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