Some Quasi-Hegelian Thoughts about the Two Terrible Strategies

To continue my thoughts about both "terrible strategies": both of these strategies are unconditional. 

Rather than speaking about "absolute" vs "relative" systems, it's much more useful and interesting to make a distinction between "conditional" and "unconditional" strategies.  A materialist, interested in the ways that the material world matters, will tend to have far more detailed conditional strategies.  And the development of this kind of conditional thinking is the lion's share of what is called "strategy".  A person that does not think conditionally is not really thinking strategically - they are thinking in terms of moral commandments, like Kant's categorical imperative.

The struggle of the conditional against the unconditional is the struggle of meaning against meaninglessness.  I'm tempted to say, "Beliefs without conditions are beliefs without content"... but that, in itself, is a bit of an unconditional statement (ha, ha).

Think of it like the upgrade from propositional calculus to predicate calculus.  Propositional calculus - you know, the kind of logic you probably learned in high school, and have forgotten, all the p -> q stuff, where every letter stands for an entire proposition - is fine.  It works.  It's the basis of most formal logic, and it's been serving us since the time of Ancient Greece.  (It's often called Boolean logic, but George Boole in the 1840s merely formalized ideas that had been known for centuries.)  It's great as far as it goes, but you can't do that much with it. 

Predicate calculus is more complex.  Rather than an entire proposition being represented by (reduced to) a single letter, it allows you to break down the logical content of the sentence or clause.  For instance, in propositional logic, you might represent "All humans are mortal" simply as "p".  This doesn't allow you to "peek under the hood," so to speak, and figure out what's going on logically within that sentence.  In predicate calculus, however, you might render this sentence as ∀x:(Hx ⊃ Mx) (that, is for all x, if x is human than x is mortal).

Now you can use the principles of predicate calculus to see that that statement is logically equivalent to this one:

~∃x:(Hx ⊃ ~Mx)
("There does not exist a human that is not mortal")

...but logically distinct from this one:
∀x:(Mx ⊃ Hx)
("All mortals are human")

...and so on.  You can do a lot more with predicate calculus than you can with propositional calculus, because (some of) the content still remains in these symbols ("mathemes") - they have not been simplified away.

To return to the two terrible strategies: avoiding these terrible strategies means thinking historically.  This does not mean: looking back through history and finding a historical analogue, and then applying the lessons of that historical situation to this one ("Oh, this is just like the collapse of the Roman Empire, blah blah blah")... No!  Just the opposite: it means understanding how material conditions condition everything, and therefore understanding why the conditions of some past historical situation no longer apply.  The person who tries to superimpose some situation from ancient Greece or China onto the present day is specifically not thinking historically - they are thinking trans-historically, in terms of transcendent, absolute truths that can be abstracted and apply to every period of history equally.  They are not thinking conditionally.  The great challenge of real political thought is the conditional. 


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