All capitalist corporations gouge the public to the maximum extent that they can. But the pharmaceutical industry is one of the very worst, in part because obtaining medicine is often a matter a life or death for sick people, and therefore pharmaceutical companies can get away with the most extreme forms of capitalist extortion.
“A study carried out by Express Scripts, a ‘pharmacy-benefit manager’ that negotiates prices between drug companies and health insurers, found that the number of Americans with annual prescription costs above $50,000 had risen by 63% in 2014, to 576,000. The number whose costs were over $100,000 trebled, to 139,000. Patients are being prescribed ever more complex combinations of drugs to treat multiple conditions, but medications for hepatitis C and cancer explain a good deal of the surge in costs.” —“A bitter pill to swallow”, The Economist, May 16, 2015, p. 7. [It should also be noted that the most incredibly expensive drugs are those which are only available from one monopoly company because of the excessively generous patents which the bourgeois state grants them. And the profits of pharmaceutical corporations are sky high, even compared to those of other industries. —Ed.]
“PHASE THEORY” [In India]
A failed theory of how to go about making a revolution that has been very popular in India over the past 40 years or more. Under this theory, people’s war in India could not be launched until after many years of building up the people’s revolutionary movement through more peaceful struggle and/or electoral efforts. But instead of expanding their revolutionary influence, those parties which tried these approaches lost most of their influence, and have made no progress at all toward ever leading a revolution.
“But let me also tell you that there are other ML parties [in India] which do not [?] believe in taking up armed struggle but they want it to start much later in the course of struggle. This can be understood as Phase Theory which many revolutionary parties in India conform to. According to this theory, in the first phase one has to prepare the masses through open and legal mass resistance struggles. In the second phase, underground organisation of the movement is carried out, while in the third phase the armed struggle is started. Though these parties had [a] large mass base initially, due to their faulty understanding, they became smaller and smaller. This Phase Theory did not work. But the first of the three revolutionary parties I have mentioned [CPI(ML) (People’s War)] started armed struggle straight away, as they did not believe in phases of revolution. They analysed that a revolutionary situation already exists in Indian society and the people can be organized for an armed movement. Even they believed and understood that armed forms of struggles predate their own existence. Hence they need to lead them with the MLM ideology at the centre. They succeeded while the rest of the groups became weaker and alienated from the oppressed masses. The revolutionary classes and individuals in the society came together in the larger revolutionary groups and these groups expanded over time. On the other hand, those groups which believed that they should spread the revolutionary ideas by going to the parliament or believed that they should start the armed struggle much later, could not carry forward the revolutionary movement. They remained for forty years in the same preparatory stage and are now smaller forces – almost non-existent – even foregoing their character as revolutionary forces. But those who believed from the very beginning that the phase theory is wrong, that the Indian parliament has no relevance in India and that the peoples struggles’ can and should start with armed struggle became major revolutionary forces. They joined hands and merged in 2004 to become Communist Party of India (Maoist) – the largest and the most formidable revolutionary force in India. About ten smaller ML parties still exist, but they have no relevance, leading no major struggle, thereby existing only on paper mainly. One such organization is called CPI(ML) Liberation which contests parliamentary elections in some pockets of the country. People consider it to be a revisionist group like the CPI and CPI(M) which has no radical or revolutionary content and relevance. On the other hand, CPI(Maoist) has emerged as the single largest Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Party of the country after the coming together of all revolutionary forces in India. The movement it leads is still called the Naxalite movement because its origins lie in the Naxalbari village.” —G. N. Saibaba, of the Revolutionary Democratic Front, in an interview, April 15, 2012, online at: http://www.bannedthought.net/India/RDF/2012/120415-SaibabaInterviewSweden.pdf
One of a number of related theories of knowledge based on the notion that the immediate objects of knowledge are sensations. These theories often argue that all statements about physical objects are equivalent in meaning to statements about various subjective sensations that people have. All these theories are empiricist and idealist to one degree or another.
A typical expression of phenomenalism is that, in the words of John Stuart Mill, “objects are the permanent possibilities of sensations”. This takes sensations as all that we really know, and seems to imply that there may be no objective reality beyond sensation. It seems to “define away” the objective reality that gives rise to our sensations. Similar views have been held by Bertrand Russell and most other empiricists. Russell held that all talk about physical objects, including their properties and locations, should be translated into talk about human subjective experiences. From our opposed materialist perspective we argue that our sensations and impressions of the world actually arise from, and are based on (to one degree or another), objective reality rather than the other way around, as the phenomenalists would have it.
Strangely, the views of Mill and Russell might be considered among the “moderate” forms of phenomenalism. Locke and Herbert Spencer also held similar views, recognizing at least that objective reality did exist, though insisting that all we are actually directly aware of is our own sensations. Kantian agnosticism formalized this point of view that human knowledge cannot know anything directly about the real objects that give rise to our sensations, each of which is supposedly an unknowable “thing-in-itself” (ding-an-sich).
The more extreme forms of phenomenalism merge into outright subjective idealism. Examples of this are in the philosophies of Bishop Berkeley, Ernst Mach, and the loose school of idealist thought known as Empirio-Criticism.
From the point of view of dialectical materialism all forms of phenomenalism are false since they divorce human knowledge from objective reality and from human practice in relating to objective reality.
See also: POSITIVISM, SENSATIONALISM, SENSUALISM
[To be added...]
Typically this is the gift by the rich of a small portion of what they have stolen from the working class. “Philanthropist: Someone who gives away what he should give back.” —Anon.
“The rich will do anything for the poor, except get off their backs.” —Often attributed to Karl Marx, but attributed to Leo Tolstoy by Holbrook Jackson in his book Romance and Reality (1912). This is certainly a sentiment that Marx would have agreed with.
PHILIPPINES — U.S. Imperialist Domination Of
See also: BELL TRADE ACT
[Often not capitalized.]
1. [In aesthetics:] A person who is guided by the pursuit of material possessions (“materialism”, in the vulgar sense), and is oblivious to or disdains aesthetic and cultural values. This is an attitude characteristic of bourgeois art collectors, who view the purchase of a work of art as primarily an investment.
2. [More broadly:] A person who is uninformed about a special area of knowledge (such as Marxist theory) but who nevertheless assumes they are well versed in the subject and therefore spouts off about it.
“Do you remember the German definition of a philistine?
Was ist der Philister?
Ein hohler Darm,
Voll Furcht und Hoffnung,
Dass Gott erbarm.
[What is a philistine?
A hollow gut,
full of fear and of hope
in God’s mercy.]
This definition does not quite apply to our affairs. God ... God takes a back seat with us. But the authorities ... that’s a different matter. And if in this definition we substitute the word ‘authorities’ for the word ‘God’ we shall get an exact description of the ideological stock-in-trade, the moral level and the civic courage of the Russian humane and liberal ‘friends of the people.’ [Narodniks]” —Lenin, “What the ‘Friends of the People’ Are” (1894), LCW 1:262. [The quoted verse is by Goethe.]
PHILO OF ALEXANDRIA [Also known as Philo Judaeus] (c. 20 BCE-40 CE)
The leading representative of Judaic religious philosophy at the beginning of the 1st century, who sought to combine that religion with Platonism and Stoicism. His mysticism greatly influenced Christian theology.
A reference to the exiling, on Lenin’s instructions, of a small number of reactionary intellectuals (including a few idealist philosophers) who were hostile to the October Revolution and revolutionary Russia. In the fall of 1922 two German boats carried 160 expelled reactionaries to Germany. In 1923 a smaller number of additional bourgeois intellectuals were expelled by train to Riga, Latvia, or by ship from Odessa to Constantinople. Among those expelled on these several occasions were: Nikolai Berdyaev, Nikolai Lossky, Sergei Bulgakov, and Ivan Ilyin.
PHILOSOPHY — For the Masses
“Philosophical expositions which cannot be grasped by every educated person do not, in our opinion, deserve the printer’s ink expended on them. What has been clearly thought out can also be said clearly and without circumlocution. The philosophical evils which disfigure the writings of the erudite seem to aim more at concealing thoughts than revealing them.” —Engels, Dialectics of Nature, quoted in Monthly Review, July-August 1980, p. 42. [We have not yet located this passage in the Marx-Engels Collected Works. —Ed.]
“Liberate philosophy from the confines of the philosophers’ lecture rooms and textbooks, and turn it into a sharp weapon in the hands of the masses.” —Mao, (1964?), quoted in “Peasants Can Certainly Study and Apply Philosophy Well”, Peking Review, #37, Sept. 11, 1970, p. 13. [The original source of this quotation is probably Mao’s “Talk on Sakata’s Article” (Aug. 24, 1964), paragraph 3, online in a looser translation at: http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-9/mswv9_28.htm]
“I have always figured that if I can’t explain something I’m doing to a group of bright undergraduates, I don’t really understand it myself, and that challenge has shaped everything I have written. Some philosophy professors yearn to teach advanced seminars only to graduate stuents. Not me. Graduate students are often too eager to prove to each other and to themselves that they are savvy operators, wielding the jargon of their trade with deft asurance, baffling outsiders (that’s how they assure themselves that what they are doing requires expertise), and showing off their ability to pick their way through the most tortuous (and torturous) technical arguments without getting lost. Philosophy written for one’s advanced graduate students and fellow experts is typically all but unreadable—and hence largely unread.” —Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking (2013), p. 12. [Dennett is a bourgeois philosopher, but what he says here is quite laudable. —Ed.]
PHILOSOPHY — Marxist — Study Of
“We must propagate dialectical materialism among the five million
intellectuals inside and outside the Party and among cadres at all levels so that they
will grasp it and combat idealism, and we shall then be able to organize a powerful
corps of theoretical workers, which we urgently need. That again will be a very good
“We must draw up a plan for the formation of such a corps with several million people taking up the study of dialectical materialism and historical materialism, the theoretical basis of Marxism, and combating all shades of idealism and mechanical materialism. At present there are many cadres doing theoretical work, but there is still no corps of theoretical workers, much less a powerful one. Without such a corps, the cause of the entire Party, the socialist industrialization and socialist transformation of our country, the modernization of our national defense and our research in atomic energy cannot move along or succeed. I therefore recommend that you comrades read philosophy. Quite a few people are not interested in philosophy and have not cultivated the habit of reading it. They can begin by reading pamphlets or short articles and, after their interest is thus aroused, tackle books running to a length of seventy thousand or eighty thousand and then even several hundred thousand words. Marxism consists of several branches of learning: Marxist philosophy, Marxist economics and Marxist socialism, that is, the theory of the class struggle, but the foundation is Marxist philosophy. If this is not grasped, we will not have a common language or any common method, and we may keep on arguing back and forth without making things any clearer. Once dialectical materialism is grasped, a lot of trouble will be saved and many mistakes avoided.” —Mao, “Speeches at the National Conference of the Communist Party of China: Concluding Speech” (March 31, 1955), SW 5:157-8.
PHILOSOPHY — Scientific
[To be added... ]
See also: DIALECTICAL MATERIALISM
“Modern materialism embraces the more recent discoveries of natural science, according to which nature also has its history in time, the celestial bodies, like the organic species that, under favorable conditions, people them, being born and perishing. And even if nature, as a whole, must still be said to move in recurrent cycles, these cycles assume infinitely larger dimensions. In both cases modern materialism is essentially dialectic, and no longer needs any philosophy standing above the other sciences. As soon as each special science is bound to make clear its position in the great totality of things and of our knowledge of things, a special science dealing with this totality is superfluous. That which still survives, independently, of all earlier philosophy is the science of thought and its laws—formal logic and dialectics. Everything else is subsumed in the positive science of nature and history.” —Engels, Anti-Dühring, MECW 25:26.
PHISHING [Pronounced: fishing]
A recent term for trying to trick, deceive, exploit or cheat people. This term probably originally developed and has became most common with respect to the Internet, where criminals, vandals, government spies and other con men have been using very sneaky methods to get people to disclose their passwords to access computers, or their credit card information, or online bank account information, etc. For example, such a criminal might send out an email to the customer of a bank pretending to be from the bank itself, and claiming that the customer must log on to his account to confirm the accuracy of some recent transaction. A link is then provided, but the link is not actually to the bank’s computers, but to the criminal’s own website. Then when the victim enters their password on what they think is the bank’s website the criminal has it.
Such scams and cons have existed long before the Internet was invented, and are in fact a permanent and major feature of capitalist society. The term phishing is now being extended to those more traditional forms of trickery, deceit and theft as well.
“‘Competitive markets by their very nature spawn deception and trickery.’ This is not the hyperbole of a diehard Marxist, but the contention of two Nobel prize winners in economics in a new book, Phishing for Phools. Economic models tend to assume that people are informed about the decisions they make; in the jargon consumers have ‘perfect information’. This supposedly enables consumers to make markets work to their advantage. But Robert Shiller of Yale University and George Akerlof of Georgetown University argue instead that this assumption is false. There are plenty of market equilibria, the authors find, where one party is being deceived, or ‘phished’. You may think you are doing well out of markets; you may behave quite rationally; but in fact you are being taken for a ‘phool’.” —“The Economics of Deception”, the Economist, Sept. 19, 2015, p. 82. [For one example of how this works see the entry for CREDIT CARDS. —Ed.]
An obsolete and long abandoned scientific theory put forward to explain combustion, which was demonstrated to be incorrect by Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier in the late 18th century. This is now considered to be a classic example of how science has learned to discard theories once they have been proven to be erroneous.
The phlogiston theory, which was first put forward in 1667, held that things which can burn contain a fire-like element, phlogiston, which is released when the material burns. Substances which burn in air were said to be rich in phlogiston. When it was demonstrated that the same material burned in a small closed space soon extinguished itself, the theory was patched up by saying that the small amount of air surrounding the burning material was soon satiated with phlogiston and could hold no more of it. The phlogiston theory required a series of such ad hoc patches, including the suggestion at one point that phlogiston must have a “negative mass”. (When major or multiple ad hoc excuses of this sort need to be proposed to keep a theory alive, it is usually a good idea to raise some very serious doubts about the whole theory. For example, the fantastic ad hoc patch to the Big Bang Theory in cosmology, which requires us to believe in a totally inexplicable period of “hyper-inflation of space-time” to keep the theory alive, should raise a serious question as to the validity of that entire Big Bang Theory.)
The phlogiston theory was replaced by the caloric theory of heat (which itself was later replaced by the theory of thermodynamics) and the recognition that most combustion consists of the rapid combination of oxygen with other elements. (In unusual cases, however, there may be combustion that does not involve oxygen, such as with hydrogen in a fluorine atmosphere or vice-versa.)
A program of mass torture and murder by the United States CIA and the American military during the U.S. War Against Vietnam. It operated from 1965 to 1972, though similar programs existed before and after that. It was intended to identify and “neutralize” (usually murder) the human infrastructure of the National Liberation Front in southern Vietnam (which was known as the Viet Cong to American forces). Besides many NLF members themselves, this program tortured and “neutralized” a huge number of NLF informers and supporters, as well as thousands of people with no connection to the NLF. And despite its vast extent, it was largely ineffective from a strategic point of view, and failed to destroy the NLF.
“During the war in Vietnam, the CIA’s Phoenix Program deployed systematic torture and often brutal methods to dismantle communist networks in the countryside, producing 46,776 extrajudicial executions but little actionable intelligence.” —Alfred W. McCoy, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017), p. 138. [As a liberal, the American historian McCoy prefers euphemisms such as “brutal methods” and “extrajudicial executions” for torture and murder, though he cannot entirely avoid those terms. —Ed.]
A particle of light or other electromagnetic radiation. Photons are bosons which carry the electromagnetic force.
“Although not in the least controversial today, Einstein’s bold suggestion
in 1905 that light must consist of particles [instead of simply waves] was harshly and
unanimously dismissed by his colleagues. Later in life, he declared this hypothesis, based
on but the shakiest of analogies, to be the most daring idea of his entire career; indeed,
it was so daring that it unleashed, among his colleagues, a barrage of scorn and hostility
whose magnitude, duration, and ferocity he surely could not have anticipated....
“The turning point when light quanta at last emerged from the shadows came only in 1923, when the American physicist Arthur Holley Compton astonished the world of physics with his experimental discovery that when an electromagnetic wave approaches an electrically charged particle (an electron in an atom, for instance), it transfers to the particle some of its kinetic energy and momentum, but does not do so as Maxwell’s equations predicted. In fact, Compton found that the wave-particle ‘collision’ that takes place in such a situation obeyed the long-known mathematical rules of collisions between two particles, with the energies of the incoming and outgoing waves matching exactly what Einstein had predicted in his 1905 paper about light quanta. And thus, at long last, light became particulate!
“It still took three more years for the catchier word ‘photon’ to be coined by the American chemist Gilbert Lewis, but in any case, today the notion of a photon—that is, a ‘wave packet’ of light—is a completely familiar denizen of the physics world, and no physicist would dream of denying its reality.
“It thus took almost twenty years before the idea of light quanta, the fruit of an analogy conceived in 1905, was taken seriously by physicists—and even after the Compton effect, it still took a bitter battle before the idea was universally accepted. Today, oddly enough, this story is hardly remembered...” —Douglas Hofstadter & Emmanuel Sander, Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking (2013), p. 460, 462.
PHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY — Idealist Philosophy In
Beginning with Galileo, or perhaps a bit before, the development of physics and cosmology was for centuries moving in the direction of more materialism and away from religion and philosophical idealism. In the 20th century, however, very strong idealist philosophical trends began to reappear in both of these sciences. In physics this was mostly due to the difficulties in understanding the meaning of quantum mechanics. With the development of the “Big Bang Theory” cosmology also took a major turn toward religion and idealist philosophical conceptions again. Worse yet, in both subjects, theories are now proposed and championed for which there seems to be no possible way of testing them through experiment. In effect recent physics and cosmology seem to be strongly moving back into the sphere of intellectualized religion and away from anything which can be appropriately called science.
“[The theory of] quantum gravitation seems inaccessible to any experiment we can devise. In fact, physics in general is moving into an era where the fundamental questions can no longer be illuminated by conceivable experiments. It’s a very disquieting position to be in.” —Stephen Weinberg, Nobel Prize winner in physics, speaking at a Royal Society meeting; quoted in Clifford A. Pickover, Archimedes to Hawking (2008), p. 33.
“As I am fond of saying, modern theoretical physics as a whole seems much
more like a branch of theology than it does science....
“One of the major problems with theoretical physics today is just that it is so divorced from the real world, from practice, from experiment. [In his book, Michio] Kaku himself says a couple of times that in the final analysis it is experiment which must show whether superstring theory is correct or not. But there is virtually no reference to experimental data in the book. Instead, we are over and over referred to science fiction themes; we even get an ‘explanation’ of how warp drive works on Star Trek!
“Kaku’s big excuse is that there is no way to test superstring theory today, and probably won’t be for thousands of years! The energy levels necessary, he says, are far beyond anything we can aspire to with present technology. But he also says that the thing the theory really needs is...more theory! He says that if the theory were better developed it should be able to predict the mass of the proton (for example) from prior principles [p. 169]. This would then be some sort of corroboration, at least. (However, it is all too easy to cook up theories that produce ‘predictions’ that you already know the answers to, and then pretend the theory is thus a great success! Cosmologists are always doing this (e.g., with the Big Bang theory); indeed it seems to be their basic modus operandi.)
“What we really should say here though is this: If a theory is so undeveloped that it is unable to make testable predictions, then it is at best half-baked. (At worst, it perhaps should not be considered a scientific theory at all yet.)
“On the one hand we are told that the [superstring] theory is mathematically elegant; on the other hand we are told that no one knows how to deal with the mathematics well enough to make a testable prediction. (How elegant is that?!)
“On the one hand we are told that this is a break-through theory for understanding all the forces of the physical world; on the other hand it is admitted that ‘the underlying physical principle behind string theory is unknown’. [p. 329]
“At this point I start to wonder again just what the virtues of this string theory are supposed to be anyway! Apparently it’s undeveloped; mathematically intractable; incomprehensible; outlandish; and untestable! Just what the world of science really needs...
—Scott Harrison, “Review of Michio Kaku, Hyperspace: A Scientific Odyssey Through Parallel Universes, Time Warps, and the Tenth Dimension”, Sept. 11, 1995; full review online at: http://www.massline.org/Philosophy/ScottH/hyperspace.htm
“The physiocratic school, Physiocrats—a trend in bourgeois classical political economy that emerged in France in the 1750s. The Physiocrats held Nature to be the only source of wealth, and agriculture the only sphere of the economy where value was created. Although they underestimated the role of industry and commerce, the Physiocrats rendered an important service by shifting the search for the origins of surplus value from the sphere of circulation to that of production, thereby laying the basis for the analysis of capitalist production. Advocates of large-scale capitalist farming, they showed the moribund nature of the feudal economy and thus contributed to the ideological preparation of the bourgeois revolution in France.” —Note 430, MECW 26.
Dictionary Home Page and Letter Index
MASSLINE.ORG Home Page