[OPE-L:8676] Re: probabilistic approaches to the theory of value and philosophy

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Thu Mar 27 2003 - 05:58:24 EST

Cologne 27-Mar-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8673]

Philip Dunn schrieb Wed, 26 Mar 2003 12:52:59 -0000:

> Dear Michael
> This reply is on the main point only, equalisation. There are so many issues!
> Michael Eldred wrote:
> >
> > In a society in which the exchange of goods is generally practised, these
> > goods (which have to be conceived as good-for-practical-living) have many,
> > many exchange-values since, e.g. shoes can be exchanged not only for potatoes,
> > but also for coats or linen or some other useful thing.
> >
> > These many, many exchange-values become unified only when money comes on the
> > scene as the mediator of exchange. Useful things are then not worth something
> > in terms of myriad other goods, but are worth something in money. What they
> > are worth is their price. Money unifies all the various use-values in a
> > uniform dimension of monetary value, and they all become equal.
> >
> > Aristotle uses the example of the exchange of a physician’s services for a
> > farmer’s products which “have to be equalized” (_dei isasthaenai_ Eth. Nic.
> > 1133a18). “Thus everything must be comparable in some way if exchange is to
> > be.” (_dio panta symblaeta dei pos einai, on estin allagae. 1133a19) And how
> > is this comparability achieved? Aristotle continues, “Money has resolved this
> > and is a kind of middle term, for it measures everything and so also too much
> > and too little and how many shoes are equal to a house or food.” (eph' ho to
> > nomism' elaeluthe, kai ginetai pos meson: panta gar metrei, hoste kai taen
> > hyperochaen kai taen elleipsin, posa atta dae hypodaeat' ison oikiai ae
> > trophaei. 1133a20)
> >
> > Notice that here, too, it is important not to allow oneself to succumb merely
> > to the quantitative aspect of these phenomena. Rather, in money itself, it can
> > be seen how a unified measure of exchange-value comes about ontologically when
> > all the various use-values are "equalized" (_isasthaenai_) through the
> > generalized practice of exchange. Price itself is a relational phenomenon,
> > namely, the relation of a useful thing to money. This relation also has a
> > quantitative aspect, i.e. in money-price, exchange-values gain a uniform,
> > quantitative expression.
> >
> > But the (qualitative) phenomenon should be seen here as the primary
> > phenomenon, namely, that all the countless practical things which are good for
> > living in a social world gain a unity in the monetary dimension in their
> > prices. What things are worth are then monetary in their social nature.
> >
> "tae men oun alaetheia adunaton"  Eth. Nic. Book V ch 5 1133b19-20
> "It is, however, in reality, impossible" that such unlike things can be
> commensurable. (Marx, Capital I ch 1 section 3(a)iii)
> Meikle (Aristotle's Economic Thought, pp 21-27) discusses in detail the
> passage you cite (1133a20).  He judged that:
> "This idea is inadequate and, though Aristotle appears to return to it once or
> twice in the ordering of the chapter as we have it, he finally drops it. It is
> inadequate because simply establishing a measure cannot itself create
> commensurability between things that are in themselves incommensurable."
> A house sells for 10 dollars, 5 beds sell for 10 dollars. There is nothing in
> the house qua artifact that is equal to 10 dollars. Similarly for the beds.
> How then can 1 house = 5 beds?  It is necessary to treat the
> house-as-commodity as an _ousia_ distinct from the house-artifact _ousia_.
> The house-artifact is matter relative to the house-commodity whose form is the
> value-form.  Then 1 house = 5 beds is exactly true (subject to some limits of
> scope, of course) since the intrinsic value of the house-commodity is equal to
> 10 dollars and the intrinsic value of the 5 use-value units of the
> bed-commodity is also equal to 10 dollars.
> Phil

Hi Phil,

The question of commensurability (_symmetria_ 1133b19) presumably does not concern
what enables commodity exchange to exist, for the practice of exchange makes sense
and is, in truth (_alaetheiai_ 1133b19) practised.

But Aristotle has already answered his own question in pointing out that it is

"in truth, use, which holds everything together” (_touto d' esti taei men alaetheiai
hae chreia, hae panta synechei:_ 1133a28).

Goods are exchanged only because they are useful and what one person lacks for a
given usage can be obtained by exchanging something else useful for it. Thus it is
"use" (_chreia_) which "holds everything together", not the manifold different
concrete uses, but rather usefulness as general, abstract usefulness. Money provides
a practical measure for this abstract usefulness which works in practice to mediate
exchange practically.

How is it that you say, "The house-artifact is matter relative to the
house-commodity whose form is the value-form"? The house is a useful thing, good for
living in, and therefore, like all useful things, it can also be exchanged for some
other useful thing or things which are good for something else in the usages of
practical life. Money is only something which mediates the exchange.

Once the social practice of money-mediated commodity exchange is established, the
exchange-value of a house or a pair of shoes is expressed not in a multitude of
exchange relations with various other use-values, but in money. The exchange-value
of houses or shoes is then simply money-price. What does monetary price measure? It
measures, abstractly, use-value, i.e. the use-values of a multitude of useful
things. The exchange-value of a house gains the 'look' or _eidos_ or 'form' of

Only in this sense can one talk of the commodity's value-form -- money-price is the
'look' which the commodity presents of itself as an exchange-value, once the
monetary mediation of exchange is developed as a social practice.

It makes no sense to employ the schema of matter/form, i.e. _hylae_/_morphae (not
_eidos_) to the value-form, since the former comes from the paradigm of production
(_poiaesis_) and natural beings (_physei on_).

_-_-_-_-_-_-_-  artefact text and translation _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_- made by art  _-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_
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_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_-_ Dr Michael Eldred -_-_-

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