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6 Reviews

Lelle:rs
Dear Editors
Jerry M Cohen in his discussion
of Roy Edgley’s article ‘Reason
and Violence’, presents himself
as both a victim of, and propagandist for, a brand of doublethink increasingly popular
amongst our so-called radicals.

on the one hand, he argues that
we should have no truck with the
meaning of words (a pursuit which
he derogatorily categorises both
as ‘historical’ and also as ‘a
concern with timeless essences’);
yet, on the other hand, he
apparently attaches no minor
importance to their meaning when
used by himself as labels:

he talks historically, as
liberals do, about the meaning
of the word. (my emphasis)
On the one hand, he suggests
that it is a mistake to focus on
‘the most abstract, rather than
the most concrete description of
an act’ (and, presumably, this
applies also to descriptions of
‘mystification’; while, on the
other hand, he advocates that we
see society not as a set of
persons, but as:

a system of social relations
into which various persons may
at times enter.

This particular piece of abstraction is of course necessary for

any pro-violence argument such as
Jerry M Cohen’s. Known as deh~­
manising the enemy, this ploy
facilitates the passage to violence, especially when accompanied
by such mystificatory phrases as
‘depoliticises the issue’, ‘the
grim reality of oppression and
institutionalised violence’ and
‘there are situations in which the
only adequate, human response is
a violent one’.

But perhaps we do Jerry M Cohen
a disservice. Perhaps, despite
his assertion that none of what
he says is ‘meant in any sense as
a glorification of violence’, he
really does intend his to be an
argument pro-violence. After all,
he does demand, in a fit of paternalism, that Roy Edgley’s paper
should be about ‘what in these
definite material circumstances
is the role of violence’, which
seems to suggest that some sort
of violence is necessary anyway.

The subject of Roy Edgley’s
paper – can violence be reasonable – is, it seems, unworthy of
discussion. Apparently, Jerry M
Cohen has already settled this
question and not, as he makes
clear, by recourse to the type of
argument advanced by Roy Edgley,
viz. that although harm, hurt,
discomfort or inconvenience is
necessarily involved in an act
of violence and are necessarily
reasons against it, there may be

overriding reasons in favour of
it. This type of thinking is
rejected by Jerry M Cohen since
it is part of ‘the liberal hoax’.

If Jerry M Cohe~really has
settled this question and’has
found that some form of violence
is necessary, he might perhaps
let us know how he has done this;
or are we perhaps to take his
justification to be the argument
he appears to adv~ce in his
discussion of Roy Edgley’s paper;
that as long as we label people
‘oppressors’, ‘liberals’, ‘capitalists’ or whatever, without
regard for the meaning of the
word, and see them as systems
not as persons, harming or hurting them is no reason why violence
should not be perpetrated against
1:fhem.

If this is ‘thinking which
takes its start from concrete
historical realities and possibilities’, then the ‘radical’

Jerry M Cohen might like to know,
before organising the bonfire of
all literature containing
‘liberal muck’, that such arguments were indeed concrete
historical realities – about
forty years ago in fact, although
i t seems a shame that Mr Cohen,
of all people, needs to be so
reminded.

Eluned F. Price
University of Sussex

Reviews
Popper for the people
Bryan Magee: Popper, Fontana
Modern Masters, £0.40.

Bryan Magee’s book about Popper
is not going to get a good review
from me.

T should explain, before
hostile readers jump to unwarranted
conclusions, that this is not
because I am so prejuJiced as to
think that a good book could not
be written about Popper: some of
what I think such a book should
contain will be evident from my
remarks below. The aim of
Magee’s book, to be a popular
exposition, rather than the little
gem some other writers in the
series have produced, is admirable.

Magee feels that Popper ought to
be a ‘household name among the
educated’, and sets out to give
‘a bold clear outline of Popper’s
thought which exhibi ts its systemati c
unity’.

He does succeed, in one
respect, at least, in this latter
intention, as we shall see.

However, the phrase ‘among the

38

educated’ is a give-away: the
very style of his presentation
belies the author’s avowed intention.

Popper’s ideas are not set
out as grist for thought and discussion, but as achievements to
be revered.

This is shown, too,
in the neglect of well known
criticisms and difficulties to
which Popper’s ideas have been
subject, some of which I will
mention below.

The sycophantic flavour of his
recent Sunday colour-supplement
article also pervades Magee’s book.

Names dropped in the first two
pages of the introduction include:

Sir Peter Medawar; Jacques Monod;
Sir John Eccles; Sir Herman
Bondi; Sir Ernst Gombrich;
Anthony Crosland; Sir Edward (now
Lord) Boyle;. Lord Clark of
Civilization. Adler and Schoenberg are also mentioned, but in
the normal manner, without
christian names (or titles!),
presumably because they are too
far removed from the contemporary
scene for their names to potently
confer that middlebrow elan

striven after by the gossip
columns of quality newspapers.

The exposition throughout the
book abounds in superlatives and
throw-away references to issues
of profound significance, well
taken, I suppose, by ‘the
educated’. The half-educated,
on the other hand, are not
encouraged to emUlate the
author’s facility with ideas,
but to admire the show from
their position in the suburbs of
intellectual life.

Even uneducated readers might
be excused if they were to wonder
quite why Popper’s ideas are
worthy of such exaggerated respect, since they are so notably
lacking in subtlety.

It would be
too much to expect, though, that
a book like this would say that
Popper is important precisely
because commonplace ideas are
elaborated and treated systematically in his work. A less serious
writer than Popper would have lost
heart long ago, and a less
scrupulous apologist sidestepped
a dozen of the difficulties Popper

squarely confronts. The germ of
Popper’s work, nonetheless,
consists almost entirely of various platitudes of liberalism:

the ’empiricism’ of trial and
error; the virtues and rewards of
taking risks; free competition in
the market-place of ideas; reason
as antithetical to violence; the
unimportance of being right (it’s
not what you do, it’s the way that
you do it); the less we are governed, the better the government;
history is bunk; etc. The importance of these notions is shown
by the very fact of their being
cliches: they have wormed their
way into a pre-eminent position
within the wisdom of the west.

All these notions have long and
interesting histories, and it is
a signal defect of Magee’s book
that Popper’s situation in a
tradition of political philosophy
and the theory of knowledge is
neglected.

A complex skein of thought and
practice, by no means wholly
ideological, needs to be unravelled if we are to understand
the involvement of the natural
sciences in the self-image of
bourgeois societies. What follows
if capitalist economic rationality,
and its offshoots in ideologies
of social and political rationality, conform to essentially the
same scheme of rational practice
as would be followed by an adequate method in the natural
sciences? It need not necessarily have the positive consequences
for those political ideologies
that Popper supposes it to have.

It might, alternatively, enable
us to explain why the rise of
modern natural science coincided
with the rise of the bourgeois
social order: ways of thinking,
in which one’s fellow men are
seen as existing to be exploited
and manipulated for gain, much
as nature is, paid dividends in
the newly rising market economy
of Renaissance and Enlightenment
Europe (and still do). These
ideas pay dividends when applied
to nature too, but such success
does not necessarily have any
bearing on our thinking about
how society oug~t to be organized.

Magee does indicate that it is
Popper’s intention to confer on a
certain sort of social, political
and economic practice the kudos
of scientific rationality. The
overall character of Popper’s
work as ideology is unmistakable
from Magee’s account. Magee
does not seriously conSider,
however, that it might be that
what constitutes rationality is
dependent upon what it is you are
being rational about. Popper
himself, having demarcated
science from metaphysics and all
other forms of discourse, by
means of his falsifiability
criterion, quit~ conSistently,
does not use canons of scientific
rationality at the philosophical
level. His theories about
scientific method are not
fa1sifiab1e, and nor need they

be: this does not show any
deficiency in his demarcation
criterion, as the parallel
argument did with the verifiability criterion of cognitive
significance. While the claim
that any statement must be
verifiable to be meaningful does
not itself fu1fil1 the condition
it states, the claim that a
theory must be fa1sifiable to be
scientific is secure, if it is
not intended as a scientific
claim. Allowing this, though,
is to admit that rationality does
not have the same form in all
spheres of human thought. A
positive argument is therefore
needed to sustain the extension
of the canons of scientific
reason to human affairs. I do
not think an adequate argument
to this effect is to be found in
popper’s work, and the importance
of this issue is not raised by
Magee.

Before going on to consider the
adequacy of Popper’s view of the
natural SCiences, perhaps I may
sketch a well known argument for
their inapplicability to human
affairs. If your hypothesis can
explain what happened in the
past, then you will be able to
predict what will happen in the
future under the same sort of
conditions. If your predictions
fail, you know that your explanation was wrong at some point. So,
in popper’s scheme, explanation,
prediction and testing cohere in
such a way as to make vulnerability to test (falsifiability
rather than confirmability) the
key criterion an explanatory theory
must meet. The subject matter of
such explanations must meet two
fUrther conditions, however:

(1) that the conditions prior to
and at the time of the occurrence
to be explained are all that is
relevant to our understanding it;
(2) that these relevant conditions
are subject to repetition, so as
to explain successive occurrences
of the same type.

Human purposive activity does not
meet either of these conditions:

(1) future goals need to be known
in addition to past and present
conditions;
(2) experience modifies our
understanding, so conditions
relevant to explaining what
people do are not repeated.

All our intentional activity is
directed towards the future (you
can’t have intentions towards the
past), and is differentiated from
events that are causally determined in that the bearing that
past experience has on our
future action can’t be predicted,
but, rather, is cumulative and
gives rise to that novelty which
is future knowledge.

(All this
is to be found in ‘The Poverty of
Historicism’, especially the
preface, which contains Popper’s
‘refutation of historicism’.)
Popper’s decision to restrict the
accolade ‘scientific’ to only
those theories in which explanation, prediction and testing have

the close relationship outlined
in the last paragraph, amounts to
a flat denial that systematic
knowledge is possible beyond the
realm of the objects of the
natural sciences. This is why
Marx, Freud and Adler come off
so badly in his writings. Popper’s
grounds for this denial seem to
amount to little more than an
inductive inference from the past
success of the ‘explanation prediction – testing’ formula in
the natural sciences, to its
exclusive efficacy in the production of systematic understanding.

Whatever his reasons, it is not
a feature of his ~~heme of
rationality for the natural
sciences, not that it does carry
over into human affairs, but,
rather, that it cannot.

Society is not subject to
unvarying causal laws which yield
to investigation via explanatory
hypothesis, prediction and test.

It is subject instead to history something Popper understands
vaguely in respect of the growth
of scientific knowledge, but, for
political reasons, will not allow
to extend to his understanding of
human activity in toto. Yet here
is a clear contradiction within
Popper’s overall doctrine: if
a systematic understanding,
albeit a non-predictive understanding, can be gained of the
growth of scientific knowledge,
through his theory of scientific
method, as Popper claims it can,
then this is an instance of just
the sort of non-predictive systematic understanding of human
activity which is supposedly
subjected to devastating criticisms in popper’s own work. Most
of these criticisms, in fact,
are generated by mistakenly
assuming that Marx, Freud, etc
are seeking predictive theories
of a natural science kind, and
then, surprisingly enough, showing that their theories are not
falsifiab1e after all. But if
human activities, like Popper’s
own chosen field – the sedrch for
knowledge – are susceptible to
understanding without the need
for a predictive theory, then
Popper’s critiCism that Marx’s
theories are not fa1sifiable,
and his criticism that falsifiable theories cannot be constructed, and so systematic knowledge
is not possible, in the field of
human activity, are both quite
misplaced.

So far I have written as though
Popper’s account of the natural
sciences was generally regarded as
satisfactory. Magee neglects a
number of well known criticisms
of Popper on this score. At a
certaiL level, Popper’s ideas are
adequate to the practice of the
natural sciences. As I indicated
above, there is a great deal of
force in those explanations of the
coincidence of the rise of the
natural sciences with the rise of
bourgeois social order, which aim
to show the suitability of bourgeois canons of rationality to

39

the investigation of nature.

Popper is the most recent in a
long line of writers who have
sought to show us bourgeois political systems basking in the
reflected glory of the success of
natural science, without asking
whether the appropriate way to
deal with people is the same as
the appropriate way to deal with
things.

However, the practical adequacy of Popper’s precepts is an
insufficient grounding for them
in the face of the famous ‘OuhemQuine argument’. This argument
is generally recognized by Popper
and disciples in a very crude
form.

It is actually one of a
range of complex, interconnected
difficulties faced by all those
theories of the growth of
knowledge which lack a rationale
for the attendant conceptual
change.

In its straightforward
form the ouhem-Quine argument
pinpoints a difficulty standing
in the way of the conclusive
falsification of hypotheses,
namely, that any explanatory
hypothesis explains only in conjunction with an indefinitely
large set of supplementary hypotheses, specifying what is not
relevant to the occurrence to be
explained.

The failure of a
prediction does not, therefore,
direct ‘the arrow of falsification’ unerringly to any single
hypothesis.

All we may infer is
that one or more elements of the
overall conjunction is false.

The
hypothesis that the atomic weights
of the elements would all be whole
numbers was seemingly refuted by
the discovery that chlorine has
an atomic weight of 35.5. The
subsequent discovery of isotopes
showed that what had really been
mistaken was the supplementary
hypothesis that chemically identical atoms were physically identical, when, in fact, atoms of
different mass could have the
same chemical properties.

The standard response to this
difficulty is to require that we
specify in advance which element
of the conjunction is under test.

This ‘methodological decision’

(i.e. convention) arbitrarily
designates which hypothesis is to
be taken to be falsified by which
adverse experimental outcome, in
the absence of any means of telling which i t ought to be.

(Popper,
on p.239 of Conjectures and
Refutations, discussing just this
issue, says, of a given theoretical system, that ‘ i t is sheer
guesswork which of its ingredients should be held responsible
for any falsification.’)
This
response shows that the force of
the” objection is really not
appreciated.

Some matters may
be safely left to conventi·:mal
decision, like driving on ·the
left: nothing turns on which
decision we make, so long as some
decision is made. But this can
not be so when we come to decide
which of the statements in our
theories are vulnerable to

40

refutation and which are not,
because the latter are our definitions and so determine what we
mean. That should not be a
matter of guesswork or arbitrary
decision!

Words don’t mean what
we mean them to mean.

Popper writes as though, in
this sort of case, we knew perfectly well what we meant, but had
no way of ascertaining what was
the case.

However, having correctly described some aspect of
nature is as much a matter of the
adequacy of one’s concepts as the
truth of one’s assertions.

Our
concepts change as knowledge grows
because the facts we discover
decide as much on the entrenchment of statements we will not
subject to falsification as on
the vulnerability of statements
we see as falsifiable.

Before
Captain Cook went to Australia
‘All swans are white’ and ‘All
swans have long necks’ were
pretty much on a level. Finding
black swans not only shows ‘All
swans are white’ to be false; i t
also changes the meaning of ‘swan’

by making ‘All swans have long
necks’ all the more important in
determining what ‘swan’ means.

Nothing that could have been known
prior to Cook’s journey could have
differentiated between ‘All swans
are white’ and ‘All swans have
long necks’, in respect of their
vulnerability to refutation, but
‘All swans have long necks’ is
clearly less vulnerable after
the discovery of black swans than
before, because the less that is
known to be uniquely characteristic of swans, the more definitive
what is known to be uniquely
characteristic becomes.

It might be objected that I
have confused the falsifiability
of a statement with its falsification.

I plead guilty to this
extent: taking a statement to be
falsifiable does not turn solely
on its meaning, independent of
what else we know. You could not
falsify every general statement
about chlorine, say, at one go.

Not because it would be too difficult, but because, without some
true generalisations about it,
you would not know of what it is
false to state a given generalization.

Prior to investigation, we
cannot say, of a set of hypothetical generalizations about
some matter, which will tend
towards ~reater enrichment, nor
which will tend to become more
exposed. Chemistry, in relatively necent times, abounds with
examples where, of a range of
generalizations true of a given
substance, of more or less equal
standing, some have come to be
seen as describing fundamental
properties of the substance,
others are virtually coincidental.

Smell was important to early experimental chemists, but lends
itself to no sensible systematic
treatment, and has often been
shown to be due to the presence
of some impurity – devaluing it
as an item of data even where this

has not been shown.

Spectroscopic properties, on the other
hand, have came to be seen
increasingly as fundamental,
giving the sorts of clues that
they do to atomic and molecular
structure.

The relationship of the socalled Ouhem-Quine thesis to the
meanings of terms employed in
scientific theories is generally
ignored by Popper land his disciples.

It is as though they had read
Quine’s famous paper ‘Two dogmas
of Empiricism’ and neglected to
notice that i t is, in bulk, about
the analytic synthetic distinction.

The relation of thrs objection to
the historical thesis concerning
conceptual change presented by
Kuhn in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions is also not
recognised by Popper and his
disciples. The issues raised by
Kuhn are dismissed by Magee in a
paragraph, and one is referred to
Lakatos and Musgrave’s compilation Criticism and the Growth of
Knowledge, as though that collection set the seal on Popper’s
victory over the Kuhnian heresy!

The systematic attempt by Lakatos
to save Popperian notions from the
attack from Kuhn, Feyerabend et al
is widely regarded as conceding
almost everything of importance
and establishing little else.

Magee might have been better
advised to produce a little
critical monograph for academics
on why we may safely neglect the
‘modern master’ assigned to him,
as many other contributors to the
series have done, rather.than
climb on to a band wagon just as
it shudders to a halt.

Roger Harris

Access to
Wittgenstein
Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin:

wittgenstein’s Vienna, Weidenfeld
and Nicolson, £5.25
Jacques Bouveresse: Wittgenstein:

La Rime et la Raison, Paris,
Editions de Minuit. 25F.

Anthony Kenny: Wittgenstein,
Allen Lane, £3.00
P. M. S. Hacker: Insight and
Illusion: Wittgenstein on Philosophy and the Metaphysics of
Experience, Oxford University
Press, £4.25.

Bernard Harrison: Meaning and
Structure: An Essay in the
Philosophy of Language, Harper
and Row, £4.65.

Wittgenstein is one of the hardest
philosophical writers to get to
know. His own published writings
do not make nervous new readers
feel at home; and most of the
books about him, even the best
ones, make him seem either rather
dull or fantastically abstruse.

Perhaps wittgenstein’s Vienna,
which draws attention to the

wider cultural context of Wittgenstein’s life and work, will
do something to improve this
situation.

It reads in places
like a tract for the Radical
Philosophy Group, being, amongst
other things, an indictment of
the narrowness, aridity and exclusive professionalism of modern
English language philosophy. The
joint authors, Allan Janik and
stephen Toulmin, argue that the
‘received interpretation’ of
Wittgenstein has misrepresented
him, because, roughly speaking, it
has depicted him as a prosy modern
Englishman rather than the soulful Viennese he really was.

Janik and Toulmin argue that the
cultural life of Vienna before the
Great War, where Wittgenstein was
brought up, was a site of revolutionary struggle. The revolutionary leaders were people like Adolf
Loos, architect; Karl Kraus,
writer; Arnold 5chanberg, composer;
and Gustav Klimt, painter.

Realising that such people do not
correspond to everyone’s idea of
revolutionaries, and perhaps
embarrassed by their inability to
say exactly what their revolution
was, “Janik and Toulmin lament the
limitations of ‘our’ understanding
of revolutions.

(‘Hitherto we
have been encouraged by a somewhat narrow minded reading of Marx
to think of revolutions in excessively economic terms’ (274).)
According to Janik and Toulmin,
the cultural revolution of Old
Vienna succumbed to the same fate
as all other revolutions: it
installed ‘a new centralism, or
orthodoxy, no less restrictive
and inflexible than its predecessor’ (275). The liberating revolutionary innovations of
Old Vienna were turned into
instruments of oppression. Janik
and Toulmin suggest that ‘the
barrenness of this professionally
imposed scholasticism came to be
acknowledged during the 1960s’

(255), and they welcome this as
a sign of a return to the original
ideals (whatever they were) of
their revolutionaries, as an
attempt to bring back to life
‘those novel techniques which the
professional bureaucrats of neoorthodoxy subsequently froze into
the modern style’ (255).

This is the setting in which
Janik and Toulmin dispute what
they call the ‘received interpretation’ of wittgenstein – as
preoccupied with logic, and as
having been awoken to philosophy
by Frege and Russell. They pose
the question, ‘What preoccupations
made Wittgenstein go and see Frege
and Russell in the first place?”
Their answer, worked out through
a lengthy and fascinating history
of the intellectual culture of
fin de siecle Vienna, is that
their origin is in various discussions of the nature of
expression, and in particu2,ar in
discussions of the idea that all
forms of expression involve
‘representations’ or ‘pictures’,

Th~y

also imply that Wittgenstein’s rigorous moral seriousness and individualism came from
the same source, and that the
‘received interpretation’ fails
through ignoring Wittgenstein’s
preoccupation with ethics.

Janik and Toulmin have very
little direct evidence that
wittgenstein came into contact
with the ideas they describe •.

But Wittgenstein was born into a
family which was near the centre
of Viennese cultural life, and,
‘presumably’, they say, the
problems which he consulted Frege
and Russell about were met by
him ‘in the course of his
Viennese upbringing and education’ (28).

(One wonders whether
the authors would risk similar
remarks about Trotsky, who was
in Vienna from 1907 to 1914.)
Janik and Toulmin do not present enough evidence about
Wittgenstein’s own intellectual
development to prove their point;
unfortunately the relevant facts
are not available anywhere. And
Wittgenstein’s writings are so
hard to understand, so bitty, and
yet so carefully worked, that
biographical information is
particularly useful for understanding them.

(This is why
Norman Malcolm’s justly famous
Memoir of wittgenstein (OUP 1958)
and also Fania Pascal’s equally
sensitive ‘Personal Memoir’

(Encounter, August 1973) are so
valuable to readers of wittgenstein.)
Wittgenstein’s literary
executors have been very anxious
to protect wittgenstein’s
reputation from gossip mongers.

Years ago, F. A. von Hayek began
writing a biography of Wittgenstein, but he had to give up, he
said, because Wittgenstein’s
literary executors would not
allow him to make free use of
wittgenstein’s corresponden~e.

One of the executors, Elisabeth
Anscombe, wrote ‘If by pressing
a button it could have been
secured that people would not
concern themselves with his
personal life, I should have
pressed the button’ (Engelmann:

Letters from Wittgenstein,
Blackwell 1967, p.xiv). Only
now, twenty-two years after
wittgenstein’s death, is a
biography being undertaken (by
Brian McGuinness) with the
blessing of the executors.

The executors have been extraordinarily slow in getting
Wittgenstein’s writings
published – a job still not
completed.

It is even rumoured
that they have not kept the
writings entrusted to them as
carefully as they might – that
when re-arranging some jottings
of Wittgenstein’s for publication (as Zettel), they failed
to keep a record of the original
order. One way and another,
then, Wittgenstein has been made
into a more mysterious and inaccessible thinker than he need
be. At the same time, a lot

of people think of him as the
founder of post war English
language philosophy, in spite of
the fact that a large number,
perhaps a majority, of English
language philosophers would be
inclined to dismiss him as a
pretentious word spinner. He
has become part of the syllabus so much so that the highest level
course in philosophy at the Open
university is a forthcoming
third level course on Wittgenstein.

But as Janik and Toulmin’s questioning of the ‘received interpretation’ shows, we are a long
way from having a solidly
established answer ~ven to the
most general questions about what
wittgenstein’s philosophy really
means.

Janik and Toulmin repeatedly
emphasise that wittgenstein’s main
interests were in ethics. And as
far as Wittgenstein was concerned,
ethics had nothing to do with
the standard questions in moral
philosophy, about objective goodness, means and ends, and so on. 1
For Wittgenstein, ethics was about
the human subject – the will, the
self, the soul; with the elusive
and inexplicable centre of a
person’s individuality. The logic
of Frege and Russell suggested to
the young Wittgenstein that all
thought was essentially general,
so that the sort of absolute individuality which ethics attaches
to the intimate interiority of the
self was illusory.

‘There is no
such thing’as the subject that
thinks or entertains ideas ..•
In an important sense there is
no subject’ (Tractatus 5.631).

The same preoccupation haunts
Wittgenstein’s later work,
especially the remarks which
have been grouped under the
heading ‘the Private Language
Argument’. Wittgenstein’s
attempt to subject this dear and
comforting ethical notion to unrelenting criticism from the point
of view of logic produced writings
with extraordinary qualities:

intellectual intensity, refusal
to rely on metaphor, and anguished
honesty. By emphasising
Wittgenstein’s interest in ethics,
Janik and Toulmin do a lot to
bring Wittgenstein’s philosophy
to life; but unfortunately they
are weak when it comes to
detailed interpretation of
Wittgenstein’s writings. For
instance they say that Wittgenstein tried to show how ‘the
meaning, scope and limits of ..•
symbolic representation … depend
on the relations by which men link
it to a wider behavioural context’

(255). This is misleading,
because it suggests that an
identifiable ‘symbolic representation’ can exist apart from a
‘wider behavioural context’, and
that people tie these two independent things together; whereas
Wittgenstein’s point is really
quite the opposite – that ‘symbolic representations’ only have
their identity within ‘wider

41

behavioural contexts’. And one
gets impatient with remarks like
‘Wittgenstein’s critique of language is based, then, upon the
logic inherent in ordinary la~­
guage; just as Schonberg had
sought the essence of music in
the logic of composition’ (188).

Wittgenstein: La Rime et la
Raison, by Jacques Bouveresse, is
an attempt to describe Wittgenstein’s ethics as arising from
his logic. Bouveresse is one of
,the few French writers to take
English language philosophy
seriously (perhaps over-seriously:

see his La Parole Malheureuse,
Editions de Minuit, 1971); and
one senses his isolation in the
extreme uncertainty with which he
tries to build up a picture of
Wittgenstein’s logical doctrines
in the first chapter of his book,
eclectically citing rather contradictory English language
authorities. But although his
statements are often shaky or
implausible, and although he
does nothing to show that
Wittgenstein’s views on ethics
have even symptomatic interest,
he has succeeded in proving from
Wittgenstein’s own writings the
inseparability of his ethical and
logical preoccupations, and in
this way he book fills in some of
the gaps in Janik and Toulmin’s.

As a straightforward exposition
of Wittgenstein’s ideas, early and
late, Anthony Kenny’s Wittgenstein
has absolutely no rival; it is
especially useful for the space it
gives to various writings of
Wittgenstein’s which were written
in the 1930s but only recently
published. Kenny begins with a
very lucid account of Frege and
Russell, but spends no time at
all on the influences which Janik
and Toulmin emphasise, or on
Wittgenstein’s ethics; and he
works steadily through Wittgenstein’s writings in a roughly
chronological order. Kenny’s
convincing explanation of the
continuity of themes between
Wittgenstein’s early and late
works, and especially of the
links between the theory of
meaning in the Tractatus and the
‘private language argument’ are
particularly valuable. Kenny
manages to cover all these topics
in a presentation designed for
‘general readers’; the sad
thing is that it is hard to
imagine any ‘general reader’

feeling sufficiently interested
to read through the book, for it
communicates none of the excitement of reading Wittgenstein’s’

own works.

P. M. S. Hacker’s Insight and
Illusion: wittgenstein on
Philosophy and the Metaphysics
of Experience amply fulfil!. the
promise of its title: it is convoluted, pretentious, civilised,
dreary, and verbose. Hacker
(who wi 11 incidentally be :running
the Open University course on
Wittgenstein) does, however, make
a number of useful and accurate

42

observations, and avoids most of
the standard oversimplifications
about wittgenstein. He has also
dug up some interest~ng pieces of
biographical information.

Like Kenny, Hacker ignores what
Janik and Toulmin and Bouveresse
see as the all important ‘ethical’

element in Wittgenstein’s writings;
but he makes very strong claims
for the importance of the theory
of meaning which he thinks he
finds in Wittgenstein’s later work.

This is a theory that meanings
have to be explained in terms of
‘criteria’, where criteria are
neither symptoms, nor defining
characteristics, but ‘noninductive grounds’. Mysteriously,
though, ‘a change of criteria is
a change of sense’ (294). Hacker’s
conception seems to be the same as
that which makes many people treat
Wittgenstein’s remarks about
‘family resemblances’ as a high
point of his late philosophy.

Witt~enstein is supposed to have
had the great ‘insight’ that the
justification for applying the
same expression to different
things need not be that they have
some feature in common, but may
rather have to do with something
like ‘the various resem.blances
between members of a family: build;
features, colour of eyes, gait,
temperament, etc. etc. overlap
and criss cross in the same way’

(Philosophical Investigations 67) .

It is worth r.ecalling that
Wittgenstein-himself referred to
family resemblances only for the
limited purpose of loosening the
grip of the assumption that common properties, and in particular
the common properties of
different parts of language,
are simple, which leads to an
inappropriately monolithic theory
of language. Wittgenstein
admitted that in a case of family
resemblances it was legitimate,
if not particularly helpful, to
insist that there are common,
defining features – ‘the disjunction of all their common
properties’. Wittgenstein was
emphasising that the rules for the
use of words are complex and
changeable; he was not trying to
put forward a whole theory of
meaning according to which there
were not really any rules at all.

Bernard Harrison’s Meaning and
structure presents a theory of
language which draws extensively
on both early and late Wittgenstein. Harrison constructs a
precise and complex theory to the
effect that learning a language
is learning sets of rul~s or
instructions (‘ 11ngui “ic
devices’) which gene. ~ce utterances suited to definite needs
in specific social situations.

The interplay of these devices,
according to Harrison, explains
the complication of lingUistic
phenomena and the fertility of
linguistic competence, while
their simplicity taken individually removes some of the
mystery from the fact that

children can learn languages.

One of the many good things about
the book is that it shows that it
is possible to build on
Wittgenstein’s work so as to
produce something more than the
obscure murmurings which form a
large part of the image of him
which both his admirers and his
detractors have produced.

Jonathan Ree
NOTES
cf. Wittgenstein’s remark to
Russell, in a le4ter of June
1912: ‘r have jus’t been
reading a part of Moore’s
Principia Ethica (now please
don’t be shocked) I do not
like it at all.

(Mind you,
qyite apart from disagreeing
with most of it.) •.. Unclear
statements don’t get a bit
clearer by being repeated.’

New paradigms
for old
R. Harre and P. F. Secord: The

Explanation of Social Behaviour
Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1972
£3.75
Few philosophical works can ever
have been greeted with such excitement as this one. Just as
the exhausted damsel psychology
seemed about to give in to the
all-devouring dragon of Scientism, who should arrive on the
scene but st George himself (in
the person of Harre and Secord)
– mounted on that most English of
trusty steeds, Oxford philosophy,
and brandishing the fearsome
sword of the New Paradigm. The
outcome of the battle seemed so
little in doubt that few people
stayed to watch: on the one side,
the absurd excesses of positivist psychology, on the other, the
sophisticated awareness of the
post-Goffman generation, always
in the right because always observing the rules of ‘ordinary
language’ and ‘naturalistic
description’. From the confident and vigorous air of the
book, the contest seemed as good
as won before it even began: one
was reminded of that other breathless classic, The Concept of Mind.

As the liberators galloped off
triumphantly, there was only one
thing that nobody seemed to have
noticed: the dragon had got away.

How did it happen? To understand why the victory was illusory, we must document more
prosaically what it was that
Harre and Secord set out to overthrow, and why the means did not
match the task. The book’s basic
contention was that a ‘paradigm
shift’ is occurring ip the human
sciences, comparable “to the
Copernican revolution in the
natural sciences, which is about

to turn the traditional ways of
doing psychology into an
‘antiquated framework’; the
authors’ aim was to aid and abet
this shift, first by describing
it with the clariey of the
professional conceptual analyst,
and second by putting forward a
complicated theoretical framework
to illustrate the application of
the ‘new paradigm’ to the study
of social interaction. As the
second task is in fact a rather
specialised exercise in social
psychology, I shall concentrate
on the more far-reaching things
that Harre and Secord say about
the so-called ‘old’ and ‘new’

paradigms.

The New Paradigm
The first confusion that we come
up against is that Harre and
Secord have attempted to match a
type of explanation (the ‘new
paradigm’) to a domain of facts
(i.e. social behaviour) where it
seems neither wholly nor exclusively relevant: what they have
to say about methodology seems to
apply not simply to social
psychology, but to any psychology. Roughly speaking, the
difference between the old and new
-paradigms is the difference between explanations of behaviour as
the product of a set of causal
‘forces’, and as the actions of
self-governing agents following
sets of rules or roles.

It is
far from obvious to me that the
distinction ‘social’/’non-social’

behaviour parallels the distinction between these two styles of
explanation: each style would
seem to have plenty of applications both inside and outside the
social sphere – however one
defines the latter.

I shall
suggest below, in fact, that the
authors have motives for suggesting that social behaviour and the
new paradigm match each other’s
domain perfectly, but here i t is
enough to note that a great deal
of contemporary psychology which
looks more like new paradigm
stuff than old is not concerned
with social behaviour (for instance, the approach to thinking,
perception and memory in terms of
strategies, which has been
fostered over the last ten’ ‘years
under the label of cognitive
psychology) .

Within the new paradigm, we
are told, human beings are to be
regarded ‘anthropomorphically’,
which means that they are to be
treated as self-governing agents
performing meaningful actions.

Now the proposal to treat people
as people is so sane, on the
face of it, that i t ought to be
very surprising that such ~old­
ness is required to put it
forward.

To some extent, this
state of affairs is due to the
intellectual, emotional and
political laziness of psychologists, who have been reluctant
to think and act in the demanding
ways that ‘treating people as

people’ calls for: and if this
book forces them to do so, its
other shortcomings will be amply
redeemed. However, I doubt if it
will have this effect, because
the authors seem unappreciative
of the fact that it is not simply
laziness which makes psychologists reluctant to abandon the
old paradigm in favour of the new.

For the chief drawback of the
type of explanations that Harr~
and Se cord favour is the difficulty of knowing when they are
correct. Even the most hardline behaviourists, in my experience, are willing to admit
that explanations of behaviour in
terms of the meaning or purpose
of actions, the underlying rules
and roles, and the agent’s point
of view, would be the most satisfying ones to make – if we were
in a position to make them: but
because their meaning, and the
evidence for them, is. so unclear,
we seldom are.

In normal life,
our ability to make such explanations depends on a series of
deductions and inferences which
is mostly intuitive and hardly
ever successfully formalised.

That it should be formalised and
incorporated into the domain of
science is beyond question;
Harre and Secord have taken some
steps in this direction, it is
true, but they have said
remarkably little about the
nature of teleological, semantic
or structural explanation, and
have quite tnexcusably by-passed
the trickiest part of the process
– the problem of verification.

They manage to do so by adopting
an epistemological principle which,
in my view, represents little more
than wishful thinking – viz., the
‘open souls doctrine’, which
restores to introspection the
credit-worthiness which it has
been denied almost since
‘scientific’ psychology began.

At this point we may pin down
three basic assumptions empirical generalisations, that
is, not logical truths – that
underly the proposed ‘new paradigm’ • The first is that most
human behaviour constitutes
actions: the second, that the
performer of an action usually
has direct knowledge of the
nature of that action (i.e. knows
what he is doing): and third,
that the rules and plans governing
the generation of actions are
capable of description in
‘ordinary language’. All these,
if true, would indeed add up to
the conclusion that the best way
to understand a person’s behaviour
is to ask him what he is doing
(cf. Chapter 6 – ‘Why not ask
them ••• ?’): but if any of them
are false, they make it very inadvisable to adopt Harre and
Secord’s approach as a paradigm
of explanation rather than a
special case. And, in fact, I
think that much of the time,
these assumptions are false.

Firstly, there are many types
or aspects of behaviour which do

not have meanings or purposes, but
only caUses: these include some
(but not all) phobias, aversions,
addictions, pre-menstrual tensions, post-prandial torpors and
so on.

secondly, there are many
meaningful and/or purposive
actions of which the agent is not
conscious: either those whose
performance is so familiar to
the agent that he does not notice
that he is doing them, or those
which he would be very surprised
to notice himself doing (as in
Freud), or those which he lacks
even the concepts to perceive.

Thirdly, there ar~ many
intentional and conscious actions
which the performer would find i t
very hard to describe in words,
whether ‘ordinary-language’ ones
or jargon. One obvious example
occurs in music-making: many
skilled performers are unable to
say what they are doing, although they may do it with
complete awareness and deliberateness. To the extent that social
interaction resembles musical
activity, the same is presumably
true of the rules and conventions
governing it. Another perhaps
more obvious example is the
generation of language: Chomsky
has effectively poured scorn on
the assumption that the user of a
grammar should be able to state
its rules and on the introspective
method that i t entails. Harre and
Secord appear to use language as
an analogy to social behaviour,
and go so far as to posit the
existence of ‘deep structures’

(whatever they may be) in ‘social
life: but they conveniently
ignore this other doctrine of
Chomsky’s.

The faulting of each of these
assumptions casts doubt on one
of Harre and Secord’s prescriptions;
(1) It is simply unknown at the
moment to what extent i t is worth
looking for rules and meanings
underlying human behaviour: the
guidance we lack on this score is
empirical and not philosophical.

In choosing a paradigm for
explanation one has to be guided
by the nature of what is to be
explained, and one can seldom
rule out in advance the relevance
either of explanations by causes,
or by meanings.

(2) The agent himself is not
necessarily in a better position
to understand what he is up to
than those around him: he can
only help the scientist to the
extent that his self-knowledge
permits.

(3) Since people do not always
learn, monitor and regulate their
actions through the mediation of
language, the way they talk about
them may match the structure of
the actions only very crudely.

From this it follows that
‘ordinary language’ has no more
special virtues in the human
sciences than it does in the
natural sciences: the very
variety of ‘ordinary language’

43

itself ought to suggest this
doubt in the first place.

(My
reason for suspecting that the
authors’ equation of human
action with social action is
motivated is that it is slightly
easier to maintain the fiction
that all action is mediated by
language if one does so.)
I think, in short, that in
order to justify their method
Harre and Se cord have assumed
an implicit model of ‘how the
mind works’ which is simply incorrect. Perhaps the easiest way
of communicating what I think the
model is would be to describe
what people would be like if it
were correct. All their behaviour would comprise deliberate
actions: their self-knowledge
would be exhaustive, and there
would be nothing they do which
they were incapable of describing in words.

Alternatively, one
may imagine a type of computer
which could not only make
deductions, formulate strategies
and so on, but could also provide
print-outs or ‘dumps’ of what it
was up to at each point: moreover
the elements of the language of
these ‘self-reports’ would bear
a one-~o-one relation to the
operations the computer was
capable of undertaking. As any
computer man will tell you, so far
from its being an intrinsic
property of any rule-following
mechanism that it should be able
to do all these things, it is
quite hard to make one do any of
them.

It is not unconscious
actions which should be treated
as a special case in psychology,
but conscious ones, for they are
the ones which require the more
elaborate model to explain them.

To be aware of the fact that one
is doing something involves
perceiving more than is required
simply to do it; moreover, selfperception is no more contingent
on the ability to report the
perception verbally than is any
other kind of perception. Without self-knowledge, one cannot be
a self-governing agent (for every
‘plan’ requires an ‘image’): and
self-knowledge, especially articulate self-knowledge, is a
fairly rare high-level skill,
which can no more be conferred on
human beings by the creatton of a
philosophical doctrine than the
ability tQ swim backstroke.

At this point two aspects of
what Harre and Secord are doing
come into focus.

The first which in itself demonstrates the
untrustworthiness of the ‘open
souls doctrine’ – is that their
own account of what they are
doing is a very poor gUide to
what they are actually doing.

For the most part, the book would
appear to be philosophica:L: at
any rate, there are no references
to any data that support ~he
authors’ contentions.

In the
first chapter, some space is
given over to distinguishing
philosophical activity from

44

empirical research, and to answering the charge often levelled by
psychologists against philosophers,
that they disguise armchair
generalisations as conceptual
analysis. Yet this is precisely
what Harre and Secord are doing:

the ‘open souls doctrine’, for
example, turns out not to be a
philosophical doctrine at all in
the proper sense, but a collection of unsubstantiated empirical
generalisations.

The authors’ insensitivity to
this distinction can be judged
from their comments on R. S.

Peters’ statement, ‘The paradigm
case of human action is when
something is done in order to
bring about an end’. Harre and
Secord translate this (p.4) as:

‘I am going to select as a paradigm for discussion that case of
human action in which something
is done for an end’.

Now changing
‘the paradigm’ to ‘a paradigm’,
as they have done, makes all the
difference to the sense of the
remark: Peters’ original statement
might be incorrect if humans were
other than the way they are, but
the truth or falsity of the
‘translated’ version does not
depend on anything to do with
human ~ction – only with what the
author does next. As it stands,
Peters’ remarks fully deserve the
criticisms which have been raised
against them.

The second point concerns both
the ‘new paradigm’ and the method
Harre and Se cord have used to
derive it. Both have extremely
conservative, not to say reactionary, consequences.

The conservatism of their method is precisely
the conservatism of the so-called
OXford school of linguistic
philosophy, wherever it is applied.

We shall find out the most suitable ways of talking about human
behaviour, the argument runs, by
inspecting the ways people
habitually use: which assumes
that nothing of fundamental
importance can be added to the
conceptual stock of ‘ordinary’

human beings.

(Whether we are to
take ordinary OXford dons, or
ordinary Hebridean crofters, is
of course not specified.) Closer
inspection shows this method to
be completely circular: in order
to define the distinctive properties of human beings, one
examines the normal ways of
talking about them, which are
based on certain assumptions
about … the distinctive
properties of human beings.

Common prejudice is thus recycled
and reincarnated as ‘logical’

truth. And common prejudice, of
course, is quite secure in its
conviction that we know all we
need to know, thank you very
much, about what we are up to.

‘Oh no’, the philosopher wi~l
reply at this point, ‘you have
misunderstood the nature of
logical truth, which has nothing
to do with what is empirically
the case’.

on the contrary, the

proof that what Harre and secord
extract fram ‘ordinary language’

is empirical is that much of it
is empirically false: for instance
the claim (Ch.3) that the definitive difference between humans
and animals lies in the ability
to use language, and to be aware
that one is aware. Many whom I
regard, I think rightly, as human
beings give no sign of having
either of these abilities: conversely, I require convincing that
no animal is capable of either.

Even if I were convinced, nothing
would persuade me that the denial
of Harre and Secord’s claim is
anything like a c~~tradiction in
terms.

The ‘new paradigm’ itself, in
fact, is a miniature version of
this very method: not only is our
manner of explanation to be based
on ‘ordinary language’, but so are
the concepts deployed in the
explanations. Such an approach
deprives the scientist of the
most valuable type of contribution he can make – i.e. to give
people ways of understanding
themselves which they did not have
before: Freud, Marx, Skinner or
Chomsky, because they use concepts
which are not in any ‘ordinary’

person’s vocabulary, are presumably ruled out of court.

(The
interesting question that arises
is whether, as ‘ordinary language’

Changes and broadens itself, we
are to believe that people have
changed accordingly.)
The theory
of perception that this notion
of ‘naturalistic’ description
implies, as Trevor Pat~man. has
pointed out in connection with the
study of myth (Human Context, V
[i] 1973, p.247), is naIve empiricism – that we ‘see directly’

what we are doing: and it is
precisely because we don’t see it
directly, but require special
training and ability to see it
at all, that a science of behaviour (including myth) is both
possible and necessary.

Since self-consciousness does
not provide an epistemological
short-cut to the workings of the
mind, it is clear that samething
other than an introspective method
is going to be required if psyChology is to avoid merely reprodUCing peoples’ illusions
about themselves. Now this realisation was reached by psychologists more than fifty years ago:

it provides the basis and the
justification of the ‘old paradigm’ itself.

If we agree that
psychology must have taken some
wrong turnings to have arrived
where it is now, then the logical
response is not, surely, to throw
the whole of post-Kantian psychology into the air and pretend to
find a return to pre-scientific
innocence acceptable, but to go
back and examine carefully just
what mistaken choices the proponents of the ‘old paradigm’

made. unfortunately, this book
is unlikely to help us much
there.

The Old Paradigm
Just as Harre and Secord distorted the nature of people in
order to justify acceptance of
the new paradigm, so they are
obliged to distort the nature of
the old paradigm in order to
justify its rejection.

I shall
deal firstly with the mismatch
between traditional psychology
and their representation of it,
and then examine whether the two
paradigms are in competition to
such an extent that they ought to
be regarded as alternatives at
all. To anticipate the argument,
I shall be claiming that they are
not, in fact, alternative ways
of doing psychology after all:

that they are as distinct, and
as compatible, as genetics and
molecular biology.

(Nobody
claims that molecular biology is
the ‘new paradigm’ for what used
to be done in genetics.)
The main characteristic of the
old paradigm, according to Harre
and Secord, is the attempt to
explain behaviour as the result
of ‘external forces’; in line with
Hume’s doctrine of causality, the
means by which the cause gives
rise to the effect, i.e. the intervening internal process, is
ignored. This approach is said
to characterise both S-R theory
and the more recent ‘informationtheory’ approaches, which are
said to generate only concepts
which are ‘logical functions of
the concepts describing input and
output’. Slight acquaintance with
the work in question is enough to
show that this view is a complete
travesty of it. The only major
psychologist to have even attempted such a programme is B. F.

Skinner: as applied to the work
of Hull and his descendants, or
any of the so-called ‘information
theorists’, this description is
simply false, for such work .

abounds with references to postulated internal processes (‘drive
stimuli’, ‘limited capacity
information-processing channels’,
and so on). The more recent
‘cybernetic’ or ‘cognitive’

approaches, and physiologicallybased theories such as Deutsch’s,
are concerned by definition with
internal processes.

What seems to have misled Harre
and Secord (apart from a rather
selective reading-list) is the
characteristically behaviourist
rejection of ‘mentalistic’ explanations, in the sense of explanations that regard the human mind
as the originator of unaccountable, unpredictable causal pushes
in the otherwise closed system of
physical reality. The reason for
rejecting these was the simple
one that if they were admitted,
prediction would become impossible: any of the non-random
oatterns the scientist sought to
investigate could be disrupted
by the random operation of the
will. That such a view of mind

– the ‘ghost in the machine’ model
so effectively trounced by Ryle is in fact a misuse of the concepts of mind and will, is beside
the point: it is precisely what
the behaviourists were rejecting
in adopting the policy they did.

(Their inability to see beyond the
‘ghost in the machine’ model, of
course, meant that they approached
the problems of psychology with
one hand tied behind their backs:

concepts which were perfectly
compatible with a closed-system
approach, like attention,
reasoning, expectancy and so on,
were tabooed long after the
experimental facts had shown
their usefulness.)
Now it is
clear that Harre and Secord,
writing from the post-Rylean
standpoint of ‘Australian
materialism’, are adopting quite
a different analysis of mental
concepts from the behaviourists:

their argument with the latter is
therefore at cross-purposes, and
is as pointless as, say, a cardgame in which one person plays
poker and his opponent plays
canasta.

The words (or cards)
being used are identical, but
the rules governing their use are
quite incompatible.

If it is true that there need
be no doctrinal disagreements
between an approach based on postRylean mental concepts and
behaviourism, which is based on
a rejection of its pre-Rylean
antecedents, then the whole
existence of the ‘paradigm
shift’ which Harre and Secord
claim to detect is called in
doubt.

If the one paradigm can
be nested into, or interfaced
with, the other, are they really
different paradigms, or just
different levels of explanation
wi thin the same paradigm? The
task which this book should have
undertaken, but did not, is the
long overdue one of showing
precisely which parts of traditional psychology are incompatible
with the more recently emphasised
styles of explanation in terms of
points of view, meanings, intentions and so on: much headway
could be made, for example, by
analysing the apparently conflicting approaches to the
phenomenon known as schizophrenia.

Harre and Secord take us nowhere
in this direction, for two reasons:

firstly because their account of
traditional psychology bears
hardly any relation to the real
thing, and secondly because they
are content to argue in terms
like ‘mechanistic explanation’

or ‘self-governing agent’ without
bothering to analyse precisely
what, apart from value-judgements,
is conveyed by them. The whole
subject badly needs some ‘conceptual geography’ done in it; but
what this book achieves reminds
one of nothing so much as the
nineteenth-century imperialists’

division of territories according to the arbitrary lines of
latitude and longitude – with

disastrous effects on the life of
the region.

The Paradigm of Paradigms
In spite of all this I believe
that psychologists are better
off now that this book has been
published than they were before.

The fact that I think Harre and
Secord are wrong, much of the
time, does not detract from their
main achievement – that of
showing psychology that it must
look to its conceptual bases,
and take in the subtlety and
relevance of the kinds of
‘ordinary-language’ “explanations
it has so hastily renounced. Nor
would I deny the revolutionary
consequences of their demonstration that ‘social selves’ are not
coterminous with ‘biological
selves’ – which has been
implicit for a long time in the
SOCiological concept of ‘roles’

and the psychoanalytic concept of
‘part-objects’: in the light of
this, we are forced to scrap the
whole notion of personality as a
set of traits associated with a
biological individual.

(We can
also envisage how people may
actually become logically dependent on each other’s existence; the
mother is not a mother without a
child, and so on.)
Fundamental
changes in psychological thought
are taking place, some of which
do lead to incompatibilities with
the classical method.

But the deeper change in perspective, which underlies that
shift, is not touched on by Harre
and Secord – because it ls a” change
of political stance, and within
the old paradigm of philosophy of
science (which they – to borrow
their own expression – write from
‘deep inside’), politics is not
an issue. Curiously, the new
paradigm of explaining social
behaviour, when applied to the
social behaviour we call ‘doing
science’, would dictate that it
should be an issue: in this respect Harre and Se cord have not
caught up with themselves, because they analyse psychological
thought just as the old-style
psychologist would – as a selfcontained system considered in
abstraction from its social
meanings.

For the paradigm which is
really changing in psychology (and
forcing the content of the science
to change with it) is the paradigm
of how psychology is used. What
used to be very much a rulingclass science, concerned with the
best ways of grading, predicting
and organising other social groups
has developed to a point where it
refuses to be used in this way:

psychology has turned on its own
makers. The emphasis has shifted
from the manipulation of essentially passive subjects to the
understanding of man as a reasoning, feeling and choosing person.

We can put it as simply as this:

a psychology which was net inter-

45

ested in people’s wills was not
relevant to the will of the
people.

In other words, I think
that the key to the difference
between the images of man embedded
in the ‘old’ and ‘new’ paradigms
lies in the psychologist’s relationship to his subject – who is,
in the one case, an entity to be
acted on in accordance with his
employers’ needs; in the other,
an agent with the same status as
himself .

It follows from this that the
difference between the concepts
of the ‘old’ and ‘new’ paradigms
is not at heart a descriptive,
but a prescriptive one: what is
being redefined is not men’s
nature, but their status. The
best example of this normative use
of the concept ‘human being’ that
I know comes (not surprisingly)
from Ibsen, where Nora in A Doll’s
House says – ‘I believe that
before everything else I’m a human
being – just as much as you are …

or at any rate I shall try to
become one.’ To be sure, a human

News

Communist
University

The annual Communist University
of London was held this year at
Imperial College, over nine days
at the end of July. Participants
numbered between 250 and 300, of
whom, I gather, roughly half were
party members. The programme
included non-specialist courses in
Philosophy, Economics, The state
and Class Struggle, and Imperialism (each consisting of four
three-hour sessions); plus
specialist courses in Arts,
Economics, Education, History,
Law, Literature, Philosophy,
Science and Technology, Sociology, and Introductory Marxism
(each consisting of nine threehour sessions); plus various
plenary sessions and evening
activities.

I attended various of the
lectures and discussions in the
introductory and the specialist
philosophy courses. The introductory course consisted of a
talk on the fundamentals of
dialectical materialism, a
session on marxism and historical
change, one on marxist theory of
knowledge, and a talk on socialism and the future.

These varied
widely in quality and level of
sophistication: the first was
hardly more than a sermon; the
middle two were thoughtful and
thought-provoking, and the last
was very amusing and anecdotal,
but hardly philosophical, except
in the broadest sense.

I was
only able to attend the last few
sessions in the specialist
course: these included one on

46

being in this sense does think
and act differently from a ‘nonperson’; but the essential difference is not in their behaviour
but in their status.

I suspect
it may be this that Harre and
Secord are pointing to when they
note that it is logically necessary to being a person that one is
so regarded by others (an otherwise jangerous doctrine, since I
could theoretically deprive you of
your claims as a human being simply
by denying that you were one, and
persuading everyone else to do the
same). But the extent of ‘human
rights’ is not a discoverable fact
of natur~: humanity, autonomy,
freedom and self-government are
not properties of a man himself,
but of his relation to others, and
they can only be conferred. How
they are conferred is the study
of politics, and if this is what
psychology is now interested in,
then psychology is now politics.

David Ingleby

Althusser, a discussion of Lenin
on ‘reflection’, a marxist treatment of the Hare-Foot debate, an
account of philosophy in the USSR
by a soviet sociology professor,
and a session on objectivity and
partisanship. The speakers were
all party members, ranging from
veterans such as James Klugmann
and Maurice Cornforth, to younger
people who lecture in philosophy
in various institutions, such as
Irene Brennan and Martin Milligan.

Although the sessions varied
greatly in content, certain broad
themes and preoccupations ran
,through several of the discussions,
and there was quite extended discussion of various key theoretical
concepts in marxism, such as
ideology, reification, alienation,
the base-superstructure relation
etc, and of central philosophical
texts by Marx, Engels, Lenin and
other authors. One theme which
came to the fore frequently in
discussions, was the nature of
science, the relation between
science and ideology, and the
conditions of objectivity. Many
questions were raised about the
nature of philosophy, particularly
about the place of philosophy
within marxist theory and practice, and the question of how much
marxists can draw upon pre- and
non-marxist sources. There was
also much discussion of the nature
of revolutionary practice itself,
and the problems of adopting a
revolutionary stance in a nonrevolutionary situation.

Martin Milligan devoted the
main part of his :ecture to a
patient and detailed exposition
of the post-Moorean tradition of
moral philosophy. He quoted the
remark of the soviet philosopher

Oleg Drobnitsky who, before his
death recently, took part in a
symposium on moral philosophy in
England, and who said that work
among marxists on ethics was
‘barbaric’ in nature. Milligan’s
treatment of the academic debate
might be criticised for making
too great a concession to the
terms in which the post-Moorean
debate is conducted.

It is also worth singling out
for specific mention Professor
Zamoshkin’s talk on the role of
philosophy in the USSR (not least
because of the light shed by the
subsequent discussion, on the
subservient and uncritical attitude of CP members to the Soviet
Union).

Zamoshkin explained that
soviet philosophy had undergone
a renaissance in the last few
years. There used to be about
four books published on philosophy
in the Soviet Union each year,
whereas now there are about 500.

Many popular works on historical
figures in philosophy are sold
out within a few days of appearance. Philosophy is obligatory
for students in all university
courses, even medicine and engineering.

He also stressed the
close links between philosophy anq
sociology in the Soviet Union: in
Soviet academic institutions there
are no separate sociology departments.

It would appear fram his
account that there is great
dynamism in soviet philosophical
research, but a certain lag
between the progress of research
on the one hand, and publication
of text-books and the teaching of
philosophy, on the other: “the
complaint is often raised that
text books are as much as ten
years out of date. Nevertheless
philosophy is extremely popular
in the Soviet Union, even with
people who have not been involved
in university education. The
soviet journal ‘Problems of
Philosophy’ organises readers’

conferences not just in universities, but also in factories.

Zamoshkin also suggested that
the best soviet philosophers were
women: his wife had published
twice as many books as he had.

Steve Torrance

Teaching
philosophy
At the end of June, Middlesex
Polytechnic arranged a two day
conference on ‘The Role of
Philosophy in Higher Education’.

This was a conference designed for
teachers of philosophy and aside fram invited speakers chiefly attended by non-university
teachers.

It is likely that most
university teachers would feel
that such a conference could have
nothing to say that would concern
them. From the programme, i t was
just about possible to suppose
that this was to be a chance for

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