[OPE-L:8044] Re: Re: Heisenberg, Marx and the uncertainty principle

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 08:04:16 EST

Cologne 24-Nov-2002

gerald_a_levy schrieb  Sat, 23 Nov 2002 18:44:12 -0500:

> Re Michael E's [8042]:
> Michael: Welcome to the discussion.
> I think we agree more than disagree.  For example, I agree completely
> with the following:
> > The question whether principles or laws of physics can be applied to
> > social  phenomena is one of whether violence is thereby done to the
> > phenomena.
> and the next bit as well:
> >  The simple exchange relation as the "cell" social relation in
> > societies based on generalized commodity production -- i.e., as one could
> > say,  dominated by the capitalist mode of production -- is a relation of
> >  uncertainty.
> But the rest I'll have to give some more thought.  In particular, I will
> give more thought to your critique on the underpinnings of quantitative
> theories of value  and the "paradigm of knowing an outcome" from a
> history of philosophical and scientific thought perspective.
> A couple of questions:
> 1) Even if outcomes related to capitalism can't be known in
> advance, isn't there a kind of  legitimate yet "fuzzy" way in which we can
> delineate alternative possible outcomes?
> 2) More generally, what are the alternatives to the "paradigm of knowing
> an outcome"?
> Thanks for a very thought-provoking post.  I look forward to further
> discussion.
> In solidarity, Jerry

Thanks, Jerry,

I'll try to approach your questions by taking bite-size chunks.

Re 1) If we're talking about capitalism and economic social science of
capitalism (Marxist economic theory being one candidate among many), then we
have money-mediated phenomena in view. Money itself provides the quantitative
dimension through which such phenomena can be grasped, in line with Descartes'
rule that beings have to be "comprehended under the term ‘magnitude’“ (Rule
14.4) and so put into relation with each other in certain proportions. All
kinds of economic theory do this, both micro and macro, econometrics doing this
perhaps most exclusively through statistical and other methods.

Such mathematical and statistical methods are indeed a way in which the myriad
phenomena can be put into some sort of order and regularities discovered. This
discovery of regularities is presumably what you are referring to as "fuzzy"
knowledge and what Aristotle calls knowing _epi to poly_, i.e. knowing how
things behave "for the most part", which is to be distinguished from knowledge
based on axiomatic principles, such as Newton's laws of motion or, more
recently, mathematical quantum physics.

In economics, under the powerful influence of the success of Newtonian physics
in the 17th and 18th centuries (Newton's magnum opus _Philosophiae naturalis
principia mathematica_ was published in 1686/87), the 'holy grail' has been to
discover and found principles or axioms upon which economic phenomena could be
put into a deductive order. Candidates for such scientific theories have been
the labour theory of value, marginal utility theory, equilibrium theory. They
all require some sort of theory of prices. All these theories come to grief,
however, precisely on the phenomenon of money itself since the monetary
quantities with which economic theory must work cannot be simply taken for
granted if the theory is to be well-founded.

Re 2) The alternative to seeking a predictive social science is to regard the
phenomena of association which constitute social relations themselves and try
to see (negatively) why and how they elude prediction. This could lead
(positively) to an appreciation of what a social relation between humans is _at

(Max Weber's sociology, for instance, distinguishes between Erklaeren und
Verstehen, explanation and understanding, but the understanding he himself
practises does not amount to unearthing the deeper dimensions of the phenomenon
of society. His sociology takes too much for granted.)

In the case of economic theory, the phenomenon that needs to be investigated in
relation to money is, first of all, the simplest commodity exchange relation,
i.e. that goods are exchanged for each other in certain proportions mediated by
money. There are, in my opinion, two great forerunners who have undertaken a
phenomenology of simple commodity exchange relations: Aristotle and Marx
(whereby Marx engages in a philosophical altercation with Aristotle).

The greatest difficulty is not to skip over the simple phenomenon and treat
them as self-evident, given. Rather, the most obvious and even banal given has
to be allowed to slowly reveal its mystery, its depth for thinking.

I'll leave it at that for the moment.

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