An Eidetic Reduction of the Economy

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1: PHENOMENOLOGY

In order to achieve proper and objective understandings of things, we need to disclose all the subjective or cultural presumptions we have about the particular thing being studied. This is one of the prime objectives of phenomenology, a branch of philosophy conceived by Edmund Husserl to be a scientific approach capable of achieving such a disclosure. Phenomenology for Husserl was a “presuppositionless” discipline, which he called “the science of all sciences.”[1]

In order to do this, Husserl proposed a method of investigation that would take the philosopher’s enquiry into the realm of pure essences, where an intuition of the eidos (Greek: “shape”) of a thing could be uncovered. The reduction was designed to reveal an essential structure of things, apart from all that is accidental to them. He called this approach eidetic reduction.[2] It is a transempirical process, and its methodology can be juxtaposed against the empirical sciences.

In eidetic sciences, the ultimate grounding act is not experience or experiment, but rather the seeing of essences.[3]

 

2: THE ECONOMY

The economy is a science. The economists themselves tell us so and they win Nobel Prizes for Economic Sciences. So, it must be a science. But it works more in an engineering fashion than in a descriptive way of unveiling facts. It is used to construct the Matrix that we are immersed in, it drives political policies, motivations and will, and it seems more like a doctrine than an investigation – but surely, science cannot be a doctrine; so, is it really a science?

If it were a pure science, the economy as science would necessarily have to preclude any incorporation of cognitional results yielded by an empirical understanding of the human experience of labour and exchange because people are never truly predictable. But this is absurd, the economy can never be separated from the human factor that drives it. In fact, the essence of the economy has to be people exchanging things, and yet there is a sense that this fact has been forgotten and the fundamental purpose of the economy is to control society via the economic matrix it builds around them. It has its weapons – debt, interest rates, risk premiums – all of which control national policies with all the subtle and non-subtle effectiveness of a dictatorship. Because of this economists call the economy a social science, although the laws of economy are not very scientific, and, we would argue, the goals of economics (for it is structured to serve a predetermined purpose) are not very social. Yet, if the economy is neither a science nor a social science, what is it? Didn’t we say at the beginning of this section that it was a science? What kind of science can be a science and not a science at the same time?

Well, let’s see what happens if we look at it from a philosophical viewpoint, in an eidetic way (albeit briefly).

Eidetically, the science of the economy can be understood as the eidetic science called economics – the market is observed, not by watching people going out and buying things, but according to a study of charts and figures applied to formulas with a hope of making some essential or eidetic prediction. The essence of the science of the economy lies in its own denomination. If the economy is to be studied it should be done economically. The only conclusions or predictions that can be made are those that have validity as an essential factor in essences originally seen or else inferred from the axiomatic model of itself by pure deduction. There is nothing matter-of-fact about economics. The fact that the predictions made by economists affect our daily lives does not make economics a matter-of-fact science any more than the 90º that is always in the right-angle at the end of the street makes geometry a matter-of-fact science.

According to Marshall’s Principle of Economics[4] the purpose of economics is, firstly, to acquire knowledge for its own sake, and, secondly, to throw light on practical issues. Yet for most of us today, the idea of the macro-economics narrative throwing light on practical issues and the day the day problems of having to make ends meet is laughable. From an ethical stand-point, Marshall was right. If we are to have an economic science it should be geared toward helping humanity by illuminating the practical issues that affect us all. However, Marshall’s 19th century view of economics viewed in the context our current global-economy environment sounds naïve. When national economic policies are determined by the IMF and the World Bank, our economies obfuscate reality rather than shed any light on it.

Positive economy-spin tells us that the aims are “sustainable growth” and “increasing wealth” or the establishing of “economic opportunities” for as many people as possible, but these ideas become quite abstract when applied to hundreds or thousands of millions of people, and economic data becomes a weapon of war between the sectors competing for political power; each one attempting to convince the people of the healthy or ill state of the economy … because the economy wins votes; probably more than any other factor in contemporary politics.

But what we do not learn from this economic-science is what the final-cause of a global economy is. What is the final-cause of continual, sustainable growth? What is the final-cause of increasing wealth? What is the final-cause of “economic opportunities for all”?

In reality, the final-cause is always the next election, just as in sport the final cause is this year’s grand-final. The economy is, through our so-called democratic system, twisted into a game. Or, economics turns democracy into a game, albeit a perverse game that is rigged so that the same owner always wins. While on the national level the people are praying to see their team (national economy) win the championship, on the universal, human level, the real economic engineers are busy building the great economic network, a huge, invisible mesh which has entrapped us all.

What can be the final-cause then of that global matrix: Perpetual acquisition of increasing wealth for the world’s elite; An aristocratic-type dictatorship hidden behind a veil of promises of economic opportunities for all? In any case, the final-cause is conservative and non-progressive, because its main intention is to preserve the status-quo of Wealth. In that sense, it is aristocratic. It is bolstered by the great lie of democracy that it itself created and uses to perpetuate itself with. It knows that democracy is only a name and a superficial fantasy to thwart the revolutions that the real plutocratic system that exists would engender if the demos were fully aware of its condition.

[1] From the New World Encyclopaedia online: Eidetic Reduction https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Eidetic_reduction

[2] Ibid

[3] Edmund Husserl, IDEAS, p. 16

[4] Albert Marshall, PRINCIPLE OF ECONOMICS, 1890

Society and Causes

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Our cosmological-philosophical investigation has led us to the conclusion that our Universe is driven by a final cause: the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. From this, we conclude that the final cause for humanity has to be the same, i.e. the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe — beginning with the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of our ourselves in the world, not only in the physical sense, but also in the social and ideal (artistic) senses as well. The final cause of humanity, and all human societies, should therefore be the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of itself, with the understanding that that same final cause is necessarily entwined in the cosmological final cause of the comprehension, appreciation and preservation of the Universe.

On causes, Aristotle proposed that once a final cause for anything has been established, then other causes, which he grouped as material, efficient and formal, will follow by necessity. For example, the final cause of a table may be dining; the formal cause would be its design; the material cause would be the wood its made from; and the efficient cause is the carpentry needed to fashion the table into the form from the design and the material.

Now, if we apply Aristotle’s four-causes to society what do we see? The material cause of any society should be the people that constitute it; but, if this is so, what is the efficient cause? Who are the builders of society? Isn’t it the people too? And, isn’t the formal cause, or design of society, also done by the people? If so, this would mean that society is a purely democratic, self-sufficient autocracy: but it’s not. So, something is wrong.

In fact, in the real sense, none of the causes of our societies are the people that constitute them. The final cause of our nation-state societies (and our global village community) is an economic one; an accumulation of wealth. The final cause is Wealth. The material cause, therefore, is Money, which is the material (albeit abstract material) used to define each individual’s status within the world and subsequently it is what Wealth consists of. The formal cause is the political and economic systems that work together to design ways of moving Money ever-upward for the preservation and benefit of Wealth. The efficient cause are the organisms created to exploit the masses, an exploitation needed to preserve Wealth, and, in general, we can call the conglomeration of these commercial and industrial organisations Power.

Power is constantly changing its forms, but the essence of its objectives is always the same. Its identity is based on facilitating its own ability to acquire most of the fruits of society for Wealth and Wealth’s enjoyment.

Nevertheless, because society is a thing that is constantly becoming, there is always a potential to change the final cause and by so doing change all the necessary other causes it engenders. A new kind of society with different causes is both logical and fundamentally desirable for its members, and this makes it not only possible, but logically necessary.

Remember, in order to be harmonious with existence, the authentic causes of society have to be based on the comprehension, appreciation and preservation (love) of itself. Once this is appreciated, true revolutionary action can begin to take place.

 

Art in Time

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One of the main features of art is permanence, or the eternal. Albeit it is a feature which some post-modernist artists have tried to disconnect from, even to the stage where artists promote ephemerality in their work (e.g. Joseph Beuys and Fluxus). However, as these attempts have been considered anti-art by the artists themselves, then even the anti-eternalising efforts point toward the link between art and the longing for permanence.

Art strives for the eternal, and it is this desire for permanence, or at least for a process of a becoming that is always moving toward the universal, that makes it essentially antithetical to the marketplace. In order to manage art the market had to invent fashion. Fashion tries to situate art in the realm of the actual. In doing this, however, it robs art of its essence, which is a striving for eternity. Fashion is always, therefore, a perversion of art.

Theatre is unique amongst the art forms because one of its essential qualities is the ephemeral. Nevertheless, this ephemerality does not, or should not, rob theatre of its desire for permanence. Great theatre happens when it is able to create the eternal moment within the ephemeral. And here we also see the real success of art in its relation to time and space. Art can transcend the momentary nature of the moment by infusing it with the eternal.

However, the nature of theatre also carries a pessimism which is embedded in all kinds of art forms: Art can never be permanent, it can only strive for it. Great art (like great theatre) works when it touches on the eternal and transmits it, although this is also a paradox. Art presents the eternal in the fleeting which is logically absurd. The effect is joyous, but also melancholy, because of this absurdity. Once could also say soulful: psychologically it moves us because it reveals the impossible permanence that the human spirit is striving for.

Money and Civilisation

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Money was created for a very practical purpose: to simplify rituals of exchange and create a tool that can be used to fairly measure all acquisitions.

What began as being a utensil, however, very quickly turned into a monster that seems to hammer at us even before we have any real exchanges to make. Instead of being a tool, it is now an obligation or an addiction. We are possessed by it. No one any longer questions its necessity. Its rule over us is dogmatic; its kingdom is ubiquitous. If God exists it is probably in the form of money. We worship it, have complete faith in it, and hardly ever take its name in vain.

We could say that money is the key factor in creating our feeling of alienation from the world because it is draped like a veil over reality. Between us and the world, therefore, there exists a thin transparent veneer, acting as a kind of barrier, telling us that the only way to get proper access to what we want has to involve the magic of money.

But this alienation is not completely the fault of money: even before the invention of coins, magical veils had already been draped over the world to ensure that certain exchanges brought great profit and power to some at the expense of others. It is always a sobering idea to remind ourselves that the great pyramids were built on an exchange of beer and bread. The first civilisations were erected before the invention of coins, but once it had been created, money became an integral feature of all that civilisation now represents.

Civilisation itself is one enormous paradox: it contains humanity’s greatest idealisation of reality – through art and technology – and seems to be the only vehicle possible through which the spirit of human progress can be driven. However, it is the weapon with which all power-led ideologies are able to wield their control; it is the chopping block of all anti-human segregations, and the vocal piece for all anti-progressive dogmas. In a sense, Civilisation contains the greatest of all possibilities for humanity, while at the same time it produces each of our most frustrating disappointments.

Civilisation today is a vast global market that is consuming resources at such a rate that our unsustainable model of existence threatens to destroy itself. Of course, this means that a new model for civilisation becomes imperative, but can such a revolution take place before the monster that the System has become devours its own tail?

We think the answer lies in a rehabilitation of Civilisation from the addiction it has to money, in order to allow the global empire to feed the humanity it supports rather than the all-consuming demands of the drug that surges through its blood-stream. Of course, this is perhaps the most radical, seemingly impossible solution imaginable: how can we kick the habit of a drug when we are all addicted to it, even the doctors?

Yet, impossible as it seems, until we decide to get clean there will never be any hope for civilisation or humanity. This is the real pessimistic stand-point afflicting humanity today.

The Real Form of Art

Breugel Icarus

Art is an invitation to understanding that can often embody an idea which is far greater than even the artist him/herself is capable of comprehending. Because of this, it could be said that art transcends what it knows about itself.

Art never is, it is always in a state of becoming which takes place through what it is perceived to be. Physically it has a form enclosed by a frame, or defined by a certain number of words or notes on the pages of a manuscript, but the ideas proposed by the so-called great or classical works of art are constantly changing, appearing or reappearing.

The real form of art, therefore, is a fluid one, of flux, and because of that it is also a faithful representation of the human condition itself.

The Idealising of the World

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The idealising process of making-our-own-reality has two forms:

There is A) idealising through ideology, which is a segregating process that atomises humanity and creates social subjectivities; or B) idealising through art, which reinforces the idea of humanity as unified whole in which the individual-expressed is always a microcosm of that whole.

Ideology and Art are therefore antithetical forces, although not seemingly antagonisms. They don’t fight each other – or they don’t seem to. Ideology, especially in its dogmatic form of religion, represses Art constantly through censorship and accusations of treachery or blasphemy. But Ideology does not want to destroy Art, it prefers to enslave it and use it for its own ideological purposes. Hence, a thousand years of European pictorial art saw Art’s enslavement to the dogmatic ideology of the Catholic Church.

In the same way, Art has now become a slave to capitalism, if not directly through a dissemination of consumerist ideas, most definitely in an indirect way, through its active participation in the circulation of capitalism’s most symbolic component – money.

Art and the Intellect

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All art, whether it’s painting, literature, music or philosophy, is a crafting of ideas that some clever people will be able, or at least think they will be able, to understand.

By removing the ideas (the ideal) from Art, we lose the art itself.

Art, being fundamentally an exhibition of ideas, creates its own academic environment. Art invites thinking, it could even be said that it seduces us towards reflectiveness.

If constant reflexiveness is an essential part of human potential and the sapiens spirit embedded there, then art is a necessary agent for unlocking and developing those possibilities.

Idealism contra Pragmatism and the Authentic Nature of Philosophy

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The homo sapiens is essentially an ideal animal. We live in a world of ideas and imaginings capable of envisioning not only the world at hand, but also the possible world that lies beyond us or ahead of us outside of the frame of our experience. As social animals, however, the ideals that must arise from our ability to imagine the future are subject to the pragmatic constraints of collectivity.

Pragmatism, therefore, has to be seen as a regulating agent rather than a driving force. The progressive drive and creativity of humanity comes through our capacity to idealise our world. Nevertheless, Wealth as Power and its great tool the economy, have created an anti-human historical process in which pragmatism seems to be a driving force. In our global-economy world, the economy is no longer an instrument for fashioning ideas, it has become the master that all ideas have to satisfy if they are allowed to become materially manifest, and what the economy demands is pragmatism.

With the Industrial Revolution the ideals of the Enlightenment were defeated by liberal pragmatism. If the revolutions of the 19th century were a triumph for freedom and democracy, they were also a victory for pragmatism and the economy which in turn stifles the progressive and creative human drive of ideas and the formation of the ideal. The material freedom offered by liberal or social-democratic pragmatism, restrains creativity and human spirit.

In Orson Welles’ famous Ferris-wheel monologue in the film of Graham Greene’s The Third Man, he relates the attributes the great artistic achievements of the Renaissance to conflict and suffering, in contrast with the mediocrity produced by peace. But the real analogy should be between the inspiring spirit of ideals in the Renaissance against the insipid pragmatism of a Swiss-style, economic reality. The Swiss didn’t just invent the cuckoo clock, as Welles’ character claimed, they manufactured a marvellous safe-haven for the financial system’s piracies.

Philosophy has been the driving force of European culture. Without European philosophy it is hard to imagine the development of the European arts as it is. Husserl called philosophy the functioning brain of culture; philosophy is necessary for a healthy spirit to exist.[1]

In order to properly understand and appreciate what Husserl is saying, we need to remove the idea of the philosophical from any chronological positioning and interpret it in an ideal a-historical way. What we understand as history is really an anti-human (and therefore anti-historical) process that has a more circular chronology than a linear one. Philosophy, on the other hand, has far more universal pretensions, and philosophical aims point to the whole of humanity, trying to guide it in a forward direction toward the infinite.

Of course, the problem with philosophy is that its philosophers don’t always live up to philosophy’s own pretensions, but Husserl is adamant in his attempt to inspire philosophical greatness: “the philosopher must always have as his purpose to master the true and full sense of philosophy, the totality of its infinite horizons … Only in such a supreme consciousness of self, which itself becomes a branch of the infinite task, can philosophy fulfil its function of putting itself, and therewith a genuine humanity, on the right track … Only on the basis of … constant reflectiveness is a philosophy a universal knowledge.”[2]

Constant reflectiveness is the key to universal knowledge, or in other words, universal knowledge is a never-ending process – a process that is always in the future moving, present-continuous condition of becoming. We are always becoming, we never are.

[1] Edmund Husserl, PHILOSOPHY AND THE CRISIS OF EUROPEAN MAN, 1935, p. 16

[2] Ibid, p. 17

Husserl’s Philosophy-Science

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In his essay, Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man, Edmund Husserl rightly associated the origins of the spiritual with the scientific investigations of the early Greek philosophers. Philosophy is an all-encompassing discipline and, like spirituality, it is concerned with the whole. In order to highlight this process, which has almost been rendered invisible by Judeo-Christian concepts of duality, demanding a necessary division of the scientific from the spiritual, Husserl coined the term philosophy-science.

For Husserl, philosophy-science is a way of thinking which, if inculcated in society, would create a new historicity. We would add that this historicity would, in effect, be the beginning of an authentic human history as such, for it would be the first time that humanity has propelled itself forward for its own cause and with purely environing, spiritual intentions rather than empirically dominating or acclimatising ones.

Husserl argued that scientific achievements have a different kind of temporality to other cultural commodities:

“They do not wear out, they are imperishable … what scientific activity achieves is not real but ideal.”[1]

Ideal achievements are those that give substance to the environing. But science doesn’t guarantee environing; it is an impulse pushing us toward the creation of the Utopia, but if the impulse isn’t taken up by the organising forces and institutions of society itself, then the achievements of science will remain in the banal field of acclimatisation.

Only by embracing a philosophical-science teleology will scientists truly advance toward Culture (with a capital C, by which we mean an authentically human culture). Once embraced though, validities procured through science will be found as material to feed ideals on an even higher level and progress will unfold through becoming and growing in a snowballing fashion of passive accumulation:

“Thus science designates the idea of an infinity of tasks, of which at any time a finite number have already been accomplished and are retained in their enduring validity.”[2]

An enduring validity that creates a permanence running through the ever-changing, always-developing act of becoming.

Knowledge has a quality of permanence and conservation, while at the same time it is the fuel for imagination and the motor for all progressive, transformative change. The scientific telos streams all radiating tasks in the direction of the simple, all-embracing job. Each demonstration of validity is important, if not essential, in the holistic creation of the whole and in the progress towards the understanding and validation of everything that is needed to transform everything in a positive fashion.

Validation comes through the process of making it valid – validity rests itself, therefore, in becoming rather than in being. The desired end is itself impossible to ever really group because absolute Becoming can never ever Be:

“Scientific truth claims to be unconditioned truth, which involves infinity, giving to each factually guaranteed truth a merely relative character, making it only an approach, oriented … toward the infinite horizon, wherein the truth in itself is, so to speak, looked on as an infinitely distant point.”[3]

The infinitely distant nature of that which really is. Infinitely distant but also always actual. The future must always pass through the present. The end depends on the actual.

“Scientific culture, in accord with the ideas of infinity, means, then, a revolutionising of all culture, a revolution that affects man’s whole manner of being as a creator of culture. It means a revolutionising of historicity, which is now the history of finite humanity’s disappearance, to the extent that it grows into a humanity with infinite tasks.”[4]

This growth began with the beginnings of philosophy, when: “man becomes the disinterested spectator, overseer of the world.”[5] But, in an historical sense, we must ask ourselves if we have actually progressed since the classical age of the Greeks, or are we in a process of retrocession? Environing itself has slid into the quagmire of economical environing, developing elaborate macro theories around abstract actions of exchange that have fashioned a competitive and aggressive world based on production for consumption. A world that has very little benefit for neither humanity as a whole nor the world we are overseers of. In this economic world there is very little place for philosophy or for human Culture. Humanity and the world are suffering because of that. Obviously we have our answer to the above question: historically we are lost in a dangerous process of retrocession. A retrocession that will lead to a point of no-return in which we will drop into an abyss of nihilism if Culture and the philosophy it was born from are not allowed to find an historical impetus to push them back into the significance gained by their involvement in the environing world again.

Our world is acclimatised and environed. It is moulded through our practical needs and through our theoretical impulses. However, when the theoretical itself becomes a pragmatism, then the environing process curls back into acclimatisation, thwarting all human progress. This is what happens when the environing is driven by theories of economics.

Money is an abstraction which we cannot seem to live without, and though its inception was to simplify the complexities of exchange it has become something far more important, becoming the a priori of all possible exchanges and hence the a priori of all possible activities. Now, before anything can be done, it seems, money must be taken into consideration.

Because of this, we believe that a successful implementation of Culture can only be possible if we are capable of rethinking our relationship with money: analysing the dictatorial role it plays on our lives and liberating arms that are stifled by that dictatorship in order to allow Humanity to flourish. To achieve this, philosophy-science needs to be applied to the economy in order to create an economic system that is humanly ethical.

[1] Edmund Husserl, PHILOSOPHY AND THE CRISIS OF EUROPEAN MAN, 1935, p.6

[2] Ibid, p.7

[3] ibid

[4] Ibid, p.8

[5] Ibid

Purposiveness and Imagination

Gary Gautier’s thoughts on the purposive Universe and us.

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Blogmate Paul Adkin has been posting on becoming and purposiveness lately, so I thought I’d chime in.

Stasis and change. This duality has puzzled brains since the ancient Greeks, if not the primeval mind itself. The laws of physics give you the “how,” but what about the “why”? Why all this movement from one state to another? In our own lives, we can call it “purposiveness.” We might not have a definite destination (or a definite purpose) in mind, but movement is always movement toward a destination, however unspecified.

If “purposiveness” characterizes our movements, or changes in state, “imagination” is the best term we have for the force that drives the changes. Imagination is our capacity to project beyond the immediate real, the here and now of our existence. We can anticipate possible futures, reflect on things remote in time and space or visualize things that seem impossible in real…

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