[OPE-L:8211] Re: _dynamis_ and _energeia_ of commodity & surplus-value

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Wed Dec 18 2002 - 16:19:14 EST

Cologne 18-Dec-2002

re: [OPE-L:8209]

gerald_a_levy schrieb  Wed, 18 Dec 2002 10:05:53 -0500:

> Michael E, in [8199], wrote:
> > Usefulness is not a thing at all. Usefulness is only the mode of
> being of
> > something. A toothbrush, for instance, is a thing which has the
> potential
> > for being used to clean one's teeth. This potential (which is what
> > Aristotle  calls _dynamis_) is put to work (_energeia_ =
> in-work-ness)
> >  when someone  uses the toothbrush to clean their teeth. Such a
> potential
> > is what it is only in relation to human understanding which
> understands
> > the toothbrush in  its potential for cleaning one's teeth. Only
> within the
> > human  practice of  toothbrushing is the toothbrush a thing with the
> > potential for  cleaning  teeth. Humans understand such a potential
> and
> > actively use the  toothbrush,   whereas the toothbrush itself has
> the
> > passive potential to be  used in such a  way. There is a unity here
> of
> > thing and how it is understood.
> Hmmm. Let's consider another product: a ship.
> When can we say about the 'ship' when its construction and fitting-out
> has
> been completed?  I.e. what is the status of the 'ship'  *following
> production*  but prior to its 'utilization' as a ship, i.e. prior to
> launching.  Is it even a  'ship' at all?  It certainly _looks like_ a
> ship
> and it has  the  potential [_dynamis_]  to become a ship, but _is it_
> a 'ship' at that moment  in time?  I would say:  No!  A ship or a
> toothbrush
> only becomes a  ship or toothbrush when its potential is put to work
> [_energeia_], i.e. when it is actually used as a ship or a toothbrush.
> Taking this distinction a step further: consider the generic term
> 'commodity'. After production, there is _potential_  for the
> 'commodity' to
> have use-value and exchange-value and value.  What was presumed to be
> a
> 'commodity' following production only fully becomes a COMMODITY  when
> this
> potential is realized, i.e. actualized.   This social metamorphosis
> from
> 'commodity' to COMMODITY is only realized following sale since prior
> to
> sale use-value, exchange-value and value were only potential
> [_dynamis_].
> This suggests also that the 'surplus value'  that is believed to exist
> following production is  _only_  potential _until_ the 'commodity'
> product
> is sold and thereby the fully-developed form of COMMODITY is
> actualized.
> 'surplus value' hence only becomes reconstituted as SURPLUS VALUE once
> there has been an exchange between COMMODITY and MONEY.After sale, the
> potential of the 'ship' or 'toothbrush' TO REPRESENTCOMMODITY is
> realized.  That is: whether the 'ship'  or 'toothbrush'is  ultimately
> _used as a ship or toothbrush_  does not determine whetherthey are
> COMMODITIES.  The potential for commodity and surplus-valuecan thereby
> be actualized even if the commodity is never utilized orutilized in a
> particular way that it was intended for.  Thus, a 'toothbrush'could be
> sold as a commodity and hence have a use-value even thoughit might
> never brush teeth but might instead be used in a piece of art or
> hoarded.  In that case it might never become a TOOTHBRUSH event hough
> it has already been fully constituted as COMMODITY.
> Do you agree?

As you would expect, I agree and disagree.

The finished product, a tootbrush or a ship, before it is put to use
still _is_ potentially  toothbrush or a ship. But the potential mode of
being (_dynamei_) is different from the mode of being called _energeia_,
literally: at-workness.

The tradition has always favoured the mode of being of at-workness
(actuality) over potentiality, but this seems to be a prejudice. To see
that _dynamis_ is a genuine mode of being, just consider that a
toothbrush has the potential for being used for brushing teeth, but not
for sailing on the seas, whereas a ship has the potential for sailing on
the seas but not for brushing teeth. Or another example, used by
Aristotle: a builder really does have the _dynamis_, i.e. the know-how,
to build a house, that is, he _is_ a builder even when he is not in the
act of building, i.e. not at work as a builder. Someone else, by
contrast, is not even potentially a builder, because he does not have
the practical know-how. So it can be seen that _dynamis_ is genuine and
by no means inferior to _energeia_. (There is also a further sense of
_dynamis_ in the sense that someone has the potential of learning to be,
say, a builder, i.e. of acquiring the _technae_ of building.)

With respect to exchange-value and use-value, I do agree that these are
different potentials. A thing has an exchange-value if it can
(_dynamei_) command a price. When it is actually (_energeiai_) sold, its
exchange-value is realized. So a ship or toothbrush can be sold without
being used, i.e. exchange-value and use-value are different _dynameis_.

Use-value itself as a phenomenon depends upon _as what_ something
reveals itself to be. A toothbrush is usually for brushing teeth, but it
can also show itself in a different way. A whole lot of colourful
toothbrushes could be used, for example, as a window display. Their
use-value would thus be put to work in an unusual way, but it depends on
human understanding, which is highly versatile. Use-value itself is a
relation of disclosure between things and human understanding, a kind of
play of human understanding with things.  If the toothbrush is merely
hoarded for a rainy day, then its potential as a toothbrush to be used
for cleaning teeth is preserved, at least for some time.

The exchange-value potential of a commodity-product (ship, tootbrush, or
what have you) being put 'to work' depends on the act of exchange, of
sale, and the magnitude of the price attained will determine to what
extent a surplus-value over costs is achieved. The commodity's value
_is_ in the relation of exchange, either potentially or actually -- it
is not 'inherent' in the commodity like a kind of "crystal". Value is,
either potentially or actually, the act of abstract association
(_koinonia_) in commodity exchange, i.e. specific kind of social

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
http://www.webcom.com/artefact/ _-_-_-_-_-_- artefact@webcom.com
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Fri Dec 20 2002 - 00:00:00 EST