Social Scientist. v 11, no. 124 (Sept 1983) p. 59.


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MADHU PRASAD^

Marx and Wittgenstein

THE ATTEMPT to 'resolve' the focal points of the debate between materialism and idealism by employing a notion of 'praxis5 permitting both philosophical trends to be labelled 'metaphysical5, is by no means novel. Lefebvre, one of a prolific group of European intellectuals of the late 1950s to the 1970s, claiming theoretical affinity with writers of the 1920s and 1930s like Karl Korsch and Georg Lukacs (of History and Class Consciousness vintage), categorically states that "both Materialism and idealism are interpretations of the world and both are untenable in the face of revolutionary praxis'5.1 The novelty of David Rubenstein's account of 'social praxis5 as a means to explicate the specificities of 'social scientific' as opposed to 'natural scientific5 explanation, is that he claims to derive the concept from a 'synthesis5 based on "substantial parallels between the work of Marx and Wittgenstein55.2 The work of these thinkers, according to Rubenstein, undermines the implicitly shared philosophical premises of materialism and idealism. Rubenstein misleadingly equates the distinction between these two trends with that between objectivism and subjectivism respectively.

Objectivism, characterised as the social scientific version of postivism, is said to have originated in the unity of method and objectives of scientific explanation advocated by Comle. Focussed on a 'rigid sensationalism5, by the logical positivism of the Vienna Circle, the modern expression of positivism in JIempel's formulation results in a reduction of 'explanation' to predictability, of 'cause' to law-like regularity. The behavioural trend of sociology is of course a product of this narrow and very specifically defined school of thought, but Rubenstein credits it with having contributed an idea, recognisably common to all forms of objective social science, both materialist and idealist, that social life should be explained not by the notions of those who participate in it, but by more 'profound causes5, i e, "those features of social living that are independent of and exert controlling influence on the beliefs and actions of social members55 (p 14).

The 'subjectivist' tradition is traced to the dominance of the neo-Kahtian idealist intellectual current of the late 19th century evident in

*Teaclies philosophy at Zakir Hussain College, Delhi University, Delhi



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