Hegel and Hegelians: GE Moore vs FH Bradley, and a View of Reality
هگل و پیروان هگل: جی ئی مور در برابر اف اچ بردلی، و نگاهی به واقعیت
P.S. 11/22/20: This first version of this article was written and published 26 years ago in SCI newsgroup. Today that discussions of Hegel's philosophy and his followers are happening in Iranian intellectual circles, perhaps reading this short article would be interesting for the readers. SG
Unfortunately many former Marxists in Iran are now focused on Hegel's philosophy whereas actually a lot of what finally ended up in a Communist Dictatorship was rooted in Hegelian Thought, as fully analyzed by Karl Popper in his book entitled "Open Society and its Enemies" and has been discussed by this author in a paper entitled "Marxist Thought & Monism" (1). In the following article which discusses the sophistry of Hegelians at the turn of the 20th century, I am using a quotation from G.E. Moore who took the podium in a conference of philosophers and responded to F.H. Bradly the famour Hegelian of the time, about 100 years ago at the turn of the 20th century; by first showing his RIGHT HAND. Then pointed at his hand and said "THIS IS MY RIGHT HAND." Subsequently he raised his LEFT HAND and said "THIS IS MY LEFT HAND." So that was his whole lecture in refutation of F.H. Bradley. In other words, the external reality comes first, whereas talking and logic come next, not the other way around. Twenty four years ago I wrote the first edition of the following article in English which was published in SCI (soc.culture.iranian) Usenet newsgroup on Sept 10, 1994. The article was written as part of an ongoing dialogue I had with the ardent supporters of Islamic Regime of Iran (IRI) on that Usenet newsgroup at that time. In fact, a lot of today's arguments of the Islamic Reformists (2) of Iran are similar, yet we are witnessing all this when critics of Islamism such as Soheil Arabi (3) and Sina Dehghan (4), the latter still with an execution sentence hanging on his head, suffer torture and jail terms just for writing criticism of Islam on the Internet.
I was reading some of the writings by the ardent supporters of Islamic anti-Republican Regime of Iran and saw some of the most obvious facts about the Islamic regime, such as the harassment of political opponents in Iran, or the lack of some of the most basic civil rights including the right to wear what you want, to eat what you want, to listen to the music you like, etc, asking for tons of documents to be proved! It is as if someone wrote a hundred volume book to convince another that there are trees in the forest. These arguments of the Islamic regime's ardent supporters remind me of one thing in the East and another in the West which I would like to share with the readers.
I remember at the time of the Soviet Union's existence, in 1980, I once was talking to one of the ardent supporters of USSR who was raised in a Tudeh Party family in Russia and happened to be in Iran at that time. She was mad that I was saying the USSR was dictatorial. Her face had turned red telling me how arrogant I was not to understand that Soviet Union, this birthplace of Socialism, was surrounded by all these capitalists who were always sending their agents to overthrow it and she could not understand why I expected USSR to allow freedom of travel. She said, do you know if allowed, all these American spies are going to be all over the USSR? I told her, well let's go to Moscow together and see for ourselves how free the people living there feel. I asked her to sponsor me and take me with her. She got real scared when I suggested that, and then, continued saying: "no no no no, you are an anti-Communist, or else you would see how free we are." I said how is it? She said well, she had gone 48 kilometers outside of Moscow and they arrested her and the KGB had only explained to her that she needs to have her passport to go beyond 48 Kilometers. It was so normal for her!
To be fair, I should say this
internal passport law was inherited from the time of Tsarist Russian Regime and was not invented by
the Soviet Union. But it is a fact that the Soviet Union did not allow its
people to have freedom of travel to go abroad and perhaps this helped the
collapse of the USSR because as a result of this travel policy, for Soviet
people, to pursue happiness, they had to change their regime. However,
the woman with whom I had the conversation could never believe me that
if you live in the US, you can travel anywhere and nobody will stop you for
passport or identification documents on the roads, unless you go to the roads in
border areas like San Diego of California. We were never able to convince each other. I do not know
where she is now and have not been in contact with her for decades. But I know after the fall
of Soviet Empire and the execution of her father by the Islamic Republic of
Iran, she may feel differently about both "Comrade Brezhnev," whom she
five minutes, and her beloved Islamic Regime of Iran, which she defended so
strongly at that time!
The second thing that the IRI ardent supporters remind me of, happened in the West. After the era of founders of Modern Rationalism (Descartes, Spinoza, and Leibniz) who started by doubting, to arrive at a new certitude, there were Hume and Kant. Hume added the Humean doubt to the rationalist certitude which Karl Popper refers to, in a lot of his works, and Kant distinguished between Synthetic and Analytic Truth, where synthetic statements require the external reality to be substantiated whereas the analytic statements entail the truth in their meaning. For example, if you have put 2 apples in a jar and then you add another 2 apples, you will have 4 apples and there is no need to check real apples to arrive at this analytic truth. At any rates, beside Hume and Kant, there was a philosopher by the name of Bishop Berkeley (yes, UC Berkeley is named after him). Kant even mentions Bishop Berkeley in his Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (5). Berkeley in his own way ended the path of rationalism with his questioning of reality itself. He said there is no proof that all this world is not in my mind and thus there is no external reality, i.e. some kind of solipsism. The modern rationalism, which had started thanks to the ones who had challenged the flat-Earth theories four centuries ago, at the end of 18th century, fell into some kind of absurd logical inquiry itself, and evidently logic was not easily able to put this argument to rest and this discourse resurfaced again in a different way among the quantum physicists in 20th Century.
However, in the nineteenth century, social philosophy took precedence, and science gained strength. Marxism grew (6). Darwinism and science grew and pure philosophy was forgotten for a while, although later in the 20th Century, pluralism came back to Western philosophical thought (7) which is a vast discussion (8). But around the end of nineteenth century, a philosopher by the name of F.H. Bradley became popular. He was first an idealist of the Hegelian school meaning Objective Idealist, but he turned more and more into Berkeley's Subjective Idealism. His arguments were just: "prove it to me that there is any external reality!" Philosophers of the early 1900s would give him proof after proof and he would refute them "logically" one after the other but he would respond with the same nonsensical "prove it" argument. Until a philosopher by the name of G.E. Moore in the United Kingdom became prominent in these debates, by using a new approach. There was a meeting of high-level professional philosophers, where G.E. Moore was a keynote speaker (Need to mention that G.E. Moore co-authored a number of philosophical works with Bertrand Russell in the early 1900s. Of course he was much older than Bertrand Russell). In the noted meeting, G.E. Moore took the podium and showed his RIGHT HAND. Then pointed at his hand and said "THIS IS MY RIGHT HAND." Subsequently he raised his LEFT HAND and said "THIS IS MY LEFT HAND." So that was his whole lecture in refutation of F.H. Bradley. No logical arguments. Just raising his hands and speaking. In other words, the external reality comes first, talking and logic come next, not the other way around.
Now anybody who has lived in Iran knows what dictatorship means. What taking a writer like Saidi Sirjani to prison for his opinions is, and later his passing away, and what giving other excuses to justify violations of human rights by the Islamic regime means. Everyone knows who Saeed Soltanpoor and Shokrollah Paknejad were and that they were executed by the Islamic Regime of Iran. Everyone knows how the war with Iraq was continued against the wishes of Iranian people for years, when Iraq was outside Iran's territory, and Iraq was proposing a peace offer which would give Iran much more than what Iran received five years later when the peace treaty was signed, simply nothing. Everyone knows how much the words of Ayatollah Khomeini to encourage uprising in Iraq provoked Iraqi invasion and everyone sees it today how things like Khomeini's Death Fatwa for Salman Rushdie and other similar matters are provoking a Western attack against Iran. What if another war this time with the US breaks out? Are we going to be proud to be martyrs again, the same way we gave slogans instigating a war with Saddam Hussein?
These are realities that are talked about, and are known by even the most illiterate of Iranian people, when they talk to each other at home, but nobody dares to speak of these things in public, not because they are imagining these sad realities, but because people are afraid. It is the REALITY. RIGHT HAND *is* Right Hand, and LEFT HAND *is* Left Hand! Reality takes precedence over logic. If one wants to close eyes and not see these facts and prefers to call them unproven allegations, I can draw their attention to F.H. Bradley's arguments to see all that was needed as a response was the showing of the two hands of G.E. Moore.
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
November 23, 2018
Note: The first
version of this article was written
and published in
SCI newsgroup on Sept 10, 1994 . SG
Marxist Thought & Monism -Second
اندیشه مارکسیستی و مونیسم -یکتا گرائی
2. About Islamic Reformists
درباره اصلاح طلبان اسلامی
3. Soheil Arabi
4. Sina Dehghan
Is there Room for Metaphysics in
Modern Sciences, Second Edition
آیا در علوم جدید جایی برای
متافیزیک وجود دارد، ویرایش دوم
6. Marxist Thought & Monism
اندیشه مارکسیستی و مونیسم -یکتا گرائی
7. Pluralism in the Western
پلورالیسم در اندیشه غرب - کثرت گرائی
8. Academic Essays on Secular
and Futurist Pluralism
چند رساله آکادمیک در باب پلورالیسمِ سکولار و آینده نگر
For a Secular Democratic & Futurist Republican Party in Iran