Re: value, labour and conservation laws

From: Michael Eldred (artefact@T-ONLINE.DE)
Date: Tue May 20 2003 - 11:35:58 EDT

Cologne 20-May-2003

Paul Cockshott schrieb  Tue, 20 May 2003 09:49:38 +0100:

> Andrew Brown wrote:
>> Hi,
>> You wrote:
>> > The existence of the field can be deduced from the metric
>> > space imposed by commodity exchange itself. Whether the
>> > field is induced by labour is an empirical question. I think
>> > empirical studies have established that it is, but at
>> > least in principle, as scientists we have to allow that
>> > it might be some other input to production - say energy
>> > that induced the field.
>> >
>> > > Indeed I am
>> > > arguing that the only thing that can possibliy constitute it is
>> > > abstract labour. Let be more precise: I do not think I would it
>> is a
>> > > 'field' at all; it is a substance. This takes us into the
>> > > metaphysics of the (highly contested) notion of 'field', on
>> which, I
>> > > supsect, materialist dialectics has rather alot to say.
>> >
>> > The concept of a field is well defined in math as a space with an
>> > associated value at each point, One usually assumes a vector space
>> and
>> > a vector value, but the extension to other spaces and non vector
>> > values is fairly conventional.
>> >
>> > I am not aware of any materialist dialectical criticism of this,
>> if
>> > you want to critique it you are setting yourself against science
>> since
>> > Maxwell.
>> I had in mind the notion in physics of a 'field' of potential. Like
>> 'energy' and 'force' this notion raises many philosophical issues
>> (see below). Regarding your exposition of the notion of 'field' that
>> you are employing, any definition in purely mathematical terms is
>> necessarily incomplete. My question is: what quality is involved? I
>> am pointing out that some quality must be involved; to talk of a
>> field, as you have defined that notion above, pressupposes a
>> quality whose quantity is denoted by the values to which you refer
>> (i.e. the values associated with the space constituting the
>> 'field').
> Consider the case of  potential energy, a scalar field that can be
> associated with each point in the phase space of a collection of
> particles, and kinetic energy another scalar field associated
> with each point in phase space.
> This seems to be very similar to value. We know of
> energy through its effects, these can be explained by the abstract
> mathematical concept of a conserved scalar, with the
> property that for all state exchanges the constraint
> C = K + P
> where C is a constant and K and P are the scalars for
> kinetic an potential energy.
> In practice what we observe is exchanges between states
> each of which is a 6n vector for the positions and velocities
> of the particles in the system. The conservation is not
> immediately obvious, since the scalars K and P are non
> linear functions of the state vectors. But we do not
> ask 'what is the substance of energy', we deduce its
> existence from the metric properties of the phase space.
> I contend that an exactly similar situation holds with
> generalised exchange value - we can deduce the necessity
> of its existence from the metric properties of exchanges
> between commodities, with exactly the same non-euclidean metric
> function that is used in the potential + kinetic energy case
> above.
> Talk about 'substance' or quality is to introduce a pre-scientific
> common-sense metaphysics into a scientific question.
>> > > Now, perhaps, you can see what I am getting at, and where we
>> > > disagree? You are presuming, at least from my point of view,
>> that
>> > > *something* is being measured. You have called it a field. In
>> your
>> > > analogy it is mass.
>> >
>> > If one is looking for an analogy I would chose energy, whose
>> existence
>> > we deduce from an exchange relation between forms of movement.
>> >
>> Certainly, we can deduce the specific presence of energy from
>> specific movements. But we can only do this given the general
>> concept of energy as such. The concept and use of the term
>> 'energy' as such is emphatically not a simple deduction from forms
>> of movement. It is a very difficult notion registering the unity of
>> the
>> very diverse things of the universe. It is a task of philosophy to
>> elucidate the meaning of the term 'energy'. Physicists, and indeed
>> everyone else, can and do use the term without having to worry
>> about its philosophical aspects.
> Why does anyone have to worry about its 'philosophical aspects'
> other than philosphers who would be out of a job if they did not.

If it were not for Descartes and other philosophical path-breakers, you
would never have had a job and earned your living in a Computing Science

>> > > I am saying that we must first establish *what*
>> > > is being measured. What is the equivalent of notion in economics
>> to
>> > > the notion of 'mass' in physics? We cannot just say 'it is a
>> field',
>> > > it is a 'something' and then get on with it.
>> >
>> > Why not, one can deduce the existence of the field
>> > from observables, just as one can deduce the existence
>> > of energy from observables.
>> Your analogy does not seem to work. Deducing the existence of
>> 'energy' entails deducing the quality that is being measured (viz.
>> qualitative characteristics of energy). It entails answering the
>> question I keep posing. Deducing the 'existence' of a 'field' does
>> not
>> answer the question. It begs the question: what quality is involved?
> What is the 'quality' of energy other than being a conserved
> scalar, which is of course something purely quantitative.

Your standpoint probably represents the purest Cartesian metaphysics in
this forum.
Descartes laid down the “rule” in his Regulae according to which
everything to do with beings has to be brought into the form of
proportions and equations. And only that can be brought into the form of
an equation “which admits of a more or less, and all this is
comprehended under the term ‘magnitude’“ (Rule 14.4 “nisi quod recipit
majus et minus, atque illud omne per magnitudinis vocabulum comprehendi”
R. Descartes Regulae ad Directionem Ingenii in: Descartes.
Philosophische Schriften Meiner, Hamburg, 1996 S. 121.). The upshot of
this, according to Descartes, is that “we no longer think of involving
ourselves with this or that subject, but only in general with comparing
certain quantities among themselves” (Rule 13.1 “non amplius cogitemus
nos circa hoc vel illud subjectum versari, sed tantum in genere circa
magnitudines quasdam inter se comparandas”).

That seems to be your self-understanding as a "scientist". The ease with
which you shift back and forth between natural phenomena and social
phenomena shows the totalizing application of Descartes' metaphysics. It
is too simple-minded to think that, if one reduces all beings to
magnitudes, then one has escaped the reach of metaphysics.

It is also simple-minded and blind to deny that modern science would not
exist without the philosophical underpinnings that opened the way for it
and continue to provide the fundamental conceptions operative in any
modern science.

>> > There exists a scalar field of abstract exchange value, there
>> > exist various other fields implied by the structure of prodution:
>> the
>> > field of labour contents, of oil contents, steel contents etc.
>> Which
>> > of these induces the exchange value field can only be established
>> by
>> > empirical tests.
>> A 'scalar field of *exchange* value'??? Not value? Now you seem to
>> be saying that there is a field of exchange value, *and* a field of
>> value. For me, 'exchange value' must be the form, and the external
>> measure, of something else, some quality being measured.
>> Without this then 'exchange value' at best refers to
>> 'exchangeability', something that can only be measured, in general,
>> by a vector of all exchange values for a particular commodity, and
>> which therefore is, in general, incommensurable between different
>> economies (and different points in time of the same economy).
> I use the term generalised exchange value for the conserved
> scalar that operates in a system of commodity exchange. I use
> the term value or labour value for the scalar field derived
> from the constraints of the conditions of production.
> The testable scientific hypothesis in the labour theory
> of value is that the former field is caused by or closely
> constrained by the latter.

"The testable scientific hypothesis" presupposes the dualism between
thinking consciousness and a reality which shows up only in the form
(look, _eidos_) of quantity. Whether value is purely a quantifiable
phenomenon and in which way, if at all, it can be quantified, are
questions which such a scientific approach cannot countenance.

As consistent scientists, “we no longer think of involving ourselves
with this or that subject, but only in general with comparing certain
quantities among themselves”.

This is metaphysical violence. Considering especially that the phenomena
of concern in this case are social phenomena, such metaphysical violence
ultimately also has social and political consequences.

The philosophical critique of the kind of metaphysics you represent is
very well developed. It has been going on literally for centuries.

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

> --
> Paul Cockshott
> Dept Computing Science
> University of Glasgow
> 0141 330 3125

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