[OPE-L:8045] magnitude and givens in philosophy and political economy

From: gerald_a_levy (gerald_a_levy@msn.com)
Date: Sun Nov 24 2002 - 09:51:47 EST

Re Michael E's [8044]:

Thanks again for another informative and stimulating post. You raise --
at least -- a couple of issues:


> 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.

An observation -- which you may or may not agree with:
No doubt that when attempting to systematically comprehend capitalism we
must have "money-mediated phenomena in view".   Yet, only the simplest
comprehension of that phenomena is gained by the mere recognition that money
has a quantitative dimension and must be grasped as magnitude.  That much
is obvious -- and forms part of the *starting point* of the systematic
comprehension of the bourgeois mode of production:  thus it is obvious even
to bank tellers, cashiers, and consumers that commodities necessarily have a
quantitative dimension and come to be expressed as money.  What is less
obvious is the qualitative dimensions of money and value which can not be
adequately grasped by an examination of magnitude alone.

A history of thought question:
What challenges have there been historically to Descartes' Rule 14.4?  Has
it been critically evaluated, for instance, from a Marxian perspective?


> 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 (emphasis
> added, JL)

Thus, in order to systematically comprehend the subject matter of
capitalism,  monetary quantities can not be simply taken as being "given"?
What do you think was the role of "givens" in Hegel's and Marx's social
theories: i.e. what role did "givens" play within the systematic ordering of
their presentations and thereby the reconstruction of the subject matter in
thought?  *Background*: are you familiar with the perspective of  [OPE-L
listmember]  Fred [Moseley] on the role of givens in Marx's _Capital_
especially as it relates to magnitudes?

> 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 all_.
> (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.)

Thus a deeper comprehension of the subject matter of capitalism is gained
by *not* taking phenomena which can be expressed as magnitude as being
given?   What is the Hegelian understanding on what should happen in a
theoretical presentation _after_  an aspect of a phenomena is _assumed_ to
be given?  That is, if we assume at one level of the presentation that
something is given,  doesn't that impose a theoretical requirement  that we
then have to _inquire_ at a subsequent stage in the analysis about the
phenomena that we have assumed to be given?

> 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).

Where do you think the 'philosophical altercation' with Aristotle occurs?

> 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.

Please expand on the above.  If I understand you correctly -- which may
not be the case -- then I think I agree with you.

As before, I look forward to further discussion -- and hope that others
join in.

In solidarity, Jerry

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