Kinds of systems, part 1

For rationalism has existed at widely different times and in the most diverse forms, in the sense of a formal system whose unity derives from its orientation towards that aspect of the phenomena that can be grasped by the understanding, that is created by the understanding and hence also subject to the control, the predictions and the calculations of the understanding. But there are fundamental distinctions to be made, depending on the material on which this rationalism is brought to bear and on the role assigned to it in the comprehensive system of human knowledge and human objectives. (HCC, The Antinomies of Bourgeois Thought)

A central concept of Lukacs’ that we have already seen here is the concept of the system. Although in my estimation Lukacs uses the term “system” somewhat inconsistently, I think that its most general sense in HCC (and the one I intend to stick to in this blog) is captured by the following definition:

(DFN-SYSTEM) A system is a set of beliefs and valuations.

Much more so than systems generally, Lukacs is interested in the systems posited by “rationalism”–by which he means a position he attributes to Kant and the bourgeoisie that insists, for class-based economic motivations, that the world be predictable and calculable. I hope to get into this topic in more detail later, but for now I would like to provide the following tentative definition that I believe is true to Lukacs’ use of the term “rational system.”

(DFN-RATIONAL-SYSTEM-v.1.0) A system is a rational system to the extent that its contents are deducible from its axioms.

I have attached a version number to this definition because I expect we will have to revise it in the future.

Other kinds of systems–partial systems, total systems, closed systems, open systems–are discussed by Lukacs. Definitions of these terms will be provided in the next post.

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