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Philosophical Society

Tuesday, September 18, 2018 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

The next session of the Camden Philosophical Society reading and discussion group – on Tuesday, September 18 – will focus on Marxism and morality. The discussions are from 4 – 6 p.m. in the Picker Room of the Camden Public Library. All are welcome.

The session will be led by Howard Engelskirchen, a former professor of law and of philosophy and the author of Capital as a Social Kind: Definitions and Transformations in the Critique of Political Economy (in the Routledge series ‘Frontiers of Political Economy’). The focus of the reading is Chapter 6 of this book, “What Ought to Be Done.” We will ask whether we can find in Marx’s materialist social analysis an objective basis for our moral judgments. Traditionally moral judgments have claimed objectivity by appealing to divine principles or to universal or foundational principles of rationality. Or we appeal to what everybody must think. Doubting any such appeal, we shrug and assume such judgments are necessarily subjective. Marxists and others have debated whether there is a moral element to Marx’s thought at all. One argues that when Marxists disagree, they disagree about explanatory hypotheses, not moral principles. Another argues that since for Marx notions of justice reflect the requirements of the historically specific mode of production to which they correspond, Marx had no basis to consider capitalism unjust. He is not in a position to morally condemn it. For example, is the condition of involuntary unemployment immoral? Is there a basis in Marx’s analysis to think so?

Capital as a Social Kind proposes a kind of physiology of social life (notice the discussion from Chapter 6 of Aristotle’s account of Milo the wrestler at pp. 127-128) and suggests this offers a way to locate the normative objectivity of fundamental features of our moral life. Two additional excerpts from the book, together with an introduction prepared for the September 18 discussion, are included to sketch an underlying context. Also included are the Endnotes to Chapter 6. In all, the readings include,

· Introduction to the Readings for September 18: Marx’s Value and Moral Value (Word document)

· “The real definition of capital,” pp. 24-25 from Capital as a Social Kind (PdF)

· “Capital’s double separation,” pp. 92-93 from Capital as a Social Kind (PdF)

· “What Ought to Be Done,” pp. 124-145 from Capital as a Social Kind (PdF)

· Endnotes to Chapter 6, pp. pp. 184-187 from Capital as a Social Kind(PdF)

Finally, do not miss the academy award winning short film, Balance (under 8 minutes). The link provided in the Endnotes to Chapter 6 no longer works, but if you search YouTube for <Balance Lauenstein>, it will appear. Here’s a link that should work:

For copies of the readings, please email Sarah Miller at sarahmiller@usa.net. 


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Tuesday, September 18, 2018
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Camden Public Library
55 Main Street
Camden, ME 04843 United States