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

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

CULTURE AND ENVIRONING

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PART ONE: CULTURE

I.

Traditionally there has been a European idea of values which is a universal concept of culture as life endowed with purpose. This notion of culture was not only born from spiritual creativity, it also engendered that spiritual creativity, and as such was self-generating. In its origins it was a humanistic idea, but that has been distorted and sullied by nationalistic, romantic notions that are basically anti-human, species-separating concepts. Now, the admirable and purposeful idea of culture has been reduced to a minutely marginal non-importance and is more closely associated with utopian fantasies rather than being the cultural-wing of any political agenda.

The rise of nihilism and the spirit of the homo economicus castrated the great idea of Culture (with a capital C) and guided its tamed, gelding spirit into the stables of the marketplace, reducing it to the status of commodities. As something that can be bought and sold, culture (with a small c) became intelligible for Wealth (with a capital W) and once that Wealth knew what it was handling, it could welcome culture into its system.

But the sterilized culture is not the same as the purposeful Culture. Culture with a capital c does not now exist beyond the realms of the hypothetical, and if it did exist once it must now be pronounced as lost, or dead. Meanwhile, the sickness inflicting culture in Europe could very well be a direct consequence of this disassociation, because:

A) The idea of Culture has not completely disappeared. A phantasmagorical remnant of it still exists in the ideal realm and that is capable of producing nostalgia for the purposeful, even though it never really existed. We are expected to believe that any absurd search for the ghost of something that never even properly was, is a sad, sick neurosis.

But even worse than the neurotic craving for the never-existent is:

B) A morbid belief that Culture is something dangerous and even seditious, and that we must be on our guards against it all the time. This idea sees Culture reflected in the ideological, nationalistic spirits maintained by the likes of Wagner, or they reduce it to that which threatens their self-esteem by positing the virtues of the intellectual and unintelligible.

Pop-culture is nihilism’s rejection and refutation of Culture. The Beatles proved that culture didn’t have to be difficult to be good. With pop-music and Hollywood cinema, culture was blasted into being a great commodity, and it became an enormous industry. Pop-music and film were the nihilistic bridges bringing culture and capitalism together.

Another way of looking at culture is as a kind of reaction by human beings (societies and individuals) to the needs created by their environment. Seen like this, culture becomes a kind of technological evolution driven by needs for survival or adaptation to environments. Some of the needs are created by hostile environments, but not always. Of course, the environmental reason for culture explains why there are so many diverse human cultures.

But how does all this apply to the grand idea of European or Human Culture?

II.

Our environment now is dominated by our economics. We are what we can buy. We are what we can earn through our labour. We are the money that we have or are capable of manipulating. We are this homo economicus because we live and breathe money inside a bubble created by the economy. Our environment is the economy.

Perceived in this light we can see that if culture is our spirit, then that spirit is an economic one as well. Money is our body and soul: it is the nature and spirit of society.

No wonder it feels like society is sick.

III.

With apologies to the ecosphere, the environment in which humans dwell, is, for the most part, a human-made environment – and if human-made sounds somewhat exaggerated, then at least we can talk about its human-acclimatisation.

Throughout the world, the phenomena of acclimatisations are often radically different. One way we like to measure these differences is via the concept of standards of living. Here the System tries to bring in its own technological theme and it attempts to measure its progress and, from that, its successes, via the concept of improving living-standards.

Yes, all this is far-removed from the human purposiveness inherent in the grand idea of European Culture. Living standards are means of success through acclimatisation that have nothing to do with spirit and purpose. The lures of living standards are comfort and happiness through comfort. The drawbacks one faces once one embraces this culture-of-comfort is an obligatory compromise to conformity.

Nevertheless, in the historical process of acclimatisation, humanity also developed a second path away from the merely material necessities into other psychological, theoretical or spirited areas that are generally embraced in the term the arts.

 

PART TWO: THE ENVIRONING WORLD

It is the arts and the artistic spirit unified with technology[1] which is the true basis of the spirit of European Culture. In his essay on the Crisis of European Man, Husserl referred to this as the Umwelt or the Environing World, [2]which he called: “a spiritual structure in us and our historical life.” [3] We point to this term because we see the importance of making a distinction between acclimatisation for material reasons (either for survival or the improvement of living standards) and the environment we create around ourselves from the theoretical or ideal, due to our psychological needs (these could include the abstract concepts of love and beauty, or moral concepts like respect and truth). Environing has, therefore, a deeper purposiveness than acclimatisation and offers reasons for working beyond the simple necessity of survival or the luxury of comfort.

Also, whereas acclimatising is a process that ends with the achievement of the desired result, within environing there is an emphasis on the process rather than the achievement. As such, it implies a concept of becoming that goes beyond the present and allows for the idea of the eternal.

Husserl’s environing was something that was not necessarily born with the Greeks, but was sophisticated by them through the development of philosophy. The spirit of European Culture is therefore also embedded in that Greek philosophy and its core of purposiveness, reflected in its own environing of its culture.

Environing transcends acclimatisation. Acclimatisation has created local peculiarities, but these cultural traits are only relevant to environing as windows or reminders of the variegated fabric of humanity. We are the same and we are different. This is the paradoxical reality of the human condition. The truly defining ingredient of humanity must lie somewhere in between.

However, the middle-term between SAME and DIFFERENCE is hard to find: SIMILARITY is too close to SAMENESS to be satisfying. We need a term that contains both of the antagonistic elements without prejudice to the other.

By focussing on the aspect of BECOMING, which turns the cultural process into a continuation, we get an image of humanity as a forward pointing arrow that desires the eternal. Acclimatisation is about the actual, environing is concerned with the final causes of an eternal process of becoming.

From the point of view of soul, humanity has never been a finished product, nor will it be, nor can it ever repeat itself[4].”

There can only be environing in the realm of the human, because there cannot be a national or individual goal except to die or destroy itself. In terms of nation states, ultimate purposes, end goals or the Greek idea of telos are tragic notions, and they can only lead to the most terrible and perverted conflagrations of spirit that become manifest in violent international conflicts.

Environing, therefore, must always be contained to the greater, general set of the Human. The individual artist will achieve the eternal only if humanity itself can achieve the eternal. And the same is true of the nation-state: To succeed for its subjects, nations have to evolve, and the evolution of a nation can only be successful if it is able to dissolve into the higher evolutionary body of Humanity.

But what is humanity? In biological terms we are the homo sapiens; and from an environing perspective we are the animal with the power to rationalise and create art and technologies that can transform our environment and ourselves. In psychological terms we are a river, always changing, but which can also flow into pools that can quickly stagnate if we lose touch of the ocean which we are destined to become, and in which our authentic fulfilment lies.

Like the river, humanity is past and future and the actual is a dangerous illusion that we will perish in if we get trapped by the mesmerising force of that mirage.

[1] an etymological tie wrapped up in the original Greek term techni which embraced both art and technology

[2] Edmund Husserl, PHILOSOPHY AND THE CRISIS OF EUROPEAN MAN, 1935, p.3

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid, p.5