[OPE-L:8680] Re: probabilistic approaches to the theory of value and philosophy

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@t-online.de)
Date: Fri Mar 28 2003 - 05:51:39 EST

Cologne 28-Mar-2003

Re: [OPE-L:8678]

Philip Dunn schrieb Thu, 27 Mar 2003 18:49:24 -0000:

> Michael Eldred <artefact@t-online.de> said:
> > Cologne 27-Mar-2003
> >
> > Re: [OPE-L:8673]
> > 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.
> Meikle (op. cit.) translates _chreia_ as "need".  This seems to be well
> established in Greek.  _chreia_ was rendered as _indigentia_ in Latin, but
> also as _opus_, "use".  To add to the confusion _chrao_ means "use", "make use
> of".
> I have doubts about abstract usefulness, but abstact needfulness .. ?

I am aware of the standard translations and strongly disagree with them. One has to
keep the phenomena in view, and phenomenologically and ontologically, "use" is prior
to "need", i.e. needs arise from uses practised in social usages, and not the other
way round.

There is the same ambiguity in German as in Greek _chreia_. In German we have
"brauchen" (to need), "gebrauchen" (to use), "der Brauch" (usage, custom), "der
Gebrauch" (use).

The standard readings/translations of Aristotle rely on a common sense notion of a
universal anthropology of 'how things came about in the history of the development of
humankind'. According to this ontogenetic story, it is plausible to start with human
needs for food, water, then clothing and shelter, and imagine a kind of development
through human history.

But such ontogenesis has nothing to do with ontological structure. Needs are lacks
(_steraesis_), 'absences' (_apousia_) occurring always in the context of certain
social practices. Even physical needs which are necessary for human life, i.e. food,
water, and shelter and clothing, are shaped as needs only in the context of social
usages. Human practices are primary, on the basis of which needs are defined as what
they are. E.g. the need for shoes is what it is only within the social practice of
wearing shoes.

Human being is open to understanding things in what they are good for, i.e. their
usefulness. Such understanding is also productive in the sense that it can see
(discover) the possibility of other human uses as possibilities of living well. Viewed
ontogenetically: from such discovery arise new social uses and usages, and thus new
needs. As social practices change and ramify, new needs arise and become more and more
differentiated. Even eating practices are a matter of social discovery, i.e. of
certain things being discovered in their usefulness as edible in the context of living
well, i.e. edibility is always a social discovery and assessment of foodstuffs as
being good for living, and not a matter, say, of 'objective scientific assessment' of
'nutritional value'.

Note also that the need for money (who doesn't need money these days?) is only a
consequence of the social practice of mediating the exchange of useful, valuable
things through money.

Re:abstract usefulness. This is not a central point, as far as I can see. The
abstraction is a practical one brought about by practically exchanging all the
different sorts of use-values as exchange-values. The particularity of each individual
use-value is practically abstracted from in setting it equal to all other kinds of
use-values. One use-value is (abstractly) as good as any other in the context of
exchange practice. But it is the whole totality of use-values as used in the multitude
of social practices which "holds everything together" in the sense of necessitating
the exchange of all these different use-values. Cf. also my response to Andy 28-Mar.

> > 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
> > money.
> >
> > 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_).
> >
> Is "look" so far away from "shape"? Also are they purely about appearance?
> Certainly, the "shape" can be used in many metaphorical senses that go beyond
> physical or geometrical shape.

"Look" and "shape" are indeed semantically close. "Look" (_eidos_) does not mean
simply "appearance", but the being of a being in its truth, i.e. how it shows itself
of itself as a being. _Eidos_ comes from _idein_ "to see", the same verb from which
_idea_ is derived, Plato's famous term for the being of beings.

> Surely the paradigm of production is relevant? The valoristion process is a
> process of value creation.

One must not confuse different phenomena. Otherwise the ontological structure of
exchange will be assimilated with that of production -- a gambit which has been going
on for centuries and centuries. As I indicated briefly in a previous posting, the
ontological structure of exchange is entirely different from that of _poiaesis_ (and
more complex). That is not surprising. Exchange is a mode of social nexus, sociating
people. As the simplest of social relations, exchange must be the core phenomenon for
investigating what society is, i.e. in its deepest ontological structure.

>Why cannot the commodity have a nature that is different from the nature of the

Abstractly, there is no reason why not. But I think that Aristotle rightly points out
that a useful thing such as a pair of shoes has two kinds of use _kath'auto_, i.e.
intrinsically, namely, firstly, the shoes can be worn and secondly, because they are
useful in the first sense, they can also be exchanged for some other useful thing.
This shows why a commodity, i.e. something offered on the market for exchange, is
related in its nature/being to use-value.

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