dialectics
statistics and socialism
cri tique of • annales •
marxism and history
Australian historiography
• the eighteenth brlDaire’ and
1903 rail strike
la trobe valley strike


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