Methodological issues present themselves as pressing matters
in sociology, philosophy, and the philosophy of science. Whether
stated or not, epistemological and logical assumptions and
problems inform contemporary discourse in sociological theory.
Within Marxist discourse, these questions assume a new
centrality. The tension that normally characterizes the
relationship between Marxist and non-Marxist on such questions as
materialism, dialectics, science, the accuracy of observation,
data, etc. is now appearing in the debates within Marxism.
Needless to say, a good part of this discourse has been
anticipated in the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.1 Pauline
Vaillancourt (1986), for example, disputes the claim that
dialectics represents an alternative approach to science to that
put forward in the Baconian and Galilean traditions. She argues
the necessity of merging Marxism and instrumentalism in
developing an empirically verifiable research program (1988).
E.O. Wright, working within Marxism, attempted to bring “rigorous
empirical social science research methods” to Marxist questions.
A major dimension of Analytical Marxism is to inform Marxist
questions with methodological rigor in producing, in the words of
John Roemer, an “analytically sophisticated Marxism,” amenable to
positivist social science (1986:1). It would seem that a central
dimension of late twentieth century Marxist discourse is to
determine Marxism’s relationship to the empirical research
program of positivist social science. Such a project will
necessarily demand altering the correlation between Marxism and
non©Marixsm in the academy. The politics, therefore, of this
movement is geared to constructing a consensus between Marxism
and bourgeois social theory and methods.

E.O. Wright defines Analytical Marxism as the “systematic
interrogation and clarification of basic concepts and their
reconstruction into a more coherent structure” (1985:2). It
takes into account and extends the criticism of Marxism among
liberal and left academicians. Roemer argues that Analytical
Marxism’s methods are “conventional,” meaning they are based in
analytic and positivist epistemology. Moreover, along with a
“commitment to abstraction,” another characterizing feature of
this trend, according to Roemer, is a “search for foundations”
that is the micro or individual causes of collective behavior
(Ibid.). Hence, the individual, rather than social class emerges
in this project as the center of analysis. Roemer argues,
moreover, that Analytical Marxism asks questions that
conventional Marxism “sees no need to raise,” such as, “Why do
classes emerge as important collective actors (or do they)?; Why
is exploitation……wrong?; Is socialism in the interest of the
workers in modern capitalism?; Is socialist revolution or
transformation possible?; Is the proletariat unfree?” (1986:1).
Yet, more important than the questions are the answers and the
methods used to arrive at them. In answering these questions,
this trend has turned to “state of the art methods of analytical
philosophy and the positivist social science.” Roemer claims
that Analytical Marxism emerges out of conditions that go beyond
the academy. The most significant of these are “the chequered
success of socialism and the dubious failure of capitalism”
(Ibid.). Rather than totally dismissing Marxism or “retreat(ing)
to a Talmudic defense,” Analytical Marxism has adopted a course
which acknowledges “that Marxism is nineteenth century social
science.” As such, Roemer insists, “it is bound to be primitive
by modern standards, wrong in detail, and perhaps even in some
basic claims. Yet, its power in explaining certain historical
periods and events seems so strong that one feels there must be a
valid core which needs to be clarified and elucidated” (Ibid:2).
Roemer, as with his colleagues, expresses great confidence in the
methodological strength of analytic philosophy and positivist
social science a confidence not shared by prominent Anglo-American philosophers and philosophers of science. For instance, Richard Rorty charges that, “the notion of ‘logical analysis’turned upon itself and committed suicide” (1987:x). Hilary Putnam insists that “the accomplishments of analytic philosophy
are only negative; it destroyed the very problems with which it
started by successive failure even to determine what would count
as a solution” (Ibid.).

Nonetheless, in the U.S. and British academies, a robust
effort to unite two competing and, in fact, antagonist systems
into a new species of social theory is underway. Its core
embraces a wide spectrum of political, philosophical,
ideological, epistemological, theoretical, and methodological
issues. In attempting to reconstitute Marxism, it also seeks no
less to reconstitute academic social theory. It works out of the
body of Marxist tests; however, it seeks a radical alteration of
the categoreal grid and epistemological substance of Marxism.


Jon Elster (1985, 1986) places methodological questions at
the heart of his effort to restate Marxism, locate the working
class, define exploitation, and assess the prospects for
socialist transformation. He makes the claim that Marxist method
is so widely used in the explanation of social phenomena that few
would think of referring to it as “the Marxist method.” His
argument rests upon the notion that structural assumptions have
been so prevalent in social theory as to no longer be questioned.
This he attributes, in part, to Marxist influence upon social
theory. He, however, rejects the essence of the “Marxist
method,” which he identifies with three prevailing elements:
methodological holism, functionalism, and dialectical deduction
(1986:21). In its place, he proposes methodological
individualism, game theoretic and rational choice modelling, and
modal logic [see “An Introduction to Karl Marx”, Ch. 2; Logic and
Society, Ch. 3; “Marxism and Individualism” and “Further Thoughts
on Marxism, Functionalism and Game Theory” in Analytical
Marxism] This methodological shift constitutes a search for the
micro-foundations of class consciousness, class struggle, the
falling rate of profit and unemployment, central issues in
classical Marxism. The mechanisms of causality are located at
the level of individual intention. This he admits is a
reductionist strategy.

Elster makes robust claims concerning methodological
individualism. He says, “MI then is the claim that all social
phenomena, events, trends, behavioral patterns, institutions can
in principle be explained in ways that refer to nothing but
individuals their properties, goals, beliefs, and actions. In
addition, MI claims that explanations in terms of individuals are
superior to explanations which refer to aggregates” (“Marxism and
Individualism”:12). This reductionist program appeals, according
to him, on three levels. First, its aesthetic elegance, which he
says comes out of our curiosity to know the causal chain which
operates through individuals. Secondly, the time span between
explanans and explanandum is reduced, thus, the problem of
arguing through consequences is solved. Third, this lower level
explanation is necessary to understand the stability and change
of aggregates (Ibid.).

For Elster, particularly, and Analytical Marxism generally,
such a methodological shift immediately clears the way to
establish the rational social atom the individual as the
ontological center of social theory and of Marxism. Once this is
accomplished, the task is to develop appropriate techniques to
predict and explain collective human behavior. Herein rests the‹d ‹
significance of game theory and rational choice approaches.

Rational choice/game theoretic approaches claim to capture
both constraint (constraint due to the behavior of others) and
choice (degrees of individual freedom). Elster, furthermore,
claims that three main dependencies of social life are captured.
First, the reward of each depends upon the reward of all;
second, the reward of each depends upon the choice of all; and,
third, the choice of each depends upon the choice of all
(1986a:207). Assumed here is common rationality and equality of
agents as rational. This assumption is based in liberal notions
of the primacy of reason and rational agents to social
explanation and go against the Marxist notion of class
determination of collective behavior. Second, differing levels
of information are required for differing games. Lastly,
differing time requirements apply to different games and
strategies (Ibid.). Roemer brings an added dimension to the
understanding of this issue. He argues that Marxists must
discover micro-foundations for behaviors considered
characteristic under capitalism. The tools to achieve this, he
argues, are rational choice models, general equilibrium theory,
game theory, and modelling techniques developed by neoclassical
economics (1986:192). Elster and Roemer reject what is
considered the Hegelian/Marxist definition of dialectics and
propose an instrumentalist or rational choice definition. This
is considered a non-teleological definition and one compatible
with MI and micro-foundations. As such, Jon Elster claims that
dialectics is the suboptimal allocations resulting from
individual optimizing behavior. The standard example is the
Prisoner’s Dilemma. Elster claims that Marx thought that most
problems under capitalism were of this type. That is, rational
agents who attempt to optimize their outcomes end up in suboptimal solutions (Elster, 1985:Ch.2; 1978:Ch. 5, Appendices 1
and 2).

From this rational choice/game theoretic approach,
“class struggle is a method of carrying out bargaining…”
(Roemer,1986:198). On this basis, Elster develops an entire
reconstruction of Marx’s definitions of class, class
consciousness, and class struggle (1985:Ch. 6). Utilizing
Roemerian endowment explanation of class and exploitation,
Elster offers “classes are characterized by the activities in
which their members are compelled to engage by virtue of the
endowment structure” (Ibid:326). This definition embraces both
freedom and unfreedom for the proletariat. In other words, all
workers are not forced to sell their labor power (see G.A. Cohen,
“The Structure of Proletariat Unfreedom,” in
Analytical Marxism). Such an approach undoubtedly brings into
question the entire question of the class struggle, trade
unionism, and revolution. In essence, they are inverted and
tailored to conform with liberal assumptions.


A significant number of methodological questions posed in
the Analytical Marxist project have been previously raised in
Sociology. Mertonian mid level explanation have been followed by
micro level explanations.2 On the other hand, Stinchcombe (1971)
had sought to equip Sociology with a scientific method. He
argued that the achievement of sociological knowledge occurs in a
manner similar to that of the natural sciences. He called the
correct method “the logical process of science.” The strength of
sociological conclusions, he held, rests with whether or not they
have been achieved by scientific method. Here, Stinchcombe stood
with the unity of science program with regard to method. Form
and formalism were the sine qua non of methodological issues.
Hence, social science should, it is suggested, adopt the
methodological cannons and protocols of the natural sciences in
order to achieve scientific rigor.

The effort to achieve the correct formal method can be
traced to Mill’s cannons of inductive reasoning and Carnap’s
formal calculus, which had sought to establish method as the
final arbiter of truth. This positivist approach has
increasingly been disputed, challenged as it were, by a
relativist approach to method.3

Analytical Marxism begins to offer a new quality to these
questions. What is new emerges from the appearance of a serious
concern with Marxist theory and method. This side by side with
new developments in the contemporary philosophical landscape
presents important opportunities for sociological inquiry in
general and methodology in particular. Thus, in a real sense,
concerns of sociological theory, philosophy, and philosophy of
science are joined. Therefore, no longer is the primitive search
for ways to adapt natural scientific method to social science the
primary issue. Now a central question is how to utilize
traditional concerns to elucidate Marxist questions. E.O. Wright
early on sought to answer this problem. Pauline Vaillancourt has
sought to define a Marxist research program rooted in empirical
methods and operational techniques. However, the discourse on
method has been compelled to achieve a new level of philosophical
and theoretical competence. Thus, a new commonality with major
questions being posed in philosophical and philosophy of science
discourse has appeared. This common terrain, this point of
intersection if you will, is at the point of methodology.

However, methodology defined in its broadest sense embraces the
principal questions of philosophy, sociology, and science. In
this respect, methodology should be regarded as a strategic
approach to knowing. It is what Kyriakos Kontopoulos has called
an epistemic strategy, a way of tackling fundamental problems in
the process of knowing.


Methodology broadly defined from the Hegelian/Marxist
perspective examines the means of achieving knowledge. It is the
moment of coincidence of logic and epistemology. It was Hegel
who argued that his method, the dialectic, combined epistemology
and logic. Lenin considered Hegel’s position to be a starting
point of dialectical materialism. He argued that Hegel and Marx
refused to examine methodological problems in “purely
methodological” terms, isolated from epistemological and logical

Hegel proceeds from the identity of being and thought,
interpreting them from the perspective of objective idealism.
Thought, however, is not a quality inherent in the individual,
but a manifestation of original essence. Hegel argued that the
concrete is a manifestation of the suprahuman, omnipresent
“absolute idea.” For Hegel, thought or the abstract are the
source of the concrete. Marx argued that Hegel was incorrect to
interpret the “real as the result of thought which synthesizes
itself in itself, immersing itself in itself and developing from‹d ‹
itself…” He insisted that “the method of rising from the
abstract to the concrete is only a way through which thought
appropriates the concrete and reproduces it as the spiritually
concrete. But this is by no means a process of the concrete
itself” (Grundrisse). This quotation from Marx illustrates the
opposition between the method of dialectical materialism and
Hegel’s. Marx’s materialism, separated him from Hegel; hence,
Marx’s logic, i.e., the dialectic, is rooted in the material
substance of reality, rather than the absolute idea. Objective
reality for Hegel could not exist independently of the “absolute
idea.” In this idealist form, Hegel nonetheless expresses the
dialectical unity of the object and subject, the abstract and
concrete, thought, and being. Here is blended in Hegelian
dialectics, logic, epistemology and methodology (The
Phenomenology of Mind:75, 76). Lenin argued that Hegel had
finally put an end to the traditional belief that logic deals
only with subjective forms of thought. Opposing Kant’s notion of
logical forms as being îa prioriï and consequently subjective,
Hegel approaches the idea that logical relations are forms of the
reflection of objective reality. Lenin considered this position
a starting point of dialectical materialism (Vol. 38:180).
Oizerman suggests that in opposing the subjectivist and formalist
approach to logical forms that was adopted by Kant, Hegel expands
the definition of logical forms to include more than judgement
and logical deductions. Hegel’s logic attempts to embrace
phenomena of the objective world such as quantity and quality,
measure, contradiction, causality, necessity, freedom, negation,
and others. For Marxism and dialectical materialism and logic in
general, Hegel saw these categories of thought as definitions of
actual things and, therefore, independent of man’s thought.
Hegel’s Science of Logic commits itself to the emergence of
thought from a reality that is outside of the subject. On the
other hand, the Marxian inversion views matter as emergent and
developmental. For Hegelian dialectics, logic becomes the study
of the reflection of the object in the subject. The logical
conditions are created in Hegel for the transition from logical
formalism and methodological subjectivism to dialectical
materialism. Concerning Marxism’s approach to logic, Lenin
suggests the following: “Logic is the science of cognition. It
is the theory and knowledge. Knowledge is the reflection of
nature by man. But this is not a simple, not an immediate, not a
complete reflection, but the process of a series of abstractions,
the formation and development of concepts, laws, etc., and these
concepts, laws, etc, (thought, science ‘the logical Idea’)
embraceï conditionally, approximately, the universal law governed
character of eternally moving and developing nature (Vol.

The Hegelian/Marxist approach to methodology is inclusive,
rather than a separate concern. Moreover, it is anti-formalist,
anti-subjectivist, and anti-reductionist. This posture is the
opposite of that approach developed in positivist and analytic
philosophy which sees methodology as a special field of‹d ‹
philosophic concern.


Methodology as a field of special study appeared under
circumstances when experimental science broke its dependence upon
natural philosophy. Francis Bacon sought to equip science with
the methodological apparatus by which to discover knowledge. For
Bacon, the empirical inductive method was that instrument. From
that time to the present, methodology has assumed a place of
centrality in the discussion and determination of the means by
which to achieve knowledge. As such, methodology has assumed a
special place in the organization of scientific activity.
Logical empiricism onesidedly assessed this situation and has
argued that truth hinges solely upon the discovery of a
scientific method. Logical empiricism, however, defines
methodology as those rules or cannons by which to establish the
truth value of statements.

While it can be argued that the empiricist inductive method
of Bacon was principally concerned with formal questions in the
discovery of truth, that which Mill would later associate with
the discovery of cannons of inductive reasoning, Descartes’
methods sought to look at the substance of these issues. In the
Cartesian sense, methodology was tied to what is considered the
main philosophical question, that is, the relationship between
subject and object. Descartes’ examination rejected the notion
that thought could be reduced to simple and direct reflection of
reality and proposed a rationalist solution to problems of
methodology. In substance, Descartes considered method as the
intellectual foundations and means of reasoning through which
knowledge is achieved. Hence, the dependency upon immediate
sense datum is broken.

Kant successfully separated methodological issues from
general problems of epistemology. He separated constitutive and
regulative principles of knowledge and, in doing so,
substantiated a special status for methodological knowledge.
Kantianism as distinguished from Cartesian rationalism separated
the broader conceptual issues from those which could be
experimentally verified. The a priori, for Kant, rather than
being supraexperimental, is preexperimental.4 The significant
point is that Kant, in giving a special place to constitutive
principles, allows for the preexperimental, i.e., the
conceptual, to achieve a critical place in the working up of
knowledge. Kant, unlike Descartes’ pure rationalism and Hume’s
skepticism concerning theoretical knowledge, did not place the
total burden in the working up of knowledge on the conceptual
apparatus, nor did he place the full weight upon the experimental
or inductive. Kant was the first to attempt to unite the formal
and substantive questions in the emergence of knowledge. The
theoretical and the empirical; the analytical and synthetic;
the categorical and the sensory; the conceptual and the
experimental; the inductive and deductive. The analytic and logical positivist traditions invert this
recognition equating interpreting the analytic/synthetic
relationship as a formal one, lacking any connection or reference
to any but empirical and, hence, subjective phenomena. Moreover,
it reduces the enormous role of the theoretical as viewed by Kant
and later Hegel in the production of knowledge. It will be
recalled that Whewell’s criticism of the Mill Method was also
precisely at this point objective content. Hegel argued that the initial task was to
demonstrate how these formal functions of thought corresponded to
objective processes. Hence, Hegel demanded that logic be more
precisely connected to epistemology. Hegel argued against Kant
that methodology is that point at which logic and epistemology
are joined. While it is strongly suggested by Hegel, Marxism
consistently develops the dialectical method. This is realized
by separating the dialectic from the Hegelian system. Hence,
concepts and categories of thought are constantly emerging and
reflect the substance of objective reality. Thus, the
foundational Marxist formulation concerning the relationship
between the abstract and the concrete, Marx held that method
should be based upon “the ascension of the concrete”
(îGrundrisseï:101). Categories, concepts, methods, and science
itself are historically determined. Marxism, moreover, argues
that there is a material, social, indeed, class determination of
categories. Finally, a political and ideological content inform
the emergence of categories.Oizerman (1979:133)
says of Kant’s contribution, “he (Kant) has revealed the unity of
the categorical apparatus of thinking with the content of
experimental knowledge. That is why Kant does not confine
himself to opposing ‘pure’ (a priori) knowledge to empirical
knowledge, the way his predecessors did. He proves that since
the precepts of theoretical natural science are universal and
necessary, they are not purely a priori but both a priori and
empirica a priori in form and empirical in content.
It is this recognition that guides much of current thinking
on issues of methodology. From several angles, philosophers of
science draw upon this fundamental Kantian notion.

Hegel criticized Kant’s metaphysics as purely descriptive of
the functioning of thought. Hegel meant this criticism to apply
equally to Aristotle. While stressing that the description of
thought, irrespective of its content, was an important
accomplishment, Hegel demanded a further examination of the forms
of thought and their logically generalized content, i.e., their


Logic, as a “logic of investigation” (Popper) or a “logic of
science” (Carnap) is in the history of logic a recent
development. Prior to the emergence of the empirical sciences,
logic had been associated with Aristotlean syllogisms. However,
the rise of mathematics and the physical sciences would no longer
permit logic being equated with simple or syllogistic proof.
Bacon, Descartes, and Leibniz undertook the development of logic
as the logic of investigation which had as its essential purpose
the discovery of new truth. This would fulfill logic’s
commitment to science. Bacon, considered by Marx the founder of
English materialism and of “contemporary experimental science,”
looked upon scientific truth as emerging from inductive logic.
Descartes and Leibniz, on the other hand, looked upon logic as a
branch of mathematics and, therefore, chose deductive logic as
the method of discovering truth. Both Descartes and Bacon looked
upon logic as a means of studying objects of nature and,
therefore, as a means of discovering truth.

The logical mathematical method was viewed by Descartes as a means of solving
scientific problems. Leibniz, like Descartes, expressed profound
optimism concerning the possibilities of logic in facilitating
discoveries in new areas of research. Descartes’ objective, to
construct a single mathematical system within the limits of
deductive logic, was attempted in the early twentieth century by
Russell and Whitehead in their Principia Mathematica and by
Wittgenstien in the Tractatus These efforts, though failing to
establish a single deductive system to explain reality or to, as
Russell suggested, confirm “the appearance of the anticipated
sense data,” did spur on later efforts of logical empiricism.

On the side of inductivism, Bacon, and later John Stuart
Mill, made robust claims. Mill asserted that every process
leading to scientific knowledge could be represented as an
inductive process. Such an assertion brought forward its‹d ‹
opposite. The earliest criticism of Mill’s Logic was based upon
its being solely bound to the sense content of phenomena and its
failure to address properties, aspects, relations, or structures
of the object that is empirically given. Mackie (1967:340)
argues that Mill’s Method, rather than inductive is deductive and
mechanistic in nature. That is, it is analytic rather than
synthetic. Its usefulness comes mainly after data has been
collected to test conjectures or hypotheses that have been
previously generated.

The discovery of new scientific laws introduced new scientific
abstraction, which thereby served to discover new connections
between empirical data and thus form new theoretical systems.
For Whewell, this process of discovery is founded upon the
process of applying îa prioriï ideas to empirical material.
Whewell sought to discover new scientific laws through the
introduction of new levels of abstraction. Like much that has

Whewell successfully critiqued Mill’s Logic. Talkington
(1987:87) argues that Whewell’s thinking viewed concept formation
as part of the inductive process.6 Whewell argued that empirical
laws meaning the causal connections of sense perception did not
achieve the discovery of new scientific laws. His view was that
followed, Whewell argued that empirical connections alone did not
in and of themselves suffice to establish scientific discovery.
For Whewell, the new level of abstraction necessary was
identified with theoretical conditions of knowledge. It was here
that new empirical connections could be discovered. The
substance of Whewell’s argument, and that which remains valid in
the rejection of old type inductivism, is the need to go beyond
that which is given in sensation and the method of identifying
sense data with the real. Whewell’s rejection of Mill’s Method
of induction and his positivist description of the scientific
process is important to, and in fact has anticipated, post™analytic discourse on method.7 Putnam, therefore, suggests a method that deals with the conceptual and the empirical in a non-positivist manner. Furthermore, the conceptual is not sacrificed to the empirical i.e., to sense datum. Mill’s inductivism was
undermined by its inability to go beyond sense datum and
consequently Humean causality.

Moreover, its radical limitations upon the possibilities of
theoretical and, as Mackie suggests, of experimental knowledge
was at variance with the advances being made in the natural
sciences.Moreover, Mill’s positivist description of the scientific
process was at variance with actual science.8

The incompleteness of Mill’s Logic along with the enormous
achievements in the natural sciences, created the demand for new
logico-methodological approaches to the questions of scientific
knowledge. At the same time, the structure of scientific
knowledge was increasing in complexity. Ernest Mach and the
empirio-critics suggested a new positivism that based its outlook
upon Humean epistemology and a rejection of causality in favor of
the notion of functional equivalence. Empirio-criticism, while
enjoying some popularity, failed to provide the necessary logical
apparatus to address the pressing needs of science. Theory, and
especially logic, were establishing a daily presence in the
activity of science. Under these circumstances, the logical, and
more specifically, the logico-methodological apparatus of theory,
assumed a place of practical necessity in the unfolding of
research. Russell and Whitehead’s Principia Mathematica and
Wiggenstien’s Tractatus sought to systematically address this
situation. The formation of the Vienna Circle and the Society of

Empirical Philosophy in Berlin attempted to construct upon the
foundations of Principia and the Tractatus a consistent
methodology of science and a description of the scientific
process. Their effort was viewed as a radical break with
philosophy, now deemed as metaphysics and unscientific. The
object of their effort was to, based upon mathematics, construct
a logical apparatus by which to determine the truth of the
statements of science.


It is at the stage when the practical task of logic in the
construction of the methodological apparatus of scientific
knowledge assumes centrality that logical empiricism comes to the
fore. The Received View was an attempt to discover the “given”
content of knowledge and the empirical significance of its
elements. Logical empiricism, therefore, makes robust claims
both from the standpoint of its negative and positive objectives.
On the positive side, it sought a precise analysis of the
cognitive significance of the concepts and statements of science
in order to disclose their empirical or given content. Its
negative function is to eliminate speculative philosophy. This
objective is best described as removing from statements of
science all which is not reducible to that which is given in
sensation. Simply put, the logical empiricist program
constitutes the reconstituting of the system of existing
knowledge. Whereas for Bacon and Descartes, the logic and‹d ‹
methodology of science was directed to giving priority to
searching for methods and techniques for discovering new
knowledge; the logical empiricist seeks to confirm existing

Logical empiricism proposes the primacy of empirical
knowledge, separating the empirical and the theoretical and, in
fact, collapsing the theoretical into the empirical. Knowledge
is reduced to the directly given, that is the primary empirical
elements of knowledge. Such a reduction ipso facto eliminates
the possibility of levels of knowledge in the formation of

Logical empiricism has attempted various logical means of
addressing the problem of levels of knowledge, while maintaining
its reductionist posture. For example, Russell proposed
extensional logic, based upon the idea of nomological statements.
Russell’s logic reflected a change in the fundamental principles
of methodology and logic of the 18th and 19th centuries.
Represented here is a search for general principles that sum up
the wealth of knowledge and collected data. The roots of this
change are to be found in the enormous complication of scientific
knowledge and the development of the mathematical apparatus of
science and the decline in the role of direct visualization or
observation in scientific experimentation. The objective is to
order and organize in a rigorous manner the exact meaning of
scientific assertions and concepts. Logical empiricism, however,
absolutizes this objective at the expense of the creative and‹d ‹
emergent characteristics of knowledge. Thus, Russell and
Whitehead’s Principia developed a mathematical logic that is
extensional, the logic of truth functions. The truth value of
each statement is capable of being subdivided into component
statements which are determined unambiguously by the truth value
of its components or, in other words, each statement is a truth
function of its components. If knowledge of reality requires
reconstruction into a language whose grammar is extensional, the
result of this reconstruction would be a set of statements
interrelated by truth values. In order to rigorously define the
“significance” of any statement under this concept of logical
structure, it is necessary to examine the connection of the given
statement with other statements in terms of their truth values,
that is to demonstrate of what statements the given statement is
a truth function. It is, however, obvious that such a
reductionist strategy cannot proceed endlessly. Such a system
must contain ultimate statements representing the limits of
reducibility. Since the truth value of ultimate statements is
not based upon the logical connection between them, they may only
be postulated by some extra logical means. It is at this point
that purely logical procedures are of little value. The solution
must be discovered at the level of epistemology. Thus, the
logical apparatus of the Principia finally rests upon certain
epistemological and philosophical foundations. Russell rests
upon an idealist epistemology, holding that sense perception is
the ultimate source of experience (see Russell, “Our Knowledge of
the External World as a Field for Scientific Method”, in
Philososphy, p. 363). For Russell, all knowledge is reducible to
a set of atomic statements or assertions which are empirically
verifiable by sense perception. This is the epistemological
basis of logical atomism. For logical atomism, all knowledge is
a set of statements about sense data and the cognitive meaning of
the set of fundamental statements is revealed in the last
analysis through the empirical sense perceived conditions of
truth. Therefore, to understand an assertion or statement
consists in knowing its empirical conditions and the sense datum
which verifies them. Russell formulated this relation thusly,
“verification always consists in the appearance of the
anticipated sense data.” Schlick used the phrase “the meaning of
a proposition is the method of its verification.” Obviously, the
verification principle of logical atomism relies upon observation
or sensation. But what of nonobservable statements?
Wittgenstien’s answer in the Tractatus held that logical and
mathematical propositions do not constitute knowledge of reality;
they are countless and empty. They are basically guidelines
indicating the permissible transformations of modes of linguistic
expressions, but in no way bear upon their meaning. Logical
propositions are tautologies which are true under any and all
combinations. Such tautologies convey no knowledge of the actual
world or bring forth no new information (see Suppe on the
Received View). According to this view, the world assumes the
structure of mathematical logic and, therefore, proposes that the‹d ‹
world has a one to one correspondence with logic.9


This unique theory of correspondence brings together the
reductionist and anti-realist positions of logical empiricism.
While later rejecting the earlier atomist ontology (Suppe:67), it
sacrificed nothing in terms of its logic and methodology. It
merely separated analytical and synthetic truths. In a
significant sense, logical empiricism and logical positivism
treat all ontology as strictly meaningless. Carnap, as well,
argues in this direction (Schlipp, 1963:868). This constituted
an abandonment of even the fig leaf of ontological concern, by a
solipsistic turn, the universalization of formal logic and the
effort to build a theory of knowledge resting exclusively upon
concepts of formal logic.10 The problem is now reflected as that
of the cognitive significance of statements. Statements,
therefore, either have formal meaning i..e., analytical
significance or empirical meaning i.e., synthetic significance.
Finally, logic and mathematics and later semantics stand above
and are contrasted to all other sciences as a formal means of
arriving at truth.

However, the problems of observation and empirical
significance are seen as problems of the relations of logical
knowledge to sensory knowledge of tautological statements to
sense datum. Assertions containing empirical conditions of truth
are contrasted to those which contain formal meaning. This
synthetic analytic distinction first appeared in Kant’s Critique
of Pure Reason This distinction can be characterized as the
observation theoretical distinction. This distinction is crucial
to logical empiricism’s attempt at carrying out a logical
analysis of knowledge directed at disclosing its empirical
significance. Logical empiricism’s concept of empirical
significance reduces the logical, and in particular, the
intellectual content of knowledge to sensory knowledge, to the
expression of given sensations in speech, thereby depriving
thought of its distinctive quality as the highest stage of
reflection. Suppe (80) draws attention to the untenability of
the observation theoretical distinction as developed by logical
empiricism. Using the findings of Putnam Achinstein, Suppe
argues that logical empiricism onesidedly develops the
distinction and consequently submerges the theoretical.
Moreover, he argues that logical empiricism artificially presents
the distinction.

Underlying the concept of empirical significance is the
conclusion that the cognitive meaning of an assertion about the
world consists of the expression of an immediate state of things.
Joergensen quotes Carnap as saying “the meaning of a statement
consists in its expressing a (thinkable, not necessarily also an
actual) state of affairs. If an alleged statement expresses no
(thinkable) state of affairs, it has no meaning and, hence, is
only apparently an assertion. If a statement expresses a state
of affairs, it has no meaning and, hence, is only apparently an
assertion. If a statement expresses a state of affairs, it is at
all events meaningful, and it is true if that state of affairs
exists and false if it does not” (p.29). The point is that for a
statement to be factual, it must be founded upon experience. For
Carnap, the use of logistical concepts allows for the statements
of various sciences being transformed into statements about
immediate experiences having the same truth values as original
statements. Therefore, all scientific statements are capable of
being verified or falsified by means of immediate experience.
This method of achieving empirical significance came to be known
as the principle of verification.11 For logical empiricism in‹d ‹
general the meaningfulness of reality sentences is connected to
their verifiability.

The question of how to verify reality sentences is of utmost
importance.12 Popper establishes falsification as the criterion
of the meaningfulness of statements. Using this criterion of
meaning, Popper proposed to sort out empirical scientific
sentences from a priori analytical sentences (logical and
mathematical) as well as from nonfalsifiable reality sentences
(metaphysics). Popper is, therefore, suggesting rather than an
absolute concept, one that argues for “degrees of testability
(Prufbarkeit)” (Joergensen:73). In essence, this is a turn to a
relativist approach to knowledge. Empirical testability is
identified not with verification but with falsificationi.e.,
the possibility of empirical refutation of statements. The
principle of falsifiability is regarded by Popper as the
“criterion of demarcation,” the distinction between scientific
empirical knowledge of the world and “metaphysical systems” (see
V.S. Shvyrev:21). Carnap, in the essay “Testability and Meaning”

(Philosophy of Science Vol. 3) argues that truth and
confirmation must be distinguished. Truth, he says, is an
absolute concept, independent of time; confirmation, on the
other hand, is a relative concept, the degree of which varies
with the development of science. Carnap differentiates directly
testable reality sentences from those that are indirectly
testable. Directly testable reality sentences are those based
directly upon observation. Indirectly testable reality sentences
consist in directly testing other sentences that have certain
relationships to it. Concerning verification and confirmation
and, thus, the basis of establishing empirical significance,
Carnap says, “if by verification is meant a definitive and final
establishment of truth, then no (synthetic) sentence is ever
verifiable, as we shall see. We can only confirm a sentence more
and more. Therefore, the shift in explanation is to confirmation
rather than verification.” For Carnap, a further shift to
solipsism, subjectivism, and formalism. Although analytical
philosophers have not all followed Carnap, there is little doubt
that finally the entire project found itself grounded on the
shore of subjectivism, isolated and unable to relate to the
pressing demands of the natural and social sciences.


The results of analytic and positivist methods in philosophy
have led further into subjectivism. As such, its results have
been rejected by growing numbers of philosophers, philosophers of‹d ‹
science, and social theorists. It is, however, interesting that
it has regained new life and prominence within Analytical
Marxism. In many ways Elster’s attack upon and attempt to
redefine dialectics mirrors the positivist and analytical
rejection of all that was considered nonscientific in
philosophy. Elster’s statement that the results of “dialectical
deductions” must be “rendered into straightforward logical
arguments” (1978:3) sound not unlike the statements of the Vienna
Circle and of Russell and Whitehead before them. Elster argues
“I believe that dialectical thinkers have had a unique gift for
singling out interesting and sometimes crucial îproblemsï even if
their attempts at a new îmethodï must be deemed a failure. As I
see it,” he continues, “there is nothing of real importance in
Hegel or Marx that cannot be formulated in ordinary and formal
language.” For Roemer, in this methodological shift, nothing of
value in Marxism is sacrificed except functionalism and
The methodological problems of Marxism as seen by Analytical
Marxism can be resolved by the formalization of Marxist
propositions and the construction of a formal logic and
mathematical apparatus around it. Most importantly, the
analytical is separated from the synthetic, the categorical from

the historical and social, etc. This constitutes nothing less
than a logical inversion and a logico©methodological
reconstruction of Marxism, which is at the heart of a
comprehensive reinterpretation of Marxism
The shift from the dialectical to the formal analytic in
logic is the starting point of a more complete renovation of all
the principle categories of Marxism, from materialism, to the
labor theory of value to class struggle and socialism.º13


Abraham Kaplan (1974), a conventional philosopher of
science, astutely characterized the logic of science idea as a
form of “reconstructed logic” which, in his words, is an
idealization of science and scientific practice. Analytical
Marxism claims to abstraction, rigor, and scientific clarity
shares with positivism this idealization of science. Hence, the
return to conventional methods, abstraction, formalism, etc.
affirms within Marxism the protocols and conventions of
nomothetic and mathematicized social science. Such an effort
must, of necessity, assume that science generally, and social
science in particular, is disconnected from class and ideological
questions. This is the idea that science transcends political,
ideological, and other value issues. Hence, what is proposed is
a single unified science that explains social reality and
causality and which transcends sociopolitical relations. This,
it is argued, is in the interest of establishing direct causality
and discovering empirical foundations of Marxism. Elster
(“Marxism, Functionaliam, and Game Theory,” Theory and Society
1982), among other things, claims that the functionalist/
teleological aspects of Marxism inhibit the development of both
direct causality and an empirically verifiable research program
within Marxism. (The formalization of Marxism, most successfully
attempted in Roemer, (îA General Theory of Exploitation and Classï
[1982] and Analytical Foundations of Marxian Economic Theory
[1981]) set as its task building a model to test Marxian
economic theories (1981:3) and finally to construct a
propositional/hypothetical structure amenable to empirical
testing. However, the combined impact of Roemer’s method of
abstraction and his formalism is to argue that the external world
replicates logic. Thus, in this approach, history and the
process of historical determination of categories and laws is
left outside of the model. For instance, Roemer proposes a
“general theory of exploitation” which applies equally to
capitalism, feudalism, and socialism. This form of abstraction
is alien to dialectics and historical materialist analysis.
Thus, Roemer’s model is built upon a set of protocols and
nomothetic laws which, he argues, can represent a verifiable
model of the world.

Furthermore, in logico-epistemological terms, analytical
Marxism is a return to the Baconian/Millsean notion of science.
However, nomothetic techniques are added to primitive inductivism
so as to attempt to account for the emergent qualities of social
life. Game theoretic/rational choice models are an example of
this approach. What is emergent is the multiple and unintended
consequences of rational human behavior. Put differently, the
emergent quality is the consequences of the causal relationships
of relational atoms. All games assume precommunist/precollective behaviors.
Thus, the dominant game is the prisoner dilemma or sub©optimal outcomes. Yet, all games assume the centrality of the individual.


1.In particular, see Marx’s îThesis on Feuerbachï, îCapitalï, and
Grundrisse; Engel’s Dialectics of Nature and Anti©Duhring;
Lenin’s Materialism and Empirio-Criticism and Philosophical
2.Currently an important literature on micro©foundations from
a non-Marxian perspective has appeared. For example, “Micro™Foundations and Macro©Social Behavior” by James Coleman and “TheIndividual Tradition in Sociology” by Raymond Boudon, both in The
Micro-Macro Link by Jeffrey Alexander, et. al. (eds);
“Contrasting Theoretical Perspectives” by Peter Blau; “Micro™Translation as a Theory Building Strategy” by Randall Collins in
Advances in Social Theory and Methodology by Cetina Knorr, et.al
3.A body of post-positivist philosophy of science literature
has suggested a relativist and even anarchist approach to
methodology and its relationship to knowledge. Examples are Paul
Feyerabend, Against Method(1975); Richard Rorty, Philosophy and
the Mirror of Nature(1979); Hilary Putnam, “Science as an
Approximation to Truth,” in Mathematics, Matter, and Method:
Philosophical PapersVol. 1 (1975); Joseph Margolis, Pragmatism
Without Foundations(1986
4.Hilary Putnam as well sees the conceptual as a necessary
part of the formation of knowledge. This overcomes the
reductionism of logical empiricism. He says “nothing at all we
say about any object describes the object as it is in itself
independently of its effect on us on beings with our rational
natures and our biological constitutions” (1981:61).
5.Whewell elaborates a hierarchy of inductions in science.
He saw induction tying together the facts in the formation of new
ideas. As well, he saw how inductions tend to coalesce, coming
together to form a unified coherent theoretical structure as a
îconsilienceï of inductions whose independent derivations reflect
fundamental unity of the theoretical structure itself (cf. Bynum,
et. al., 1981:75).
6.The Millsean project, under differing conditions of
scientific knowledge, continued with logical empiricism which
declared the principle objective of logic to be verification an
later the confirmation of existing knowledge. Whewell’s creative
approach to induction and its more realistic notion of science
was lost for several decades.
7.Bhaskar suggests that the reductionist strategy of logical
empiricism is based upon an “epistemic fallacy.” He says that
for logical empiricism, statements about being can be reduced to
statements about knowledge, that is, ontological questions can be
reduced to epistemological questions.
8. V.A. Shvyrev argues “…the abandonment of ontological
pre©suppositions such as the theory which construes reality as a
set of atomic facts does not in any way influence the essence of
epistemological logic…Therefore, by disregarding the pluralist
ontology of logical atomism, the neopositivists of the Vienna
Circle were able to borrow the fundamental characteristics of the
conception of the epistemological logic of Russell and
Wittgenstien: the view of knowledge as system of extensionally
related statements, the understanding of the truth of ultimate
statements as empirical truth, and the fundamental opposition
presumed to exist between the logical character of the
propositions of both logic and mathematics on the one side,
considered as procedures for symbolic transformations, and on the
other side, the propositions of the rest of science considered as
empirical knowledge of reality” (1964:15-16).
9.See A.N. Rakitov, “The Statistical Interpretation of Facts
and the Role of Statistical Methods in the Structure of Empirical
Knowledge” for the relationship of the verification principle to
the development of modern statistical methods.
10.Karl Popper felt that the initial statement of logical
empiricism had so complicated matters as to “destroy, not only
metaphysics, but also natural science ” (Joergensen:72). Popper
proposed the corrective to the problems inherent in verification
to be found in the falsification principle
11.Austro Marxism and the dominant line in the Second
International expressed sympathy for positivism as against
dialectics (Vaillancourt:41). Mach and the Empirio critiques
similarly argued that Marxist explanation has to be renovated
with neo©positivist methods (Bradley, îMach’s Philosophy of
Scienceï and “Dialectical Perception: A Synthesis of Lenin and
Bogdanov” in Radical Philosophy#43).


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‹f ‹
Talkington, Lester. “Is the Creative Process Rational?” Science
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About Anthony Monteiro

I am a activist and scholar who is a professor in the Department of African American Studies at Temple University.
This entry was posted in LOGIC , METHODOLOGY AND PHILOSOPHY. Bookmark the permalink.

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