ESSAYS & BOOK REVIEWS
Capitalism's Achilles Heel, Marx's Theory of Oneness
and the Critique of Steven Pinker's Blank Slate
By William J. Kelleher, Ph.D.
1. A critical interpretation of a book must sometimes distinguish between the aim the author states he has for the writing, and the actual function the book appears to be designed to have in society. A book is always an expression of a social, or cultural, context, and authors often mean to have a particular effect upon that context. We will present our "expose" of Pinker's true purposes as we criticize his views towards the end of this essay. First we will summarize Pinker's main thesis on his own terms. Then we will juxtapose the theory of human nature we find in Marx's writings. In this review, we will go beyond the old saw that Pinker's ideas are merely those of the Ruling Class. We will explain our understanding of why he has presented their ideas in the particular way he has chosen. Thus, we state from the start that Pinker's expressed aims for the book vary significantly from what we see as its actual design. In short, we will impugn Professor Pinker's intellectual integrity. This review is our brief.
2. Pinker's ostensive purpose is to sell his readers on his "new" theory of human nature. To that end, he tells us what the old theories are, what his preferred theory is, and why the latter is better than the former. As we will see, those old theories are the "Ghost in the Machine," the "Blank Slate," and the "Noble Savage." But Pinker's presentation is not quite as straight forward as that. Pinker has a product that is difficult to sell. Others have tried and failed. So, we will show in this review that what is really new is not Pinker's product, but his strategy for fopping it off on his readers. We will show later why Pinker is going to all this trouble to pull off his attempted con job.
3. A theory of human nature is nothing but an abstract philosophy; that is, unless people believe in it. If people believe in a given theory of human nature, it becomes a handle on their minds. This is so because people tend to act in accordance with their beliefs about themselves. One who defines himself as a !Kung! of southern Africa, for example, will behave differently than one who defines himself as an Alaskan Inuit, or Eskimo. In the same way, one who sees himself as a "blue collar worker" will behave differently than one who sees himself as a "blue blooded Bostonian." They are all people, but their different self-understandings result in different behavior. Pinker, a professor of psychology at both MIT and Harvard, fully understands these basic social science principles. He observes that the theory of human nature by which we live "affects our values: what we believe we can reasonably strive for as individuals and as a society."1 He also notes that whether consciously, semi-consciously, or unconsciously, "Everyone has a theory of human nature."2 Thus, if one person can define the self-image, or self-understanding, that other people will actually believe in, that person can thereby exercise massive control over how those people will live.
4. Clearly, Pinker is fully aware that he is peddling more than a mere abstract philosophy. He acknowledges that a believed-in theory of human nature thereby becomes a "moral identity."3 He knows well that if people buy his theory of human nature, they will use this identity, or self-mage, to "help define the kind of person they think they are and the kind of person they want to be."4 Thus, anyone who reads Pinker must use a wary eye to protect his or her liberty. Nothing less is at stake.
5. A salesman who begins his pitch by swearing that he only has your best interest at heart always deserves a good loud scoff. The same is true of any writer on the subject of human nature who begins with the assurance that, "For the most part I will try not to advance the agenda of the political left or right."5 In fact, by setting up a horizontal spectrum, Pinker attempts to distract the reader from noticing his vertical agenda; that is, that his aim is to advance the interests of the top over the masses below.
6. Shortly after these claims of "political innocence," Pinker attempts to ingratiate himself with those of us who are below the top by promising to show that there is aphysiological unity of our species beneath the superficial differences of physical appearance and parochial culture [Once this is understood,] we can identify suffering and oppression [and debunk] the rationalizations of the powerful [while at the same time showing our] appreciation for the achievements of democracy and the rule of law.6
He also promises to show his readers that what he calls "cognitive science" is "the new science of human nature," and that it "can help lead the way to a realistic, biologically informed humanism."7
7. Here is the first clue that something is askew in Pinker's presentation. How can there be such a compassionate "humanism" based on the sciences of biology and cognitive science? After all, bourgeois "science" is more famous for its production of cold, dispassionate analysis than it is for any compassionate ability to "identify suffering and oppression." Is Pinker promising more than he can deliver? Is he trying to sell his readers "a pig in a poke"?
8. Long ago, that science divorced itself from engaging in authoritative pronouncements about any sort of values, like what is beautiful or ugly, just or unjust, dehumanizing or humanizing. Bourgeois science is only concerned with discovering the facts about things and their processes. Hence, no self-respecting person would seriously buy into a theory of himself or herself as being like the kinds of objects that natural scientists study. Everyone knows that biologists cannot put minds under a microscope, even though they can put brains under a scanner. Indeed, Pinker declares early on that "the Ghost in the Machine" is one of the theories of human nature on his "hit list." But what kind of "humanism" can Pinker sell his readers if he exorcises the "Ghost," and has only the "Machine" left? If Pinker cannot resolve this apparent contradiction between what is generally thought of as cold science and compassionate humanism, he will not be able to make his sale, because few self-respecting people will want to see themselves as being a "machine."
9. Pinker's main obstacle to success, then, is to circumvent, get around, or crawl under this filter of self-respect that will keep people from believing in his theory of human nature. He understands the maize he faces, let's see how he runs it.
The Poison Pill: (a) the Ghost in the Machine.
10. Pinker's opening gambit is to define "cognitive science" pompously as "the science of the mind." 8 At this point, the best way to protect oneself from deception is to keep a close watch on that word "mind." How can he both kill the "ghost" in the "machine," and have a "science of the mind"?
11. Of course, he can't. Instead, he plays the old shell game with the words "mind" and "brain." To maintain his "humanistic" façade, and to hide his dehumanizing theory of human nature, Pinker slips-in the term "mind" just often enough to keep the unaware reader from realizing that he always means "brain." Indeed, as we will see, his entire theory is based on the premise that the brain defines human nature. For Pinker, the study of the brain's physio-chemical processes is the study of human nature. "Human nature" is the functions of the brain. To describe and analyze those functions is to find-out "who we are" as humans. Pinker is quite convinced that "every aspect of our mental lives depends entirely on physiological events in the tissues of the brain." 9
12. That sounds scientific enough, but where is the humanity in it? What is the cause of these "events" in the brain? Is it our "minds" freely making their own decisions? If not, does cognitive science deny the existence of the mind, or render the mind somehow irrelevant to the activity of the brain? If so, Pinker's selling job will be tough. Few self-respecting people will seriously adopt a self-image that says, "I am not a creative, feeling, free agent, but my behavior is the product of a bunch of chemicals washing about in my brain." Professor Pinker is aware that people will react against a dehumanizing theory of human nature, so he avoids the problem by not stating clearly that this is all he has. He equivocates, and plays little tricks, like this shell game. However, as with any conjuror's artifice, once one understands how it is done, it loses its potency and becomes transparent.
13. To see how the trick is played, pick a paragraph. Any paragraph. Whenever there is an affirmative statement about "mind," substitute the word "brain." No meaning will be lost or obscured, and often the sentence will be made clearer. In statements using the word "brain," substitute the word "mind." Here, the result will often be nonsense. This exercise will help to show that Pinker's affirmative statements about "mind" always mean "brain."
14. For example, he writes that cognitive science is "the science of the mind." Read this as "the science of the brain," and no meaning is lost. So, does he really mean "mind" or "brain"? Its not clear, and that is the way he wants it. Elsewhere he writes that the "source" of human nature is "the brain,"10 That could be read "the mind," without any loss of meaning. However, the rest of the paragraph marvels over the complexity of an organ with "a hundred billion neurons linked by a hundred trillion connections, woven into a convoluted three-dimensional architecture."11 So, it is clear here that he means "brain," as he said, and not "mind."
15. The evidence that cognitive science is really concerned with the "brain," and not the "mind," comes in the conclusion of that paragraph. There he states, "All this should serve as a counterweight to the image of the mind as formless raw material " 12 Here, if the reader substitutes "brain" for "mind," the meaning of the sentence is made clearer. Although he uses the word "mind," he is really not referring to the "ghost" in the machine of man, but to the material organ in the human head. No one thinks of "mind" as "material," whether with or without form. But everyone thinks of the brain as "material." By trying this exercise in random places throughout the book, one will learn to see clearly that cognitive science, for Pinker, is really not the study of the "mind," but of the "brain."
16. Translating Pinker's writing from trickery to Truth is a laborious process, no doubt about it! He wants it that way. He does not want the reader to know that in his actual theory of human nature the "mind" plays no part. However, as if driven by guilt for his deceptions, Pinker has some moments of unguarded honesty (or, perhaps "Freudian slips"). For example, well into the book he contemptuously dismisses the childish and primitive notion of "an invisible essence residing in living things," as sheer prescientific "intuitive essentialism." 13 The outdated idea about some kind of "ghost" in the machine of man "is scientifically untenable and has no business guiding policy in the twenty-first century." 14 Of course, the business of "guiding policy" (and he means governmental public policy!) properly belongs to, you know who, cognitive science. It has the credentials for guiding policy because it is now "showing that what we call the soul &endash; the locus of sentience, reason, and will &endash; consists of the information processing activity of the brain, an organ governed by the laws of biology."15
17. His honesty slips out again, in the very last pages of the book. After discussing an Emily Dickinson poem about the brain, Pinker is so moved that he almost acknowledges cognitive science's physiological reductionism. He admits that, "Yes, science is, in a sense, 'reducing' us," but only because its true: "we are our brains." 16
18. As we have seen, Pinker's treatment of the "Ghost in the Machine" eludes a simple summary, because he carries it out with cross-purposes. He wants to kick the ghost out of the machine of man, but he also wants to appear humanistic, so that the reader will buy his product. We have presented his discussion of the "Ghost in the Machine" without its humanistic cover. But since the cover occupies much more of the book than does the actual theory, we will discuss the cover further after we review his treatment of the "Blank Slate" and the "Noble Savage," which are much easier to summarize.
The Poison Pill: (b) the Blank Slate and the Noble Savage
19. Pinker traces the ideas about human nature that he criticizes to European philosophers who lived centuries ago. Marx had criticized them, too. For Marx, they were "bourgeois ideologists" who lived and wrote at the time that the capitalist system was first emerging. Indeed, their ideologies are part and parcel of that system. These are some of the philosophies Marx had in mind when he observed that the ruling ideas of an age are those of the Ruling Class. Pinker summarizes their ideas early in the book.17
20. The notion of the "Ghost in the Machine" stems from Rene Descartes (1596-1650). Descartes is remembered most for saying "I think; therefore, I am." He wrote that human nature has two parts, mind and body. The body follows the laws of biology, but the mind is free and morally responsible. The "Blank Slate" is attributed to John Locke (1632-1704). Locke argued that the mind is born free of all innate ideas, such as goodness, beauty, etc., and that experience is the source of all knowledge. Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) is credited for the idea of the "Noble Savage." His view was that people are born "good." He wrote that originally, good natured and sincere people lived in simple societies. But as society became more complex this natural goodness was corrupted, and people became scheming and deceitful.
21. Another philosopher who wrote during the beginning days of capitalism was Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679). Hobbes differed from Descartes because Hobbes envisioned the thoughts and feelings in the mind not as free, but as "movements" in the brain, like tiny particles in motion, which follow the laws of physics. He differed from Locke, because he thought of the "mind" (actually "brain") as operating like well-constructed clockwork, and not like a passive "slate" at all. Hobbes's thinking about people was diametrically opposed to Rousseau's. For Hobbes, people were born "bad." That is, they were born shortsighted, selfish, and prone to violence if they did not get their way. Without civilization, life in the state of nature would be "a war of all against all." The experience of the individual in those conditions would be "solitary, nasty, brutish, and short." In civilization, people surrender their power to grab and fight for whatever they want, to a central authority, a "leviathan," which will keep peace and order by strictly punishing those who get out of line. As we will soon see, in Pinker's opinion Hobbes's theory of human nature as "born bad" demolishes the "Noble Savage" notion.
22. Surprisingly, for all of Pinker's claims that cognitive science is on the cutting edge of scientific research, his theory of human nature was all "foreshadowed by Thomas Hobbes when he described mental activity as tiny motions and wrote that 'reasoning is but reckoning.'"18 Yes, the ideology, or "ghost," of early capitalism has reappeared in the guise of "cognitive science"! As if apologizing for his disappointing lack of imagination, Pinker sheepishly comments that, of course, "there is no new thing under the sun."19 Anyway, he quickly adds, there is cause to be grateful: "Three and a half centuries later, science has caught up to [Hobbes's] vision." 20
23. While Hobbes used the term "reckoning," Pinker updates Hobbes by using the term "computing." For cognitive science, then, the central function of the brain is computation. Indeed, the "mental world can be grounded in the physical world by the concepts of information, computation, and feedback."21 Such supposedly "mental" phenomena like meanings, intentions, ideas, beliefs, and even "memories are collections of information &endash; like facts in a database, but residing in patterns of activity and structure in the brain." 22
24. The brain is not a "blank slate," in part, because it is an active information processor; yet, it is more sophisticated than any computer. For modern cognitive science, unlike a "blank slate," the brain has numerous specialized "modules," or programs, which compute the types of information that are relevant to their functions. For example, emotions are largely a product of "the affect programs."23 These produce all sorts of behavior, from facial expressions to fight, flight, and the reproductive urge. There is a language module, which gives people their innate capacity to speak. Of course, the particular language that people speak is not inherited, but is learned through socialization.24 The activities in these modules cause behavior through "motor programs, by which the brain controls the muscles."25 As we saw, "reckoning" followed the mechanical laws of physics for Hobbes. Pinker updates Hobbes simply by arguing that this mechanical process is more complex than Hobbes had envisioned. And, as we said above, Pinker also shifts the laws followed from those of physics to those of "biology."
25. At this point, the reader may once again start asking some of the same questions we raised in our discussion of Pinker's exorcism of the "ghost" in the machine of man. For example, "if brain modules make all of my decisions for me, then what is the relation of my self-awareness to my behavior?" I.e., "is my consciousness merely a witness to my actions, like a couch potato planted before the boob tube, or is my conscious decision-making actually the cause of my actions?"
26. True to form, Pinker fudges on acknowledging the consequences of his premises. At one point he writes, "I do not claim to have solved the problem of free will." 26 False humility aside, however, Pinker is quite clear elsewhere that specialized brain modules do all the decision-making. With wisdom worthy only of a cognitive scientist, Pinker informs his readers that each "of us feels that there is a single 'I' in control. But that is an illusion The conscious mind &endash; the self or soul &endash; is a spin doctor, not the commander in chief." 27 The various action-causing modules "are not implementations of the rational free agent traditionally identified with the soul or self."28 The "consciousness" that people think they experience does not make the decisions that result in actions, it is at most "a manifestation of the neural computations" as they busily cause one's actions. 29
The Sugar Coating: Pinker's Theory of Moral Progress
27. For those who feel more offended than enlightened by the idea that consciousness, if it exists at all, is a passive spectator of the behavior produced by an active brain, Pinker offers a palliative. Being run by mechanical processes is not so bad, because they result in "moral progress"!30 Indeed, our mechanical brains are automatic computers of humanistic values. For this reason, humanity is becoming ever more civilized. Humans are more than mere machines, they are humanistic machines! Like the Beatles sang, "its getting better all the time." Cognitive science can explain it all. So don't fret. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!
28. Once again, Thomas Hobbes, now the patron saint of cognitive science, inspired Pinker's idea of how moral progress comes about. Cognitive science simply updates Hobbes's vision with 21st Century knowledge of evolution, and the understanding that "neural network modeling [has become] an indispensable complement to the theory of a complex human nature."31 Here's how it works: The brain has evolved to process information, in part, so as to determine a course of action that is in its self-interest. Over the millennia, natural selection has shaped brains that fulfill these functions. The evolving brain received "feedback" from the environment. Brains that did not work well died off, and their genes did not get passed on. Well-adapted brains passed on their genes. Our brain is, then, part of humanity's genetic inheritance.32
29. In addition, our brains have been evolving in a social context, so computations necessary for social living take place in various modules. For example, the brain has modules for "empathy, foresight, and self-respect."33 Our brains also have a "system for inhibition" which responds to such feedback as disapproval, moral suasion, punishment, and other types of social "influence."34 It is these mechanisms, plus "the universal pleasures and pains that make [the individual see] some kinds of change [as] desirable."35
30. Through this cultural evolution, humanity is learning the difference between right and wrong. Pinker confidently asserts that, "Certainly it is wrong to enslave, oppress, discriminate against, or kill people "36 Why "certainly"? Because these wrongs are against the individual's self-interest. Through the empathy module the brain computes the understanding that "if those things happened to me, I would not like it." From that premise the conclusion is drawn that one should not do those wrong things. This conclusion programs the inhibitory, or conscience, module. Some natural impulses, like those which lead to violence, or those which come from the selfish sex module, need strong inhibition; therefore, human actions often result "from an internal struggle among [brain] modules with different agendas and goals." 37
31. One implication, here, that Pinker does not fully bring out, is that the direction of humanity's moral progress is towards everyone following "The Golden Rule," that is, "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Pinker does not take a position as to whether The Golden Rule is learned or innate, but he does theorize that as more brains exercise their empathy, inhibitory, and self-interest modules, the level of civilization for all rises.38
32. Of course, there are some individuals whose brain mechanisms do not work properly. Pinker recognizes that there will sometimes be instances of abnormal, even "psychopathic," behavior in society. Furthermore, writes Pinker, during evolution there were times when people had to be violent to survive; thus, "violence is part of our design."39 But the human propensity for violence is not necessarily an obstruction to civilization. Indeed, the dynamics by which violence can be socially engineered for the benefit of all "were best workedout by Hobbes in [his book,] Leviathan."40 When in the hands of a central government, violence can help promote moral progress. 41
33. Pinker often comments upon the human capacity for "self-deception," especially as with the myth of the "Noble Savage." Pinker teams-up with the more realistic thinkers about society and human nature like Hobbes, the evolutionary psychologists, cognitive scientists, and the Founding Fathers of the United States. These wise folks agree on the principle that, as James Madison wrote, "if men were angles, governments would not be necessary."42
34. Thus, Pinker sees two major forces moving human society inexorably in the direction of moral progress. One is that intelligent people living in cosmopolitan environments learn to "work to expand [their] moral circle." The other "may be the long-term effects of living with a leviathan."43 This expanding moral circle has ended "despotism, slavery, feudalism, and racial segregation."44 The male abuse of women has also declined, and "feminism deserves credit for this moral advance." 45
35. Pinker is confident, perhaps overconfident, that his theory of society's automatic moral progress will close the sale for those "free spirits" who took offence at his mechanization of humanity. Indeed, at one point his triumphant effervescence causes him to drop his humanistic cover as he proclaims:Personal and social change can [automatically] come about when people exchange information that affects those [social decision-making] mechanisms &endash; even if we are nothing but meat puppets, glorified clockwork, or lumbering robots created by selfish genes.46
36. In conclusion, as FDR said, "the only thing to fear is fear itself." Cognitive science has it all figured-out. Our nature is mechanistic, so what? We can live with that "truth" because this mechanistic nature of ours is automatically spiraling up the humanistic staircase to Heaven! Thus, Pinker can claim to have fulfilled all his promises for this book. He has not tried to "advance the agenda of the political left or right." While he is against unlawful violence, and favors equality of opportunity for women in the work place, and better schools for children, he doesn't necessarily support any political party, nor endorse any presidential candidate. He has also clearly expressed cognitive science's "realistic, biologically informed humanism," and its "appreciation for the achievements of democracy and the rule of law." Indeed, Pinker can even claim to have attained "consilience;" that is, the unity of the sciences and the humanities!47 However, we think his attainment was done more with "con" than with "silience" (whatever that is).
37. Considering all these claims, can there be any wonder why Blank Slate has become an international bestseller, with hundreds of reviews and websites praising it? No one likes to be a party pooper, but, as we said at the beginning, we are not buying Pinker's wares. We find in Karl Marx a theory of human nature that fits humanity much better than Pinker's mechanical man notion. Let's take a brief look at Marx's conception of humanity, and then return to our critique of Pinker.
Marx's Critique of Hobbes
38. Through the ideological sabotage against the capitalist system's façade of impregnability, we Marxists can help create the cultural conditions necessary to sustain a successful communist revolution. But, one may ask, why should the highly educated, well to do (by world standards) readers of this article take revolution seriously? To speak of educated middle class Americans as "oppressed and exploited victims of the capitalist system" seems, at first, like romantic nonsense. Don't Americas have a greater problem with obesity and boredom than they do with oppression and exploitation?
39. Well, of course, that depends on how one looks at the problem. In this section, we will go back to square one with Marx. We will reread Marx with eyes that have been informed by 150 years of political experience, and a revolution in the understanding of value science. The political lessons include massive failures and humanitarian disasters under the name of "communism." Our post-cold war reading of Marx will be free of all the fear-driven biases which dominated the interpretation of his writings during that period. Of course, a complete reinterpretation of Marx is not possible in the space of this review of Pinker's Blank Slate, but at least here we can make a beginning. In our view, besides a reexamination of theory, some self-criticism of practice is also in order. First of all, Marx clearly stated that for a communist system to exist requires a means of production that can provide the necessities of life for all humanity, not just one or two self-serving nations. Marx has written thatcommunism is only possible as the act of [revolutionary] peoples 'all at once' and simultaneously, which presupposes the universal development of productive power and worldwide interaction.
This requirement was facially glossed over by all of the so-called "communist revolutions" of the 20th Century. None of them have come anywhere near what Marx had in mind for the whole human community. 48
40. If communist revolutions are ever to succeed, we Marxists must get back to the basics. One elementary step is to begin a dialogue about the elements of a future mode of production that could sustain communist relations among all the people of the world. Other ideological, as well as political, work is also required. The path to revolution must be carefully prepared. This review is an act of ideological work towards that distant goal of world revolution.
41. In an 1844 essay entitled "The Holy Family,"49 Marx criticizes a variety of philosophers, and also credits prior socialist writers for the inspiration they gave him. He comments about different types of "materialism" philosophies. These were early efforts at formulating a philosophy based on scientific principles, as opposed to theological and metaphysical philosophies. Marx criticizes other "materialists" on the bases of his own materialism.
42. Among the writers Marx criticizes are, coincidentally, Descartes, Locke, and Hobbes. For yours truly, a Marxist of the 21st Century, to be criticizing Pinker, a neoHobbesian, is like de ja vu all over again! All we need do is repeat what Marx said, and elaborate a bit.
43. Marx summarizes Hobbes's views before criticizing them. This, of course, will echo the first part of our review. For Hobbes, writes Marx, "perception, thought, representation, etc., are nothing but phantoms of the material world." 50 Aware of the reduction in human value implied by that notion, Marx scorns it by writing that in Hobbes's brand of materialism, "One cannot separate thought from matter which thinks."51 Marx, like Descartes, envisioned people as having a mind which is capable of thinking freely. This is quite unlike Hobbes, and therefore Pinker, who reduce people to "matter which thinks." In this dehumanizing theory of human nature, "Every human passion is a mechanical movement which has a beginning and an ending. Man is subject to the same laws [of cause and effect] as nature."52 But Hobbes's attempt to explain human feeling "as mechanical and mathematical," factors-out of the human being all that makes one human.
44. Thus, Marx rejects Hobbes's materialism on two basic grounds. One is that it presents a grotesque image of a mechanical humanity, which is not factually true. The other is that it reduces the special, or intrinsic value of persons to the level of mechanical things. As Marx says about Hobbes's materialism,Sensuous knowledge loses its bloom and becomes the abstract sensuousness of the geometer. Physical motion is sacrificed to mechanical or mathematical motion; geometry is proclaimed to be the chief science. Materialism becomes misanthropic.53
45. "Misanthropic," indeed! As we have seen, Hobbes's "realistic" portrait of humanity's "born bad" nature is plainly full of loathing for his brothers and sisters. Therefore, Pinker's view entails the same loathing, as we shall argue more fully in a moment. But first let's look at what principles Marx favors.
46. In opposition to the misanthropic materialism of Hobbes and company, Marx offers a materialism that affirms human value, and seeks to enhance and liberate human life rather than degrade and enslave it under the control of a "leviathan." Marx astutely distinguishes between that materialism which "passes into natural science proper," and other schools of materialism, which flow "directly into socialism and communism."54 Marx's states that he draws his materialism "from the doctrines of materialism concerning the original goodness and equal intellectual endowment of man."55 Because the nature of man contains such qualities as these, and the individual is of supreme value for Marx, his materialism asserts "that the empirical world must be so arranged that [the individual] gets used to what is truly human in it, so that he can experience himself as man."56 Marx's aim, then, is to enhance humanity's self-awareness of its "truly human," or intrinsic nature, and its intrinsic value.
47. Marx was on an educational mission to counter-act bourgeois ideology, and to alert people that their fate is not mechanistically determined. To that end, Marx offers his criticisms and his own views in the hope that he can help people to become more sensitized to their own nature and value. Marx acknowledges the influence he has received from those earlier socialists who "developed the doctrine of materialism as a doctrine of real humanism."57 Marx has taken this "real humanism," and made it "the logical basis for communism."58 What we call Marx's "communist humanism," then, has two sides, like a coin, which always stay together. These are the factual aspects of human nature, and the supreme value of the individuals who collectively constitute humanity.
48. For Marx, humans should learn to understand themselves as richly sentient beings, who are creative, able to think freely if they want to, and who make themselves in history. The mechanistic model denies these qualities exist, and depicts people as the products of history, as if history were a "higher power," out of human control. Contrary to Marx, Pinker glorifies the mechanical model of history because, he says, it is producing people who are increasingly living by The Golden Rule. For Pinker, it is acceptable to see oneself as a product off the assembly line of history, because we are a morally good product, or at least a morally improving product.
49. The Hobbesian-Pinker idea of history takes away humanity's responsibility for the type of society they live in, and enables a central government to exercise those powers which the people are told they lack. Of course, this centralized government, or "leviathan," is itself nothing but an instrument of the Ruling Class, enabling them to shape a future that serves only their interests. But Marx urges people to see themselves in their true nature; that is, as the makers of their own immediate conditions, whose "intellectual endowment" entails the capacity to reflect upon what they are doing, and to plan and act to shape a better future for themselves and their posterity.
50. Of all forms of life on Earth, humans are distinguished by their capacity to reflect upon their social conditions, and to communicate, organize, and act to change those conditions for their own benefit. This capacity is the primary basis of human nobility for Marx. While mechanistic materialism distrusts and emasculates humanity, Marx's communist humanism urges people to see the power that is a part of their nature, and it fully trusts the people to use that power well.
51. Marx is also convinced of the "original goodness" of humanity. On that point, he agrees with Rousseau.59 But this quality of human nature can only be fully developed in a communist society. Indeed, the very purpose of striving for such a society is to provide a material basis for individuals to realize their inherent capacities and potentialities in a manner consistent with their true value. Among the especially important qualities of the individual are sociability and the need for self-realization through service to the human community. The development of these qualities are stunted in the capitalist system.
52. So, what has all this to do with capitalism's Achilles Heel? And, by the way, if mechanical materialism is necessarily misanthropic, how come Pinker's fans see him as such a charming and humanistic fellow?
Capitalism's Achilles Heel
53. For all its military might, and its massive police power, the capitalist system has an Achilles Heel. Once the light of understanding has been shown on this vulnerable spot, that now mighty system will become, in the words of Richard Nixon, "a pitiful helpless giant." Much to Marxism's good fortune, capitalism's Achilles Heel has been inadvertently exposed by Pinker. The Blank Slate shows the continuity of, and the need for, a continuing stream of specialized propaganda from the academy, where most of the "public intellectuals" have their stronghold. Without this propaganda, the system could not stand. Marx said as much in "The German Ideology," of 1845-1846. But Pinker has helped to make it clear that the first and foremost function of the academy in the capitalist system is to teach the people a false and muddled self-image.
54. A people who are confused, or in doubt, about their majestic value and their capacity to collectively shape their social world, are conceptually defenseless against the degrading manipulations of the capitalist system. A people who have been denied the necessary conceptual armament by their educational institutions cannot explain what's wrong in their lives. As a practical matter, this confusion about their worth and power will render them unable to do little more than acquiesce, for example, to a life in a health care delivery system dominated by pirates, although one act of government could make health care freely available to all.
55. Lacking a maximum sense of political efficacy and self-worth, people are willing to be manipulated by commercials into wanting things they really do not need. They cannot help but become ever more mired in the emptiness of living to make and spend money. They have no choice but to make the best of being consumers. Nor can they help but to acquiesce in a political system which calls itself "democratic," but which everyone knows belongs only to the rich.
56. The Blank Slate shows us that, from its beginning, the capitalist system can only survive as a principle of social organization, if there is an efficient instrument of propaganda manipulating the self-image of the masses so that they will acquiesce in their assigned roles. Of course, the converse is also true; that is, the capitalist system could not survive if a critical mass of the people had such high self-respect that they would collectively refuse to be treated as things, or as mere automatons in the economy.
57. In our view, the opposite of self-respect is self-loathing. The capitalist system must have a compliant people who will acquiesce in its machinations. Thus, the central pillar of that system is the self-loathing of its people. The "moral identity," in Pinker's words, that best serves the Ruling Class is the image of oneself as a thing, both in the mechanistic operations of one's mental processes, and as to one's value as a person in society. Teaching self-loathing is one of the primary functions of education in the capitalist system. To learn to see oneself and to value oneself as a thing is to learn to loath oneself.
58. Of course, few people will actually experience their feeling about themselves as "loathing." Because self-loathing is the norm, people experience themselves as having a "normal" attitude towards themselves. Yet, self-loathing is as necessary to life in the capitalist system as water is necessary to the lives of fish. Self-loathing, unfelt, is why capitalism works.
59. We invite those who deny that they have self-loathing to consider both what we mean by that term, and how that feeling supports the most powerful mode of production the world has ever known. The term "self-loathing" can be precisely defined in relation to Marx's conception of "human nobility."60 "Human nobility" is not just an empty praise of humanity for Marx; it is a clear, fixed standard of value. It is the idea that the human being cannot be valued too highly, and that humans are too good to be manipulated and used.
60. In contrast to this notion of human intrinsic value, Marx had an additional category of value. We call this "use-value."61 Marx understood that things, as distinguished from people, are appropriately judged according to their usefulness. Compare, for example, a pen with no more ink in it, to one that writes well. In this sense, there is a wide range of use-value. That range can include everything from an excellent tool for a given task, to something as useless as a worn-out computer, or a flat tire. However, every judgment of a person on a scale of useful to useless is, in itself, a denial of his or her majesty as a person.
61. Marx's central criticisms of the capitalist system are that it denies that people are above being used, and that the system can only function by using people until all life has been drained from them. Then, when they are no longer useful, they are lucky to be given a gold watch before being discarded; for, all use-value eventually ends as trash.
62. For Marx, if "humanity" is to be fully understood, it must be seen as a whole. His conception of human nature entails both factual and valuational qualities, which define the human essence, and which are as inseparable as Yin and Yang. In his view, any conception of human nature that fails to recognize both its factual elements and its majestic value is an act of self-alienation. Self-alienation, then, necessarily entails self-loathing.
63. The essence of self-alienation is that one is not fully aware of what one has been alienated from. Thus, self-loathing is not always felt by a person as actual self-disgust, self-abhorrence, or that one is repulsive to oneself. A self-loathing person simply fails to see or appreciate his or her majesty. Also, whenever one has doubts about, or is confused as to, one's own value, or the value of others, as too good to be used, one is plagued by self-loathing. Some may experience it as a depression in their self-evaluation. Others may feel actual self-hatred. But no one is "neutral" towards himself or herself. "Value neutrality" is but the absence of feeling one's nobility combined with the suppression of awareness of self-loathing. Self-neutrality is simply a protective self-numbing. Whether one feels it clearly or but dimly, self-loathing fills the value vacuum left by the absence of feeling majestic and above manipulation and servitude. To be free of self-loathing is to be clear that oneself and all humans are above being used.
64. Marx understood that the self-loathing individual who feels that he or she is an "objectified thing," is sure "to suffer" in that alienation. Therefore, "Man as an objective sentient being is a suffering being."62 Some may experience their lack of oneness as a generalized pain or numbness, while others feel it as a "loss." But the momentum towards revolution will grow as a "fully developed proletariat has won a theoretical awareness [of the causes] of that loss and is driven to revolt against this inhumanity by urgent, [yet] patient, and absolutely compelling need."63 Marxists can help to speed up that process by "continuously working to develop that consciousness into complete clarity."64
65. The capitalist system teaches a special form of self-esteem, which effectively desensitizes many people to their self-loathing. In capitalist self-esteem, one values oneself through the negation of value in others. Statements of capitalist self-esteem include: "I am richer than Joe," "I am smarter than Sue," or "I am prettier than Mary, stronger than Bob," etc. Such statements need not name particular individuals to have the same affect. For example, "I am the shrewdest stock broker on Wall Street," or "I am the slickest investment banker in the city," etc.
66. Of course, the self-loathing shines like a neon sign whenever one equates "I" with a category of economic function. "I base my self-esteem upon being the best computer salesman in the company," means, "I have no value as a human being, so my only value is as an instrument of the firm." In "The Death of a Salesman," a play by Arthur Miller, the protagonist, Willie Loman, was blind to his value as a human being. When he failed as a salesman, he felt that his life was no longer worth living. Willie is the model of capitalist man, just the way the system needs him to be; i.e., unable to value himself out side of his economic or social role.
67. Erich Fromm applied this understanding of Marx's two value categories when Fromm wrote about the "market personality," in The Sane Society.65 This personality type measures its self-esteem according to the prevailing values in the market. This type arranges his or her personality to be a valuable commodity. For example, unemployed persons may modify themselves to fit the demands of the job market. Singles put on their best face for that market. Employed people don their office personality, like a new suit or dress, both to please the boss and to be liked by the other nicely dressed functionaries. So-called "high achieving" students may be seeking to please parents or teachers with their GPA, or by the number of social groups and community organizations in which they participate. Fromm's social analyses drew from Marx's discussion of the "fetishism of commodities" in Capital. That "fetish" consists in valuing majestic individuals as things on the scale of useful to useless.
68. These, and other forms of market-based capitalist self-esteem, have a common principle. It is to use function, as opposed to being, as one's standard for self-evaluations. Functional value is an appropriate measure for things, but to measure one's own worth by one's function is to thereby denigrate oneself from what one could be as a human to what one does as a kind of instrument, machine, or thing.
Marx's Theory of Oneness
69. The self-esteem of Marx's communist humanism is not the same as the self-esteem propagated by capitalist psychology. Communist self-esteem entails a full awareness of oneself as a unique and worthy member of the human community. For Marx, a "comrade's" ultimate value comes from his or her oneness with others, not as a useful functionary in the shop, office, school, or factory. Marx recalled seeing "French socialist workers meet together." He saw "the nobility of man [in] their toilworn bodies." In that moment he realized, and not for the first time, that "the brotherhood of man is no empty phrase but a reality."67
70. Clearly, Marx was not a "value relativist." True, he recognized that cultures vary within different modes of production, and that ideologies change with shifts of power in the Ruling Class. But Marx never wavered in his conviction that the Majesty of Man is the one and only appropriate measure of human value. Marx held this standard as a universal, to his dying day.
71. Pinker writes, falsely, that Marx was "adamant that human nature has no enduring properties."67 For Marx, according to Pinker, human nature "constantly changes as people change their environment and are simultaneously changed by it."68 But, as we have shown, Marx embraced the socialist doctrine of his time concerning "man's original goodness and equal intellectual endowment." He considered these and other factual elements to be enduring facts about humanity.
72. Pinker proclaims that Marx was "hostile to the very idea of a human nature rooted in biology." 69 The truth is that before Darwin published his Origins of the Species in 1859, Marx understood humanity as being a part of nature. This is why, for Marx, human nature is not entirely in the humans, but also encompasses the human relation to nature. For Marx, "A being which does not have its nature outside itself is not a natural being and does not share in the being of nature."70 In "The German Ideology," Marx wrote that man and nature are not "two separate 'things.'"71 For him, it was as plain as day "that the celebrated 'unity of man with nature' has always existed."72 Clearly, one of the enduring elements of human nature for Marx is humanity's oneness with the surrounding natural world.
73. Work, in Marx's view, is man's way of relating to nature. Humanity draws its life-sustaining necessities from its interaction with nature. In addition, man "begins to distinguish himself from the animal the moment he begins to produce his means of subsistence."73 By this, Marx means that when people first started to work together to "produce," at first by gathering for their common benefit, they acted as "humans." Even with the use of a "stick" to dig up tubers to eat together, humans were engaged in the "first historical act."74 However, the individual's experience of work in the capitalist system is a mind-deadening travesty, which alienates the individual within, from others, and all from nature. Among the most widely quoted lines of Capital are: Within the capitalist system all methods of labor are brought about at the cost of the individual laborer; they mutilate the laborer into a fragment of a man, degrade him to the level of an appendage of a machine, destroy every remnant of charm in his work and turn it into a hated toil.75
74. The "charm" can be restored to work once it becomes a means for people to become "'fully developed human beings.'"76 Humans will realize their nature in full when they have organized themselves to work together to draw their sustenance from a nature with which they feel apiece. As we have said, the individual's ultimate value comes from his or her oneness with others, and humanity itself finds its maximum fulfillment in its oneness with nature. Such unity and value can never be realized in the capitalist system. "Communism," writes Marx, "is the definitive resolution of the antagonism between man and nature, and between man and man. It is the true solution of the conflict between existence and essence, It is the solution of the riddle of history and knows itself to be this solution."77
75. To realize their full potential for living in a truly human community, people need each other. In "The German Ideology," Marx wrote that people "need and have always needed one another."78 The individual can only develop fully his or her talents, abilities, and capacities for oneness through social relations. "Only in community," wrote Marx, "do the means exist for every individual to cultivate his talents in all directions."79 Marx never intended communist society to depend upon the forced subordination of the individual to the interests of the group. He was no "collectivist," but a humanist. That is why he urged people to organize their mode of production in favor of "the development of a totality of capabilities in the individuals themselves."80 "The individuals [would] participate in this community as individuals." 81
76. The social alienation of humanity today begins with, and is held together by, class divisions deeply rooted in the capitalist ownership of the means of production. Class divisions separate people, but ironically, at the same time, they give people the illusion of a refuge from the very alienation that the class divisions have created! With the Ruling Class closed off to the masses, the latter are driven into numerous other groups that they identify with and use to stake a claim in some sort of superior status. Every such status group is a pathetic and feeble attempt to replicate the Ruling Class with oneself a member. On the principle of divide and conquer, the Ruling Class does everything it can to stimulate the production of as many midget clones as possible. Everything from "my nation," "my race," "my social class," to "my professional team," "my school," and "my brand of gym shoe" is used by some alienated soul to give himself or herself imaginary oneness with at least someone out there. As a result, the power of the Ruling Class goes unchallenged, and the hapless individuals in the capitalist system live out their precious lives in alienation.
77. These categories are but figments of the alienated person's imagination. Marx was clear in his understanding that the real, sensuous individuals in need of feeling as one is a reality, while divisive identity groups are but ideas; and people for Marx are always more important than ideas.82 These alienating concepts must be abolished before oneness can become humanity's normal experience.
78. In a communist mode of production, people will have become conscious of their oneness with each other, and of their common oneness with nature. In the resulting communist social relations, people will see the nobility in one another, just as Marx saw it in the French socialist workers. Given this new perception of each other, the interactions of individuals, with themselves and with nature, will be consistent with their awareness of that oneness. Contrary to the ideological propaganda of contemporary "pop" spirituality, it is a Hegelian illusion to think that individuals can realize their full capacity for feeling oneness as isolated individuals, and without changing their material conditions. In Marx's materialism, the material conditions of life must be changed before humanity as a whole can achieve this "spiritual" development.83
79. Anyone who has ever seriously undertaken the effort to become aware of his or her oneness within, with others, and with nature knows how elusive is the goal, and how frustrating is the pursuit. In actual practice, none but the extraordinary "spiritual hero," like the rare Zen Monk in a Japanese monastery, ever achieves that awareness. Yet, all over the world the reality of humanity is alienation. Why do so few become aware of their oneness? The answer is that the great mass of humanity lacks the inner strength to supercede the pressures of their alienated social relations, and grasp the natural reality of oneness hidden in the cultural fog. But in the communist mode of production, social reality would be based on relations that are consistent with human oneness and majesty. Such relations would, then, encourage, support, and facilitate each person's effort to fully realize his or her oneness within, with others, and with nature.
The Critique of Pinker
80. Pinker's false characterizations of Marx's thought did not stop with Marx's theory of human nature. He went on to use his prestige as professor at both Harvard and MIT to inform his readers that Marx held the same malicious disregard for the value of human life as did Hitler! 84 However, these misrepresentations and slandering of Marx are but a measure of Pinker's intellectual integrity. In his urge to please his masters, Pinker appears to have lost all self-control.
81. The elan of The Blank Slate is the driving passion of the sycophant. The sycophant is not necessarily told what to do or say, like an errand boy. Nor is there an overt conspiracy formed between the professorial sycophants of the academy and the wealthy individuals, foundations, and corporations that richly endow capitalism's centers of "higher learning." Capitalist education is a system for recruiting, training, and motivating sycophants. Authority-pleasing children with exceptional left-brain capacities for ingesting and regurgitating data are selected for special attention by their teachers in that system. The straight "A" student from pre-school through graduate school becomes the teacher or professor who then favors the students most like him or her.
82. Pinker was once that cute little boy in the front row who always knew what the teacher wanted to hear. As a graduate student, he dazzled his professors with amazing displays of left-brain virtuosity. This skill of flattering by anticipating and articulating just what the authorities want to hear transfers well into writing to please publishers, colleagues on hiring committees, and the decision-makers in grant-giving foundations. The Blank Slate displays all of professor Pinker's charm, left-brain prowess, and servile sensitivity to the desires of his masters. He voluntarily engages in deception to curry the favor of the wealthy powers in the Ruling Class. No one hired Pinker to lie, he was just following his inner sycophant.
83. Rather than frankly state his mechanistic view of humanity, he denies that his computational theory of human nature is just another "computer metaphor."85 He knows that the computer metaphor was thoroughly propagated in the second half of the 20th Century, without being integrated by the public. Writers such as Gilbert Ryle and Daniel Dennett (cited with approval by Pinker) made the same arguments about man's mechanical nature (with its implication of human use-value) as Pinker has. The only significant difference between Pinker and his ilk is that they did it forthrightly.
84. Pinker's unique strategy is to distract the reader from the self-denigrating consequences of his premises by performing the "bibliophile's ballet" across nearly 500 pages of text. Pinker prances, pirouettes, and leaps with amazing grace from such topics as the toxins in peanutbutter to political science and proper child rearing, from primitive superstitions to the cutting edge of brain science, from Pocahontas to Plato, from genetics to poetry and literature, and much, much more! All the while, he sprinkles these entertaining digressions with humanistic values, like fairy dust, as his pink tutu flutters in the breeze.
85. Pinker's claim of humanity's mechanical march towards moral progress is only more fairy dust. While women may have equality of opportunity in the libraries at Harvard and MIT, sexploitation runs rampant in the rest of American society, where women are reduced to objects for male gratification (not unlike toilets). In other sections of the world, girls are mutilated, gang rapes are used for punishments, and daughter-murder is permitted to save a father's honor. Pinker needs to get out more.
86. When Pinker scatters his fairy dust as praises of "democracy," its effect on this reviewer is like that of sneezing powder. Doesn't he know that the "popular election" of the president in the United States is a flimsy charade to hide the fact that the Ruling Class picks the president? In all the elections for major offices, Big Money determines who the candidates will be, and the voters merely select from the prior picks of the rich. Pinker's "march of moral progress" must have taken a wrong turn somewhere, because wealth rules in America, where democracy is wanting.
87. The 2004 presidential election process is a case in point. During the safe pre-primary period, Howard Dean was allowed to ride high in the polls with the support of tens of thousands of small donors. They supported him because of his anger at Bush, and his anti-war, Washington outsider stance. But when the real primaries began in Iowa and New Hampshire, the Democratic Party establishment put Dean in his place. The Ruling Class controls our choice of presidents as sure handedly as it controls our mechanistic self-image.
88. Someone should write a complete history of the idea of human nature as mechanistic, and its consequent that human value is like that of a thing. With Pinker, we have made a start here. Such a history would reveal yet another of Pinker's motives for writing The Blank Slate. To understand this motive we must recall that the United States rose to the status of a world power at the beginning of the 20th Century. With that rise came the emergence of John B. Watson's "behaviorism." This was an American attempt to displace European philosophies of a mechanistic human nature with a mechanistic psychology.
89. Then, as the U.S. Ruling Class reached a new level of economic and military might, Watson's behaviorism was also taken to a new level. B. F. Skinner became the undisputed sycophant champion of the world. The King of bourgeois propagandists convinced more people than ever before that they are, by nature, "learning machines." Educated people by the millions really believed that all their behavior was a learned response to some stimulus. The American model of man reigned supreme around the world, as American money poured into those institutions that taught this denigrating ideology as scientific fact.
90. However, as the industrial powers in the world Ruling Class began to fall with the rise of electronic elites, an opportunity for a new mechanistic ideology opened up. Indeed, as we write this review George Bush II is abandoning the last of the protective tariffs that the once great U.S. steel manufactures had been leaning on.86 Cognitive science emerged towards the end of the 20th Century to challenge Skinner's behaviorism. "The mind is a computer," they declared, albeit in various ways. But their blundering affront to human dignity has never taken hold like behaviorism has.
91. Now comes Pinker's Trojan Horse approach. Pinker covets Skinner's mantel. He attempts to dismiss Skinner as "a staunch blank slater."87 At one point he becomes so consumed by an insecure envy that Pinker actually accuses the greatest capitalist ideologist in history of being a "Maoist"!88 Thus, as we saw in his comparison of Marx with Hitler, Pinker seems given to hysterical outbursts. Pinker's adoring fans forgive all his faults, because they have been duped by his charming deceptions.
92. But we Marxists have not been duped. Our belief in the freedom and creativity of our minds, and in our sentience, which craves oneness, gives us the self-respect needed to resist the lure of all the glimmering bait that the sycophants set before us.
93. For Pinker, and his pack of cognitive science sycophants, oneness is an alien conception because their minds deal only in bits of data. They are a gang of left-brainers who seek to impose their peculiar dominant characteristic upon the whole of humanity. The passion to feel as one within, with others, and with nature is an irrational and frightening prospect to them, as it threatens to disturb the orderly arrangement of facts and figures in their minds. The communist, however, follows a different calling. The liberation of right-brain capacities for feeling, holistic thinking, communicating empathetically, and being as one is a requirement for a successful communist revolution. Until oneness is an experienced reality for all, humanity's "historic task" will be unfinished.
94. In conclusion, Pinker is trying to sell something worse than sake oil. Its a poison pill with a sugar coating. Pinker's ideas in themselves are not a serious threat, as the entire neoHobbseian movement could storm the world in a taxi. But his placement of himself in a 300-year-old tradition of proselytizing the mechanistic theory of human nature shows that a steady stream of this propaganda, from a variety of respected sources, is the linchpin of the entire capitalist system.
95. If the academy, and our so-called "public intellectuals," propagated the Marxist doctrine of "human nobility," and potential for feeling oneness, with as much enthusiasm and efficiency as they now propagate the mechanistic doctrines that denigrate and alienate humanity, the capitalist system would then stand, like Nixon said, as a "pitiful helpless giant." For, if no one saw himself or herself as capitalism needs them to do, their own self-respect would bar the system from exploiting and manipulating them. Mass indignation would pull the people together behind a communist revolution to overthrow the last vestiges of Ruling Class power.
96. The academy has blood on its hands. Public intellectuals are a fraud. They should, and can, be persuaded to stop the propagation of self-loathing and come over to the other side. Comrades, the feeling of oneness is worth the struggle!
1 The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature, Steven Pinker (Viking, NY 2002), page 1.
2 ibid., page 1.
3 ibid., page 279.
4 ibid., page 281.
5 ibid., Preface, ix.
6 ibid., Preface, xi.
7 ibid., Preface, xi.
8 ibid., page 31.
9 ibid., page 41.
10 ibid., page 197.
11 ibid., page 197.
12 ibid., page 197.
13 ibid., page 230.
14 ibid., page 228.
15 ibid., page 224.
16 ibid., page 424.
17 Cf. ibid., pp. 5-11
18 ibid., page 33.
19 ibid., page 33.
20 ibid., page 33.
21 ibid., page 31.
22 ibid., page 32.
23 ibid., page 39.
24 Cf. ibid., page 40 passim.
25 ibid., page 32.
26 ibid., page 185.
27 ibid., page 43.
28 ibid., page 43.
29 ibid., page 267.
30 Cf. ibid., page 166 passim.
31 ibid., page 83.
32 Cf. ibid., page 45 passim.
33 ibid., page 160.
34 ibid., page 183.
35 ibid., page 173.
36 ibid., page 103.
37 ibid., page 40.
38 Cf. ibid., page 139 f.
39 ibid., page 314, and cf. page 56 f. re the violence of primitive people.
40 ibid., page 318.
41 ibid., cf. page 330 f.
42 ibid., The Federalist Papers, no. 10; cf. Pinker, ibid., page 296 f.
43 ibid., page 333.
44 ibid., page 337.
45 ibid., page 361.
46 ibid., page 166.
47 Cf. ibid., cf. page 60 f.
48 Concerning the revolution in value science, see The Structure of Value, Robert S. Hartman (Southern Ill. Univ. Press, 1967). The quote of Marx is at Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, Loyd D. Easton and Kurt H. Guddat, eds. trans. (Doubleday & Co., NY, 1967), page 427.
49 Writings, ibid., pages 361 to 399.
50 ibid., page 392.
51 ibid., page 392.
52 ibid., page 392.
53 ibid., page 391.
54 ibid., page 394.
55 ibid., page 394.
56 ibid., page 394.
57 ibid., page 395.
58 ibid., page 395.
59 Marx's theory of human nature is placed in an evolutionary context in my forthcoming book The Human Birth Defect: A Marxist Theory On the Origins of Human Unhappiness and Its Cure. Also see my essays in future issues of the on-line journal, Cultural Logic.
60 Cf. ibid., page 381 passim.
61 We intend the term "use-value" to have broad application, and to be distinguished from Marx's strictly economic notion of "surplus value." The two terms are only coincidentally related by the word "value."
62 See Marx's Concept of Man, Erich Fromm (Frederick Ungar Pub. Co. NY 1961, 1966). In this book, Fromm reprints another of Marx's 1844 essays. This one is entitled, the "Economic and PhilosophicManuscripts," translated by T. B. Bottomore. Following tradition, we will cite it as the MEGA; hence, MEGA, page 183.
63 ibid., page 368
64 ibid., page 368
65 The Sane Society (Fawcett Pub. Inc., 1955). Incidentally, Pinker's claim to be a leader in the rejection of the "blank slate" theory is another of his canards. Following Marx, Fromm notes that man "is not a blank sheet of paper on which culture writes its text. Needs like the striving for happiness, harmony, love and freedom are inherent in his nature" (page 78).
66 MEGA, page 150.
67 The Blank Slate, ibid., page 155
68 ibid., page 155.
69 ibid., page 155. Cf. Writings, ibid., "the species or Man has evolved," at page 457.
70 MEGA, page 182.
71 Writings, ibid., page 417.
72 ibid., page 417.
73 ibid., page 409.
74 ibid., page 419.
75 Quoted in Fromm, Marx's Concept of Man, ibid., at page 52.
76 ibid., page 76.
77 MEGA, page 127.
78 Writings, ibid., page 435.
79 ibid., page 457
80 ibid., page 467.
81 ibid., page 460.
82 Precisely because individuals are more important than ideas for Marx he, unlike Plato, never set forth a blueprint of the perfect society. "Communism," for Marx is not a plan for an ideal society, but a set of principles and values to follow while reshaping history.
83 Cf. Fromm, Marx's Concept of Man, page 72: Marx "was deeply rooted in (a) spiritual, though nontheistic tradition."
84 The Blank Slate, ibid., page 157.
85 ibid., page 32.
86 Cf. New York Times, "Backing Down on Steel Tariffs," David E. Sanger, electronic edition, N. P., 12-5-03.
87 The Blank Slate, ibid., page 169.
88 ibid., page 246.