Traces the evolution and contradictions of the philosophical outlook of empiricism as an ideological expression of the social system of capitalism.
- Pathfinder Press GA
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This is a short, clear, but not simple book. It appraises the values and contributions that empiricists made starting with Bacon. It charts their contributions not e not only to philosophy, but also to the emerging capitalist society's ability to transform science, politics, religion, and the economy. Novack gives us what the value of thinkers as far away from Marxism as Berkeley, Hume, and Mach. He has one of the clearest expositions of their ideas (OH if I had known about this book when I had to read Bishop Berkeley back in college!). He charts how their ideas reflected the limitations and expansions of the point of historical, social, and intellectual development the societies as well as their later influences. An important contribution in this book is his critique of empiricist thinking by Locke and others who provided the intellectual underpinnings for bourgeois democratic thought, revolutionary in its time, reactionary in our own. As a Marxist, Novack sees his task also to show where dialectical thinking, even in its idealist phase under Hegel, advanced beyond pure empiricism, and to show how Dialectial Materialism can answer the fundamental problems posed both by Empricism and its Rationalist oppoents. This is valuable as a tool for clear scientific thinking for those who want to change this society.
George Novack is not your typical philosopher. You can actually understand what he¿s saying. He makes a serious effort to reach average people. And he has a clear sense of how philosophical issues are related to the fight to change the world. This is not surprising since he was a longtime leader of the Socialist Workers Party and this book is part of a series he wrote to explain how dialectical materialism or Marxism emerged from earlier materialistic philosophies. That¿s one of the things I like about his approach. He doesn¿t just say that empiricism was inadequate, so Marxism came along to take its place. He does say that; but he explains what was useful and, for its time, revolutionary about empiricism. And then he goes to show how changes in social relations and in natural scientific discoveries made empiricism obsolete. So that what we call ¿common sense¿ is not enough to understand the world and organize ourselves to change it. Think about that and read it¿a clear analysis and debunking of common sense.
This book explains that empiricism arose as a habitual way of thinking--and then as a school of philosophy, with the rise of capitalism. It has become enshrined as a results-oriented, experimental philosophy. Novack points out that although the starting point may be sound, empiricism is no longer adequate to understand the world, human society, and how to join with others to change history. None of these last points are recognized as possibilities by the self-indulgent and indecisive empiricism promoted by capitalist institutions today. Dialectical materialism, on the other hand, looks at the root causes of events and takes a moral and political stand with a confidence based on scientific knowledge. Academic philosophers will not read this book and probably couldn¿t understand it.. It¿s written for you, the working class activist who wants to become more effective by understanding where you fit into the history of ideas.