[OPE-L:8275] Re: phenomenality

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Sat Jan 04 2003 - 07:33:13 EST

Cologne 03-Jan-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8273]

Christopher Arthur schrieb Fri, 3 Jan 2003 17:23:30 +0000:

> Michael E has put up a series of interesting mails I am only now trying to
> catch up with. To begin at a general level.
> You contrast the study of 'phenomenality' with a theory of 'explanation'
> (which seems to be put generally, not just as a contrast with Cartesian
> accounts of explanation?). I think I see what is meant if it is similar to
> my insistence on tracing the dialectic of forms before any question of
> correlating magnitudes can be attempted. However the distinction cannot be
> pressed too far. It would be foolish to seek to explain before grasping the
> character of what it is that is to be explained; but equally how could one
> claim to know what something is without at the same time having an account
> of how it came about and is sustained. Even if value is a groundless social
> form something so peculiar requires an explanation of how it can exist.

Thanks for catching up, Chris. It's best to try to break this down into
bite-size chunks. An "explanation of how [something] can exist" is to say to
what that something owes its existence, i.e. a cause, an _aition_(cf. Aristotle
Metaphysics Book Delta Ch. 2).

When starting with the phenomenon of commodity exchange of products of labour.
one can ask what this phenomenon is, i.e. what it is as a mode of being. By
looking at the exchange relation itself one discovers that is a kind of
equating of different commodities constituting a special kind of social
relation (abstract) between the exchangers, and what the abstractness of this
relation implies for the different usefulnesses and the different labours which
the commodities embody. To elucidate this, it also has to be said inter alia
what a commodity is. All this is a discourse (_logos_) concerned with
delineating, defining the phenomenon of commodity exchange in what it is, its
essence or _ousia_ by defining its _eidos_ or form (cf. Aristotle Metaphysics
Book Delta Ch. 8). Through this discourse we can see that the generalized
practice of commodity exchange constitutes commodities as abstract values that
are 'worth' something generally in terms of other commodities, and that a
peculiar thing, money, is constituted as the mediator of this abstract value in

I think this is what you refer to as the "dialectic of forms" which is a
'speaking-through of the defining outlines or _eidae_'.

An explanation of to what commodity exchange owes its existence presupposes, at
least in some sort of blurred (_synkechymenon_) way, that one knows what one is
talking about (its essence). Such an explanation could consist, say, in the
motivation for why commodities are exchanged (causa finalis). The act of
exchange owes its existence to the end (_telos_) of acquiring what one lacks.
On acquisition, the motivation for the exchange is quenched and the act comes
to its end, in which it is fulfilled. The focus then shifts to the commodity
exchangers and what moves them to exchange their commodities which in turn
already presupposes an understanding in some sense of what commodities (things
that are good-for... offered for exchange) and human beings are (e.g. lacking,
desiring, finite beings).

If the focus of investigation is put immediately onto the quantitative
proportions in which commodities exchange and it is asked to what these
quantitative proportions owe their existence, then a quantitative cause is
being sought without having clarified the being, i.e. without having defined
the essence, of the phenomena being investigated. Furthermore, it is then being
presupposed that the quantitative proportions do have a quantitative cause in
something else. The question of essence remains blurred and the _eidos_ or form
is never clearly delineated in its manifold folds. (At best, one-line
definitions are offered.)

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