Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 27 November 2015

Nietzsche and the Origins of the Bourgeois State

The negatives Denken, from Hobbes through Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, is founded on the "negative" impossibility of an inter homines esse, of a common "inter-est" or goal in the pursuit of which the human species can unite. Yet, in distinction from Nietzsche, for both Hobbes and Schopenhauer it is possible for human beings - as in-dividuals! - to agree to a contractum unionis that instantly becomes a contractum subjectionis, either on the basis of rational fear (Hobbes) or on the basis of a rational "sym-pathy". The State, formed as the result of this contract, simply preserves the Egoism of in-dividuals by restraining it. For Nietzsche, instead, the State is quite simply an expression of conflict, not its resolution or overcoming (Aufhebung), but rather its dynamic "balancing": the State is a "balance of forces" always precarious and in peril. Here we examine the "physio-logical" origins of this Nietzschean conception of the State and of its corresponding "morality". In a later section, we shall examine the more expressly "political" understanding of the State on the part of Nietzsche.

If indeed all we achieve with our “Will to Truth” is the ability “to describe” the world, “to utilize it”, to turn the world and life into a “utensil”, an “instrument” – if by doing all this we can never “explain” the world, but we can seek only some “advantage”, some “gain”, then the “abstraction” of “truth”, our “positing” or “privileging” of “Truth” as a pursuit over and above “personal needs” must amount to “a misunderstanding of the body” because we “forget” that we are part of the “truth” that we are seeking:

2…Every philosophy that ranks peace above war, every ethic with a negative definition of happiness, every metaphysics and physics that knows some finale, some final state of some sort, every predominant aesthetic or religious craving for some Apart, Beyond, Outside, Above, permits the question whether it was not sickness that inspired the philosopher. The unconscious disguise of physiological needs under the cloaks of the objective, ideal, purely spiritual goes to frightening lengths—and often I have asked myself whether, taking a large view, philosophy has not been merely an interpretation of the body and a misunderstanding of the body.

Behind the highest value judgments that have hitherto guided the history of thought, there are concealed misunderstandings of the physical constitution—of individuals or classes or even whole races. All those bold insanities of metaphysics, especially answers to the question about the value of existence, may always be considered first of all as the symptoms of certain bodies. And if such world affirmations or world negations tout court lack any grain of significance when measured scientifically, they are the more valuable for the historian and psychologist as hints or symptoms of the body, of its success or failure, its plenitude, power, and autocracy in history, or of its frustrations, weariness, impoverishment, its premonitions of the end, its will to the end.

I am still waiting for a philosophical physician in the exceptional sense of that word—one who has to pursue the problem of the total health of a people, time, race or of humanity—to muster the courage to push my suspicion to its limits and to risk the proposition: what was at stake in all philosophizing hitherto was not at all "truth" but something else—let us say, health, future, growth, power, life. (GS)

Gaya Scienza 2 Jede Philosophie, welche den Frieden höher stellt als den Krieg, jede Ethik mit einer negativen Fassung des Begriffs Glück, jede Metaphysik und Physik, welche ein Finale kennt, einen Endzustand irgend welcher Art, jedes vorwiegend aesthetische oder religiöse Verlangen nach einem Abseits, jenseits, Außerhalb, Oberhalb erlaubt zu fragen, ob nicht die Krankheit das gewesen ist, was den Philosophen inspiriert hat. Die unbewusste Verkleidung physiologischer Bedürfnisse unter die Mäntel des Objektiven, Ideellen, Rein-Geistigen geht bis zum Erschrecken weit, — und oft genug habe ich mich gefragt, ob nicht, im Großen gerechnet, Philosophie bisher überhaupt nur eine Auslegung des Leibes und ein Missverständnis des Leibes gewesen ist. Hinter den höchsten Werturteilen, von denen bisher die Geschichte des Gedankens geleitet wurde, liegen Missverständnisse der leiblichen Beschaffenheit verborgen, sei es von Einzelnen, sei es von Ständen oder ganzen Rassen. Man darf alle jene kühnen Tollheiten der Metaphysik, sonderlich deren Antworten auf die Frage nach dem Wert des Daseins, zunächst immer als Symptome bestimmter Leiber ansehn; und wenn derartigen Welt-Bejahungen oder Welt-Verneinungen in Bausch und Bogen, wissenschaftlich gemessen, nicht ein Korn von Bedeutung innewohnt, so geben sie doch dem Historiker und Psychologen um so wertvollere Winke, als Symptome, wie gesagt, des Leibes, seines Geratens und Missratens, seiner Fülle, Mächtigkeit, Selbstherrlichkeit in der Geschichte, oder aber seiner Hemmungen, Ermüdungen, Verarmungen, seines Vorgefühls vom Ende, seines Willens zum Ende. Ich erwarte immer noch, dass ein philosophischer Arzt im ausnahmsweisen Sinne des Wortes — ein Solcher, der dem Problem der Gesamt-Gesundheit von Volk, Zeit, Rasse, Menschheit nachzugehen hat — einmal den Mut haben wird, meinen Verdacht auf die Spitze zu bringen und den Satz zu wagen: bei allem Philosophieren handelte es sich bisher gar nicht um Wahrheitg, sondern um etwas Anderes, sagen wir um Gesundheit, Zukunft, Wachstum, Macht, Leben ...

Despite repeated references to “the body”, Nietzsche interprets every form of inter-esse as being an “imposition”, an extrinsic “heteronomy” that is external and oppressive to “the ontogeny of thought”. No heed is paid to the “specific” evolution of human faculties, sensory and intellectual. Though central to a new “gaya scienza” (see Preface to that work), and though they place in the right perspective “the grand self-affirmation of ‘will to life’”, the full sensuousness of the body, of sexuality, of libido, psychology and semeiotics – these “awakening sciences” are always seen by Nietzsche in an ontogenetic, personal perspective; they describe exclusively “physiological needs” that are “personal”, not “specific”, and that exude “war” and aggression, not co-operation or even communication.

In true continuation of Schopenhauer’s negatives Denken, Nietzsche all but obliterates the Arbeit, the “labour” of homo faber privileged by Classical Political Economy as the locus of an organic evolution of human faculties into human communities. Because human actions are “unconscious”, they are always “necessarily physiologically personal” and “personally physiologically necessary”.

102 "Man always acts for the good."39 We don't accuse nature of immorality when it sends us a thunderstorm, and makes us wet: why do we call the injurious man immoral? Because in the first case, we assume necessity, and in the second a voluntarily governing free will. But this distinction is in error. Furthermore, even intentional injury is not called immoral in all circumstances: without hesitating, we intentionally kill a gnat, for example, simply because we do not like its buzz; we intentionally punish the criminal and do him harm, to protect ourselves and society. In the first case it is the individual who does harm intentionally, for self‑preservation or simply to avoid discomfort; in the second case the state does the harm. All morality allows the intentional infliction of harm for self-defense; that is, when it is a matter of self-preservation! But these two points of view are sufficient to explain all evil acts which men practice against other men; man wants to get pleasure or resist unpleasure; in some sense it is always a matter of self‑preservation.

102 No life without pleasure; the struggle for pleasure is the struggle for life. Whether the individual fights this battle in ways such that men call him good or such that they call him evil is determined by the measure and makeup of his intellect.

99. Innocence of so-called evil actions. [Das Unschuldige an den sogenannten bösen Handlungen] All "evil" actions are motivated by the drive for preservation, or, more exactly, by the individual's intention to gain pleasure [Lust] and avoid unpleasure [Unlust]; thus they are motivated, but they are not evil. "Giving pain in and of itself" does not exist, except in the brain of philosophers, nor does "giving pleasure in and of itself" (pity, in the Schopenhauerian sense). In conditions preceding organized states, we kill any being, be it ape or man, that wants to take a fruit off a tree before we do, just when we are hungry and running up to the tree. We would treat the animal the same way today, if we were hiking through inhospitable territory. Those evil actions which outrage us most today are based on the error that that man who harms us has free will, that is, that he had the choice not to do this bad thing to us. This belief in his choice arouses hatred, thirst for revenge, spite, the whole deterioration of our imagination; whereas we get much less angry at an animal because we consider it irresponsible [unverantwortlich]. To do harm not out of a drive for preservation, but for requital--that is the result of an erroneous judgment, and is therefore likewise innocent [unschuldig].

99. Das Unschuldige an den sogenannten bösen Handlungen. — Alle "bösen" Handlungen sind motiviert durch den Trieb der Erhaltung oder, noch genauer, durch die Absicht auf Lust und Vermeidung der Unlust des Individuums; als solchermaßen motiviert, aber nicht böse. "Schmerz bereiten an sich" existiert nicht, außer im Gehirn der Philosophen, ebensowenig "Lust bereiten an sich" (Mitleid im Schopenhauerischen Sinne). In dem Zustand vor dem Staate töten wir das Wesen, sei es Affe oder Mensch, welches uns eine Frucht des Baumes vorwegnehmen will, wenn wir gerade Hunger haben und auf den Baum zulaufen: wie wir es noch jetzt bei Wanderungen in unwirtlichen Gegenden mit dem Tiere tun würden. — Die bösen Handlungen, welche uns jetzt am meisten empören, beruhen auf dem Irrtume, dass der Andere, welcher sie uns zufügt, freien Willen habe, also dass es in seinem Belieben gelegen habe, uns dies Schlimme nicht anzutun. Dieser Glaube an das Belieben erregt den Hass, die Rachlust, die Tücke, die ganze Verschlechterung der Phantasie, während wir einem Tiere viel weniger zürnen, weil wir dies als unverantwortlich betrachten. Leid tun nicht aus Erhaltungstrieb, sondern zur Vergeltung — ist Folge eines falschen Urteils und deshalb ebenfalls unschuldig.

Der Einzelne kann im Zustande, welcher vor dem Staate liegt, zur Abschreckung andere Wesen hart und grausam behandeln: um seine Existenz durch solche abschreckende Proben seiner Macht sicher zu stellen. So handelt der Gewalttätige, Mächtige, der ursprüngliche Staatengründer, welcher sich die Schwächeren unterwirft. Er hat dazu das Recht, wie es jetzt noch der Staat sich nimmt; oder vielmehr: es gibt kein Recht, welches dies hindern kann. Es kann erst dann der Boden für alle Moralität zurecht gemacht werden, wenn ein größeres Individuum oder ein Kollektiv-Individuum, zum Beispiel die Gesellschaft, der Staat, die Einzelnen unterwirft, also aus ihrer Vereinzelung herauszieht und in einen Verband einordnet. Der Moralität geht der Zwang voraus, ja sie selber ist noch eine Zeit lang Zwang, dem man sich, zur Vermeidung der Unlust, fügt. Später wird sie Sitte, noch später freier Gehorsam, endlich beinahe Instinkt: dann ist sie wie alles lang Gewöhnte und Natürliche mit Lust verknüpft — und heißt nun Tugend.

Here finally we have the Freudian “pleasure principle”. Again – no “inter-esse” (Hegel, Marx) even based on fear or reason (Hobbes) - and above all no “com-passion” (Schopenhauer), no “oceanic feeling” (Romain Rolland, quoted by Freud in Die Unbehagen der Kultur [Intro., from personal correspondence]), no “pantheism”, no “substratum” or “substance”, no “subject” or “intelligible freedom”. All these “conscious” concepts are the “resultant” of the conflicting impulses – they represent their “reconciliation” and their “presentation of the self in society”: they are “the ego”, “the Reality Principle”. There is only “necessity”, even the “necessity of awareness”: and necessity is “innocence”. But what does this mean - Amor fati? And what is the “goal” (Zweck) Nietzsche mentions: is it an “aspiration”? No. “The awareness of necessity and the necessity of this awareness”? Then we need to descend into the details of what exactly we need to “be aware of” – necessity -, and what we need “to beware of” – “awareness or consciousness”.

301. Illusion of the Contemplative.—Higher men are distinguished from lower, by seeing and hearing immensely more, and in a thoughtful manner—and it is precisely this that distinguishes man from the animal, and the higher animal from the lower. The world always becomes fuller for him


who grows up to the full stature of humanity; there are always more interesting fishing-hooks, thrown out to him; the number of his stimuli is continually on the increase, and similarly the varieties of his pleasure and pain,—the higher man becomes always at the same time happier and unhappier. An illusion^ however, is his constant accompaniment all along: he thinks he is placed as a spectator and auditor before the great pantomime and concert of life; he calls his nature a contemplative nature, and thereby overlooks the fact that he himself is also a real creator, and continuous poet of life,—that he no doubt differs greatly from the actor in this drama, the so-called practical man, but differs still more from a mere onlooker or spectator before the stage. There is certainly vis contemplativa^ and re-examination of his work peculiar to him as poet, but at the same time, and first and foremost, he has the vis creativa, which the practical man or doer lacks, whatever appearance and current belief may say to the contrary. It is we, who think and feel, that actually and unceasingly make something which did not before exist: the whole eternally increasing world of valuations, colours, weights, perspectives, gradations, affirmations and negations.

This composition of ours is continually learnt, practised, and translated into flesh and actuality, and even into the commonplace, by the so-called practical men (our actors, as we have said). Whatever has value in the present world, has not it in itself, by its nature,—nature is always worth-less [value-less, wert-frei]: — but a value was once given to it, bestowed upon it


and it was we who gave and bestowed! We alone have created the world which is of any account

to man!—

There is an evident conflict here between “poiesis” (cf. Arendt, Human Condition) and “nature”. How is the vis creativa “possible” if it “actually and unceasingly make[s] something which did not before exist”? It is true that we create “within” nature – but if we exclude the “pro-jectuality” and therefore the “ideal-ity” of vita activa, does “nature” then not become a “residuum” that is “annihilated”, much in the Hegelian and “nihilist” fashion? (Lowith, Saggi su Heidegger, p.116) Nihilism suppresses “values” and denies their “ec-sistence” whilst assigning absolute “freedom of the will” and “authorship” (auctoritas, poiesis) to human being in the abyss of “meaning-lessness” and Nicht-heit that is the world. Nietzsche, by contrast, dismisses such “existential Angst”, the despair of the Russian nihilists: -“Nihilism in the St Petersburg style (that is to say, in the belief in unbelief, even to martyrdom for it!)” (GS, Aph 347 on “The need to believe”).

Yet whilst he wishes us to “be-aware” of our poiesis, he also wants us “to beware” of it and denounces this as the source of “consciousness”, that is, of that “distancing” of ourselves from “nature” that gives rise to “values”. To “overcome” this consciousness is “to overcome man”. The “tension” of the Wanderer between Subject and Object (Heidegger’s “horizon”), those walls separating us from the past and the future, that wall again separating the desert of nihilism from the city of “values” that we need “to pass-by” (‘Zar.’, ch51) is the “Mit-tag” where we need to stand.

638 The wanderer. He who has come only in part to a freedom of reason cannot feel on earth otherwise than as a wanderer-though not as a traveler towards a final goal [letzten Ziele], for this does not exist. But he does want to observe, and keep his eyes open for everything that actually occurs in the world; therefore he must not attach his heart too firmly to any individual thing; there must be something wandering within him, which takes its joy in change [Wechsel] and transitoriness [Verganglichkeit]. To be sure, such a man will have bad nights, when he is tired and finds closed the gates to the city that should offer him rest; perhaps in addition, as in the Orient, the desert reaches up to the gate; predatory animals howl now near, now far; a strong wind stirs; robbers lead off his pack-animals. Then for him the frightful night sinks over the desert like a second desert, and his heart becomes tired of wandering. If the morning sun then rises, glowing like a divinity of wrath, and the city opens up, he sees in the faces of its inhabitants perhaps more of desert, dirt, deception, uncertainty, than outside the gates-and the day is almost worse than the night. So it may happen sometimes to the wanderer; but then, as recompense, come the ecstatic mornings of other regions and days. Then nearby in the dawning light he already sees the bands of muses dancing past him in the mist of the mountains. Afterwards, he strolls quietly in the equilibrium of his forenoon soul, under trees from whose tops and leafy corners only good and bright things are thrown down to him, the gifts of all those free spirits who are at home in mountain, wood, and solitude, and who are, like him, in their sometimes merry, sometimes contemplative way, wanderers and philosophers. Born out of the mysteries of the dawn, they ponder how the day can have such a pure, transparent, transfigured and cheerful face between the hours of ten and twelve-they seek the philosophy of the forenoon.

Der Wanderer 638. Der Wanderer. — Wer nur einigermaßen zur Freiheit der Vernunft gekommen ist, kann sich auf Erden nicht anders fühlen, denn als Wanderer, — wenn auch nicht als Reisender nach einem letzten Ziele: denn dieses gibt es nicht. Wohl aber will er zusehen und die Augen dafür offen haben, was Alles in der Welt eigentlich vorgeht; deshalb darf er sein Herz nicht allzufest an alles Einzelne anhängen; es muss in ihm selber etwas Wanderndes sein, das seine Freude an dem Wechsel und der Vergänglichkeit habe. Freilich werden einem solchen Menschen böse Nächte kommen, wo er müde ist und das Tor der Stadt, welche ihm Rast bieten sollte, verschlossen findet; vielleicht, dass noch dazu, wie im Orient, die Wüste bis an das Tor reicht, dass die Raubtiere bald ferner bald näher her heulen, dass ein starker Wind sich erhebt, dass Räuber ihm seine Zugtiere wegführen. Dann sinkt für ihn wohl die schreckliche Nacht wie eine zweite Wüste auf die Wüste, und sein Herz wird des Wanderns müde. Geht ihm dann die Morgensonne auf, glühend wie eine Gottheit des Zornes, öffnet sich die Stadt, so sieht er in den Gesichtern der hier Hausenden vielleicht noch mehr Wüste, Schmutz, Trug, Unsicherheit, als vor den Toren — und der Tag ist fast schlimmer, als die Nacht. So mag es wohl einmal dem Wanderer ergehen; aber dann kommen, als Entgelt, die wonnevollen Morgen anderer Gegenden und Tage, wo er schon im Grauen des Lichtes die Musenschwärme im Nebel des Gebirges nahe an sich vorübertanzen sieht, wo ihm nachher, wenn er still, in dem Gleichmaß der Vormittagsseele, unter Bäumen sich ergeht, aus deren Wipfeln und Laubverstecken heraus lauter gute und helle Dinge zugeworfen werden, die Geschenke aller jener freien Geister, die in Berg, Wald und Einsamkeit zu Hause sind und welche, gleich ihm, in ihrer bald fröhlichen bald nachdenklichen Weise, Wanderer und Philosophen sind. Geboren aus den Geheimnissen der Frühe, sinnen sie darüber nach, wie der Tag zwischen dem zehnten und zwölften Glockenschlage ein so reines, durchleuchtetes, verklärt-heiteres Gesicht haben könne: — sie suchen die Philosophie des Vormittages.

The “horizon” of human ec-sistence, of being there (Da-Sein) is explicit in the headings of the chapters in HATH: “Of First Things” (the beginning of life) and “Of the Last Thing” (the end of life). Between these two “boundaries” lies “being”. The mental dis-orientation of the Wanderer stranded at the gates of the walled city to face the advance of the desert represents the “tension” that allows us an insight into the “horizon” of being, of what lies beneath consciousness (but was Nietzsche not supposed to banish these “obscure veils”?). The desert is metonymous with the Vollendung of metaphysics, the Rationalisierung and its soul-lessness or dis-enchantment, Entseelung, has “spread” the desert to the gates of the walled city. The walled city stands for the consolation of “truth”. This “tension” is not a metaphysical need: no such “con-sol-ation” (Lt. solum, sun) is granted to the Wanderer in the de-sol-ate desert (Lt. solus, soil): he sits “outside” the city walls, never enters its gates – he “passes-by”. These are not, contra Heidegger (cf Lowith, pp116-7), reassertions of faith in “values”, but rather an attempt to catch up with one’s shadow, which is possible only with “die Philosophie des Vormittages”. But this “tension” cannot be held forever; nor can its political equivalent, the constituent power of insurgency (Negri), be applied indefinitely (cf. Kalyvas on ‘Politics’).

This “tension”, this “dis-orientation” is merely an “a-void-ance” of the “respons-ibility” (or “answerability”, Verantwortlichkeit) we have over the de-cisions we “must” make. The “necessity” lies in the choice (Sartre), not in the pre-conditions or in the outcome. And the “out-come”, the “e-vent” or “e-venience” of our actions even when it is “in-nocent” or “in-nocuous” (recall Schopenhauer’s “do no harm!”) is far from being “blame-less” (un-schuldig). That is why Nietzsche’s “Un-schuld-igkeit” should never be translated as “innocence”: - because that is clearly not what Nietzsche intends! It is misleading and wrong to read “in-nocence” into “blame-lessness”, because Nietzsche most certainly does not mean that human actions are “in-nocent” or “in-nocuous”: they most certainly are not! To speak of “innocence” would suggest that “guilt” is at issue – with the concomitant connotations of “good” and “evil”. (The German “guilt” is also expressed by “Schuld”, whose best equivalent is “fault” or “blame” or indeed “blemish”, just as “colpa” in Italian and “faute” and “coupable” in French - in all cases much more “technical” than “moral” epithets, as in “a faulty implement”. One could speak of “vitium”, vice, or “blemish” which is more of a “natural pro-pensity” or “liability” (“is liable to”), an “instinct” such as that of the wolf hunting lambs or snakes biting. This reminds one of Schopenhauer’s “character”, except that Nietzsche “ex-culpates” it from “responsibility” [re-spons-um, reply, answer or Ant-wort connoting “spons”, spontaneity, - hence “free will”, Augustinian “initiative”, “quod initium esset, homo creatus fuit”].)

107 Irresponsibility [Unaccountability] and innocence [blame-lessness] Between good and evil actions there is no difference in type; at most, a difference in degree. Good actions are sublimated evil actions; evil actions are good actions become coarse and stupid. The individual's only demand, for self-enjoyment (along with the fear of losing it), is satisfied in all circumstances: man may act as he can, that is, as he must, whether in deeds of vanity, revenge, pleasure, usefulness, malice, cunning, or in deeds of [self-]sacrifice, pity [Mitleid], knowledge. His powers of judgment determine where a man will let this demand for self-enjoyment take him. In each society, in each individual, a hierarchy of the good is always present, by which man determines his own actions and judges other people's actions. But this standard is continually in flux; many actions are called evil, and are only stupid, because the degree of intelligence which chose them was very low. Indeed, in a certain sense all actions are stupid even now, for the highest degree of human intelligence which can now be attained will surely be surpassed. And then, in hindsight, all our behavior and judgments will appear as inadequate and rash as the behavior and judgments of backward savage tribes now seem to us inadequate and rash… (HATH)

107. Unverantwortlichkeit und Unschuld…. Alle diese Motive aber, so hohe Namen wir ihnen geben, sind aus den selben Wurzeln gewachsen, in denen wir die bösen Gifte wohnend glauben; zwischen guten und bösen Handlungen gibt es keinen Unterschied der Gattung, sondern höchstens des Grades. Gute Handlungen sind sublimierte böse; böse Handlungen sind vergröberte, verdummte gute. Das einzige Verlangen des Individuums nach Selbstgenuss (samt der Furcht, desselben verlustig zu gehen) befriedigt sich unter allen Umständen, der Mensch mag handeln, wie er kann, das heißt wie er muss: sei es in Taten der Eitelkeit, Rache, Lust, Nützlichkeit, Bosheit, List, sei es in Taten der Aufopferung, des Mitleids, der Erkenntnis. Die Grade der Urteilsfähigkeit entscheiden, wohin Jemand sich durch dies Verlangen hinziehen lässt; fortwährend ist jeder Gesellschaft, jedem Einzelnen eine Rangordnung der Güter gegenwärtig, wonach er seine Handlungen bestimmt und die der Anderen beurteilt. Aber dieser Maßstab wandelt sich fortwährend, viele Handlungen werden böse genannt und sind nur dumm, weil der Grad der Intelligenz, welcher sich für sie entschied, sehr niedrig war. Ja, in einem bestimmten Sinne sind auch jetzt noch alle Handlungen dumm, denn der höchste Grad von menschlicher Intelligenz, der jetzt erreicht werden kann, wird sicherlich noch überboten werden: und dann wird, bei einem Rückblick, all unser Handeln und Urteilen so beschränkt und übereilt erscheinen, wie uns jetzt das Handeln und Urteilen zurückgebliebener wilder Völkerschaften beschränkt und übereilt vorkommt. —

Having inverted Schopenhauer, Nietzsche finally inverts Kierkegaard. The reductio ad absurdum of Schop’s ethics can be one and only one: the uniquely “singular” rapport between the individual soul and the divinity. This “accord” alone can be the basis of the community and of the State: - not an “inter-esse” horizontally and immanently established but rather an A-skesis trans-scendentally and mystically accessible. “Reverence” alone can be the raison d’etre of human interaction. Either/Or. And yet again, Nietzsche demurs: To judge, he reminded us earlier, is to be unjust. Every human “relation” is a compromise and a “measure”, a “reverence”. In our “twilight of the idols”, we can bow or revere no longer. How do we elide or evade or elude or abolish these “reverences”, these “measures”, these comparisons, this barter, these “equal powers” – this “value” – without thereby abolishing “ourselves”?

346 Our question mark. But you do not understand this? Indeed, people will have trouble understanding us. We are looking for words; perhaps we are also looking for ears. Who are we anyway? If we simply called ourselves, using an old expression, godless, or unbelievers, or perhaps immoralists, we do not believe that this would even come close to designating us: We are all three in such an advanced stage that one—that you, my curious friends—could never comprehend how we feel at this point. Ours is no longer the bitterness and passion of the person who has turned himself away and still feels compelled to turn his unbelief into a new belief, a purpose, a martyrdom. We have become cold, hard, and tough in the realization that the way of this world is anything but divine; even by human standards it is not rational, merciful, or just. We know it well, the world in which we live is ungodly, immoral, "inhuman"; we have interpreted it far too long in a false and mendacious way, in accordance with the wishes of our reverence, which is to say, according to our needs. For man is a reverent animal. But he is also mistrustful; and that the world is not worth what we thought it was, that is about as certain as anything of which our mistrust has finally got hold. The more mistrust, the more philosophy.

We are far from claiming that the world is worth less; indeed it would seem laughable to us today if man were to insist on inventing values that were supposed to excel the value of the actual world. This is precisely what we have turned our backs on as an extravagant aberration of human vanity and unreason that for a long time was not recognized as such. It found its final expression in modern pessimism [i.e., Schopenhauer’s philosophy], and a more ancient and stronger expression in the teaching of Buddha; but it is part of Christianity also, if more doubtfully and ambiguously so but not for that reason any less seductive.

The whole pose of "man against the world," of man as a "world-negating" principle, of man as the measure of the value of things, as judge of the world who in the end places existence itself upon his scales and finds it wanting—the monstrous insipidity of this pose has finally come home to us and we are sick of it. We laugh as soon as we encounter the juxtaposition of "man and world," separated by the sublime presumption of the little word "and." But look, when we laugh like that, have we simply not carried the contempt for man one step further? And thus also pessimism, the contempt for that existence which is knowable by us? Have we not exposed ourselves to the suspicion of an opposition—an opposition between the world in which we were at home up to now with our reverences that perhaps made it possible for us to endure life, and another world that consists of us—an inexorable, fundamental, and deepest suspicion about ourselves that is more and more gaining worse and worse control of us Europeans and that could easily confront coming generations with the terrifying Either/Or: "Either abolish your reverences or—yourselves!" The latter would be nihilism; but would not the former also be—nihilism? —This is our question mark. (GScientia)

The “sym-pathy”, the “pity” that Schop praised and that is really a return of the operari but a wish to negate it, Nietzsche firmly eschews. What he rejects is the “ideality” of it, its “teleology”, its “astute theology” - what Schop had failed to quash once and for all. Once again he never seems to detach himself conceptually (or emotionally?) from the need to see all human “reality”, as opposed to “reason” and “morality”, from the perspective of the “person”, truly ontogenetically, in the sense that the human “species”, from homo faber to homo sapiens, begins and ends with “homo”. The state, the needy, morality tout court – even science! – have ensured that “our mind has… been forcibly diverted from… our own personal need… as if it were something bad that had to be sacrificed”. And all for the sake of “maintaining a ‘community’, a people”.

96. Mores and Morality When men determine between moral and immoral, good and evil, the basic opposition is not "egoism" and "selflessness," but rather adherence to a tradition or law, and release from it. The origin of the tradition makes no difference, at least concerning good and evil, or an immanent categorical imperative;.34 but is rather above all for the purpose of maintaining a community, a people. Every superstitious custom, originating in a coincidence that is interpreted falsely, forces a tradition that it is moral to follow. To release oneself from it is dangerous, even more injurious for the community than for the individual (because the divinity punishes the whole community for sacrilege and violation of its rights, and the individual only as a part of that community).

It is this “community” that is the source of pleasure and displeasure which “man” seeks or avoids for the sake of “[self-]preservation”. Thus, Nietzsche preserves Schop’s initial emphasis on “the will to life” but this time divested of its “metaphysical need”, of its “intelligible freedom”.

“Blame-lessness” restricts the moral and scientific spectrum right down to the bare skeleton of causality. Even the “causal” connection between “action” and “consequence” is nearly removed by Nietzsche with his doctrine of “necessity”. Let us recall that Schop himself had set the outer limits of “legitimate” deontology for “Egoism” at the “noli laedere” precept – “do no harm”; - which meant that harm caused in “self-defence” – a “negative” action or “re-action” - could not be the object of “blame”. Yet, on the contrary, Nietzsche is “physically” incapable of conceiving human actions (Tun) or intentions as anything other than “antagonistic” and belligerent: - not just the objectification of the “will to live”, but rather the affirmation of the “will to power”, the subjugation of other contrary “wills”. Therefore, the negative injunction “do no harm” cannot possibly curtail the sphere of “legitimate” individual action. And Nietzsche can only countenance it with scorn:

186… Hear, for example, with what almost venerable innocence Schopenhauer still presented his task, and draw your own conclusions as to how scientific a `science' is whose greatest masters still talk like children and old women: ‑ 'The principle', he says (Fundamental Problems of Ethics), the fundamental proposition on whose content all philosophers of ethics are actually at one: neminem laede, immo omnes, quantum potes, juva ‑ is actually the proposition of which all the teachers of morals endeavour to furnish the rational ground ... the actual foundation of ethics which has been sought for centuries like the philosopher's stone. (BGE)

What Nietzsche means by “unschuldig” is “blame-less” rather than “in-nocent” because all human actions are “necessary actions” and categorically (toto genere) “beyond good and evil” - “im-moral” in the sense of “a-moral”.

107 Irresponsibility [Unaccountability] and innocence [blame-lessness ]…. To understand all this can cause great pain, but afterwards there is consolation. These pains are birth pangs. The butterfly wants to break through his cocoon; he tears at it, he rends it: then he is blinded and confused by the unknown light, the realm of freedom. Men who are capable of that sorrow (how few they will be!) will make the first attempt to see if mankind can transform itself from a moral into a wise mankind. In those individuals, the sun of a new gospel is casting its first ray onto the highest mountaintop of the soul; the fog is condensing more thickly than ever, and the brightest light and cloudiest dusk lie next to each other. Everything is necessity: this is the new knowledge, and this knowledge itself is necessity. Everything is innocence: and knowledge is the way to insight into this innocence. If pleasure, egoism, vanity are necessary for the generation of moral phenomena and their greatest flower, the sense for true and just knowledge; if error and confusion of imagination were the only means by which mankind could raise itself gradually to this degree of self-illumination and self-redemption -- who could scorn those means? Who could be sad when he perceives the goal to which those paths lead? Everything in the sphere of morality has evolved; changeable, fluctuating, everything is fluid, it is true: but everything is also streaming onward--to one goal. Even if the inherited habit of erroneous esteeming, loving, hating continues to govern us, it will grow weaker under the influence of growing knowledge: a new habit, that of understanding, non-loving, non-hating, surveying is gradually being implanted in us on the same ground, and in thousands of years will be powerful enough perhaps to give mankind the strength to produce wise, innocent (conscious of their innocence)41 men as regularly as it now produces unwise, unfair men, conscious of their guilt42--these men are the necessary first stage, but not the opposite of those to come. (HATH)

Dies Alles einzusehen, kann tiefe Schmerzen machen, aber darnach gibt es einen Trost: solche Schmerzen sind Geburtswehen. Der Schmetterling will seine Hülle durchbrechen, er zerrt an ihr, er zerreißt sie: da blendet und verwirrt ihn das unbekannte Licht, das Reich der Freiheit. In solchen Menschen, welche jener Traurigkeit fähig sind — wie wenige werden es sein! — wird der erste Versuch gemacht, ob die Menschheit aus einer moralischen sich in eine weise Menschheit umwandeln könne. Die Sonne eines neuen Evangeliums wirft ihren ersten Strahl auf die höchsten Gipfel in der Seele jener Einzelnen: da ballen sich die Nebel dichter, als je, und neben einander lagert der hellste Schein und die trübste Dämmerung. Alles ist Notwendigkeit, — so sagt die neue Erkenntnis: und diese Erkenntnis selber ist Notwendigkeit. Alles ist Unschuld: und die Erkenntnis ist der Weg zur Einsicht in diese Unschuld. Sind Lust, Egoismus, Eitelkeit notwendig zur Erzeugung der moralischen Phänomene und ihrer höchsten Blüte, des Sinnes für Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit der Erkenntnis, war der Irrtum und die Verirrung der Phantasie das einzige Mittel, durch welches die Menschheit sich allmählich zu diesem Grade von Selbsterleuchtung und Selbsterlösung zu erheben vermochte — wer dürfte jene Mittel geringschätzen? Wer dürfte traurig sein, wenn er das Ziel, zu dem jene Wege führen, gewahr wird? Alles auf dem Gebiete der Moral ist geworden, wandelbar, schwankend, Alles ist im Flusse, es ist wahr: — aber Alles ist auch im Strome: nach Einem Ziele hin. Mag in uns die vererbte Gewohnheit des irrtümlichen Schätzens, Liebens, Hassens immerhin fortwalten, aber unter dem Einfluss der wachsenden Erkenntnis wird sie schwächer werden: eine neue Gewohnheit, die des Begreifens, Nicht-Liebens, Nicht-Hassens, Überschauens, pflanzt sich allmählich in uns auf dem selben Boden an und wird in Tausenden von Jahren vielleicht mächtig genug sein, um der Menschheit die Kraft zu geben, den weisen, unschuldigen (unschuld-bewussten) Menschen ebenso regelmäßig hervorzubringen, wie sie jetzt den unweisen, unbilligen, schuldbewussten Menschen— das heißt die notwendige Vorstufe, nicht den Gegensatz von jenem — hervorbringt.

Here once more we find “the awareness of necessity and the necessity of this awareness”. Even the “instrumentality” of logico-mathematics has been “bent”, “ap-plied”, “ad-apted” to this “utility”: “if error and confusion of imagination were the only means by which mankind could raise itself gradually to this degree of self-illumination and self-redemption -- who could scorn those means?” But what can “men conscious of their blamelessness” mean if this “consciousness” is not the “reified” consciousness of morality and the Will to Truth? Certainly not the “construction” of a “pacified harmonious existence”, because this is precisely that “reconciliation of impulses” that is “reflected” in the “average” consciousness of the “everyday self”, of the reality principle. It is possible that by “conscious” Nietzsche means here “aware” or “mindful of”, the Latin “memor”: this “awareness” is a “remembering”, a redemption from ossified, sclerotic “forgetfulness” (Gr. Lethe; Nietzsche had earlier spoken of “concealment” of mental “identities” into the objects of science; cf. also Heidegger’s a-letheia, “un-concealment”) of a “balance of forces” that existed primordially and that “accompanies” human beings, bodies, all along – because it is part of their “constitution”, “nature”, “physis” (Cf. Heidegger’s homonymous concept in ‘SZ’ and ‘Kantbuch’):

92 Origin of justice. Justice (fairness) originates among approximately equal powers, as Thucydides (in the horrifying conversation between the Athenian and Melian envoys)30 rightly understood. When there is no clearly recognizable supreme power and a battle would lead to fruitless and mutual injury, one begins to think of reaching an understanding and negotiating the claims on both sides: the initial character of justice is barter. Each satisfies the other in that each gets what he values more than the other. Each man gives the other what he wants, to keep henceforth, and receives in turn that which he wishes. Thus, justice is requital and exchange on the assumption of approximately equal positions of strength. For this reason, revenge belongs initially to the realm of justice: it is an exchange. Likewise gratitude.
Justice naturally goes back to the viewpoint of an insightful self‑preservation, that is, to the egoism of this consideration: "Why should I uselessly injure myself and perhaps not reach my goal anyway?"
So much about the origin of justice. Because men, in line with their intellectual habits, have forgotten the original purpose of so called just, fair actions, and particularly because children have been taught for centuries to admire and imitate such actions, it has gradually come to appear that a just action is a selfless one.
The high esteem of these actions rests upon this appearance, an esteem which, like all estimations, is also always in a state of growth: for men strive after, imitate, and reproduce with their own sacrifices that which is highly esteemed, and it grows because its worth is increased by the worth of the effort and exertion made by each individual.
How slight the morality of the world would seem without forgetfulness! A poet could say that God had stationed forgetfulness as a guardian at the door to the temple of human dignity.

30. In Bk. 5, 85-113, Thucydides recounts the surrender of Melos in 416 B.C. (HATH)

Meditation on History (p72, toward end of Ch8):

Is it not justice, always to hold the balance of forces in your hands and observe which is the stronger and heavier?

3 To smell out "beautiful souls," "golden means," and other perfections in the Greeks, or to admire their calm in greatness, their ideal cast of mind, their noble simplicity--the psychologist in me protected me against such "noble simplicity," a niaiserie allemande anyway. I saw their strongest instinct, the will to power: I saw them tremble before the indomitable force of this drive--I saw how all their institutions grew out of preventive measures taken to protect each other against their inner explosives. (ToI)

Yet again, Nietzsche is at pains to “de-strukt” the “sociality” and “civility”, the false “reconciliation” of what are conflicting impulses and instincts, and to show that the former “civilized”, “refined”, “decadent” notions are “out-comes”, “pro-ducts” or “resultants”, of those conflicts and struggles. Just like “consciousness”, even the notion of “justice” and therefore the State is a reified, hypostatized, false “ideal” of what is truly a “convention”, an “equilibrium”, a “balance of forces” – the result of a “barter” or “exchange” that has nothing to do with the “idealistic”, moralistic notion of “justice”.

Most important of all, Nietzsche once more seeks to demonstrate that there is no “species-consciousness” to human reality: that for all that they may “share”, humans remain “separate beings”; they have no “inter-esse”; they are not aspects of “being human”; they have no possible commonality of being or goals. This is the essence of the negatives Denken. Not “the destruction of Reason”, then, (either in its fictitious teleological sense or in its effective “instrumental”sense [rationalization]) is what Nietzsche operates, but rather the destruction of “con-science”!

35. Critique of the morality of decadence. -- An "altruistic" morality--a morality in which self-interest wilts away--remains a bad sign under all circumstances. This is true of individuals; it is particularly true of nations. The best is lacking when self-interest begins to be lacking. Instinctively to choose what is harmful for oneself, to feel attracted by "disinterested" motives, that is virtually the formula of decadence. "Not to seek one's own advantage"--that is merely the moral fig leaf for quite a different, namely, a physiological, state of affairs: "I no longer know how to find my own advantage." Disintegration of the instincts! Man is finished when he becomes altruistic. Instead of saying naively, "I am no longer worth anything," the moral lie in the mouth of the decadent says, "Nothing is worth anything, life is not worth anything." Such a judgment always remains very dangerous, it is contagious: throughout the morbid soil of society it soon proliferates into a tropical vegetation of concepts--now as a religion (Christianity), now as a philosophy (Schopenhauerism). Sometimes the poisonous vegetation which has grown out of such decomposition poisons life itself for millennia with its fumes. (ToI)

Notice how Nietzsche with most vehement though astonishing lack of dialectical refinement falsely equates “dis-interestedness” and “altruism” with “what is harmful to oneself”! It is not decline that manifests itself in disease; it is the disease that is a sign of decline. For “nature” (physis) to manifest itself, the “need”, the “will to power” must be there in the first place.

36 Morality for Physicians… The sick man is a parasite of society…. Pessimism, pur vert, is proved only by the self-refutation of our dear pessimists: one must advance a step further in its logic and not only negate life with "will and representation," as Schopenhauer did--one must first of all negate Schopenhauer. Incidentally, however contagious pessimism is, it still does not increase the sickliness of an age, of a generation as a whole: it is an expression of this sickliness. One falls victim to it as one falls victim to cholera: one has to be morbid enough in one's whole predisposition. (ToI)

 The notion of “nature-as-physis” then acquires an ominous and disturbing “political” connotation and in-tention – one that only the “rationalized genocide” of the Nazi dictatorship finally brought to light in all its ferocious truculence. The denial of human “action” (ago – agree – augere [grow, august] – augurium - auctoritas – authorship) consequent on the categorical “abolition” of consciousness and a fortiori of “con-science” – a deed that even Schopenhauer had been unwilling to perpetrate – comports the mindless, un-conscionable discharge of a cosmic duty in pursuance of an ineluctable and inexorable “destiny”, of a “Wille zur Macht” that is the eternal re-currence of a “fate” that “volentes ducet, nolentes trahet” (Spengler – it is to him that Mazzarino [‘PSC’, Vol3] turns to exemplify the denouement of Nietzsche’s vision of “history” in the sense of “historical [analogical] recurrence”, like Polybius and Vico, and not “cosmological [identical] recurrence”) – an iron law of nature pursuant to which both the executioner and the victim are – blameless! (Recall Hungarian film, “Unschuldig”; and Cacciari on “the inexorable law without ‘mercy’ [grazia]. Recall also Arendt’s “Volo ut sis!” at end of ‘OT’.)

Sunday 15 November 2015

Carl Menger's 'Empirical-Realistic' Economic Methodology

Avant-Propos on The State of Europe:

This piece on Carl Menger once again in its broad outline wishes to focus on the "impotence" of the European State in the face of the all-out onslaught of Islamist terrorism. Just as Menger starts with "the individual", so does the European liberal-capitalist State begin first and foremost with the "rights" of the "individual", where individual "liberty" comes well before the "fraternity" that, in any case, can be founded only on the vaguest bourgeois notion of "equality" before the (bourgeois) law. The powerlessness of the European "res publica" founded on the possessive individualism of capitalist enterprise and markets was already evident from the slogan of the French Revolution.

To repeat what we have said here too many times already - a point made by Hegel in the Philosophy of History by reference to the Roman State - a State that is founded on the protection of the private rights of individuals, on property, is a contractual State - one that will never be able to protect its population from external attack. To descend to the absolutely banal, such a State is one in which when the very existence of its community is threatened, all that can be accomplished are fashion parades on the Champs Elysees or a bathetic rendition of "La Vie en Rose" by Madonna, or else the depositing of a funeral wreath at the Bataclan by Bono and his band! A bientot, mes amis!

“All things are subject to the law of cause and effect. This great principle knows no exception.” (Carl Menger, Principles of Economics, p.1.)

Menger’s key distinction between the individual and the general – from the Untersuchungen to the Irrthumer – is aimed at the power of theory to abstract from “concrete phenomena” to “phenomenal forms”, conkreten Erscheinungen and Erscheinungs-formen. Here again is the Kantian dichotomy between intuition and categories which is the origin of the Lukacsian “antinomies of bourgeois thought”. What Menger never explains is why the concrete phenomenon should start from the individual intended as “a single human being” as the foundation of “the science of political economy” rather than, say, from a community or a class – because the very notion of “individual” contains already a discrete “choice” of category that will determine the content of the “phenomenal forms”. Far from being a “scientific” foundation, the “choice” of the single human being as the epistemological foundation or “concrete phenomenon” or “individual” as the foundation for the “general”, as the concrete basis from which abstract laws of economics are to be derived, is indeed a wholly partial and unfounded one – again, from a “scientific” or “objective” perspective.

"In contrast to the absolutism of theory," says Knies,39 "the historical

conception of political economy is based on the following principle. The

theory of political economy is also a result of historical development just

as economic conditions of life are. It grows, in living connection with the

total organism of a human and ethno-historical period, with and out of

the conditions of time, of space, of nationality. It exists together with

them and continues preparing for progressive development. It has its

line of argument in the historical life of the nations, and must attribute to

its results the character of historical solutions. Too, it can present general

laws in the general part of economics in no other way than as historical

explication and progressive manifestation of the truth. It can at every

stage present itself only as the generalization of the truths recognized up

39 Knies, Politische Oekonomie nach geschichtlicher Methode (1853), p. 19 and

(1882), p. 24.

116 ] BOOK TWO

to this definite point of development, and cannot be declared absolutely

self-contained according to sum or formulation. Furthermore, the absolutism

of the theory, where it has obtained validity at one stage of historical

development presents itself only as a child of this time and designates

a definite stage in the historical development of political economy."

The error which is the basis of the above conception of the nature of

the historical orientation of research in the field of theoretical economics

is clear. The individual phases of development of our science can be

understood historically, to be sure, only in connection with the spatial

and temporal conditions from which they have emerged. Or in other

words: a literary history of our science with a correct comprehension of

its (historical!) task must not overlook the connection between the individual

phases of its development and spatial and temporal conditions.

This is, however, a postulate of every literary history, even one of the

exact natural sciences, of chemistry and physics, indeed, of any writing

of history in general. However, it has no immediate relationship at all to

those postulates of research which we have called the historical point of

view in theoretical economics (Le., retaining the fact of the development

of economic phenomena in the investigation of the general nature and the

general connection of the laws of economy).

The historical development of a science, argues Menger here, must be distinguished from the content of its scientific advance: whereas the former is doubtless affected by ideographic or idiosyncratic factors, the latter cannot be so affected by epistemological definition – because what is “scientific” cannot as such be determined by idiosyncratic or “singular” factors. But here Menger clearly misunderstands and so misrepresents the far more incisive point that Knies was making in the quotation cited by Menger above. Knies is saying that the “theory” of social reality and the social “reality” itself are effectively one and the same thing in the sense that, first, our theory of reality is limited by our present historical conditions, and second and most important, the factors that condition our scientific search and discovery of “reality”, whether physical or social, are the same ones that guide our theoretical understanding of this “reality”. The fact that this “reality” is never “perfectly” or completely understood is not due to some failure in our research but to the fact that our scientific research into “reality” is reality itself! Reality is our activity! Vivo ergo cogito, as Nietzsche instructed us!

Menger’s confusion of these elementary matters is quite evident in this passage as is also the causational or aetiological approach to “the exact theory of political economy”:

Among human efforts those which are aimed at the anticipation and

provision of material (economic) needs are by far the most common and

most important. In the same way, among human impulses that which

impels each individual to strive for his well-being is by far the most common

and most powerful. A theory which would teach us to what crystallizations

of human activity and what forms of human phenomena action

oriented to the provision of material needs leads, on the assumption of

the free play of that powerful economic impulse, uninfluenced by other

impulses and other considerations (particularly error or ignorance); a

theory, especially, which would teach us what quantitative effects would

be produced by a definite quantity of the influence in question: such a

theory simply must provide us with a certain understanding. It cannot

provide understanding of human phenomena in their totality or of a concrete

portion thereof, but it can provide understanding of one of the most

important sides of human life. “The exact theory of political economy" is

a theory of this kind, a theory which teaches us to follow and understand

in an exact way the manifestations of human self-interest in the efforts of

economic humans aimed at the provision of their material needs. (Investigations, p.87.)


And Helvetius, Mandeville,

and A. Smith knew just as well as any adherent of the historical school of

German economics that self-interest does not exclusively influence the

phenomena of human life. If the last of these had only written his own

theory of public spirit! What distinguishes him and his school from our

historians is the fact that he neither confused the history of economy with

its theory nor even followed one-sidedly that orientation of research

which I designated above with the expression empirical-realistic. Nor,

finally, did he become a victim of the misunderstanding of seeing in theoretical

investigations conducted from the point of view of the free play of

human self-interest uninfluenced by other powers the acknowledgement

of the "dogma" of human self-interest as the only actual mainspring of

human actions. (p.88)

Menger’s “empirical-realistic” method presumes that there is an under-lying (literally, sub-stantial) reality that scientific activity actually dis-covers or un-covers or researches pro-gressively over time. But this notion of Progress is extremely fatuous in any real epistemological sense because what we “discover” as we proceed with scientific research is that this research as activity - and not any under-lying, essential “reality” - is the real essence of science! The insuperable problem with Menger’s specific argument is, of course, that it is quite impossible to identify “individual self-interest” in any way whatsoever, and certainly not in the “quantitative” sense that he clearly intends – as a determinant of market prices, still less as a determinant of value. The problem is not that Adam Smith or whoever failed to distinguish between self-interest and other human interests; the problem is that it is impossible to make such a distinction - and therefore their attempts to put economic inquiry on solid “scientific” and non-political or non-ethical grounds were doomed from the start! The distinction between “positive” and “normative” proves once again to be most elusive for bourgeois science.

Indeed, Menger is so confused about these conceptual relations that he is forced to defend his isolation of the single human being as the “individual” of economic theory by presenting it as the ready-made “individual concrete phenomenon” on which the “phenomenic forms” of economic theory” are based! This is clearly a circuitous definition in which the “individual” as against the “singular” is what lends itself to theorizing through the “typical” and, vice versa, the typical is what is yielded by the theoretical analysis of the individual! The two concepts – the individual and the typical – hold each other up like two drunken sailors leaning against a lamp-post!

Menger fails to identify to any degree whatsoever what makes an individual a concrete phenomenon and what makes it only a “singular phenomenon”. Similarly, he makes us none the wiser about the distinction between individual and general, concrete phenomenon and phenomenic forms. It is quite obvious in the passage below that Menger bases his distinctions on vague notions of “history” and “theory”. But we cannot identify this difference if we simply define “individual” and “general” or “typical” or “form” with “theory”, and “singular” and “concrete phenomenon” with “history”. Indeed, as this long passage illustrates quite conclusively, Menger seems to think that a simple distinction between singular and collective, on one hand, and concrete phenomenon or individual and typical on the other is sufficient to clarify his overall methodological aim of isolating the general from the individual.

2 See Appendix I: "The Nature of National Economy." 3 The "individual" is by no means to be confused with the "singular," or, what is the same thing, individual phenomena are by no means to be confused with singular phenomena. For the opposite of "individual" is "generaL" whereas the opposite of a "singular phenomenon" is the "collective phenomenon." A definite nation, a definite state, a concrete economy, an association, a community, etc., are examples of individual phenomena, but by no means of singular phenomena (but of collective phenomena instead); whereas the phenomenal forms of the commodity, of the use value, of the entrepreneur, etc., are indeed general, but not collective phenomena. The fact that the historical sciences of economy represent the individual phenomena of the latter by no means excludes their making us aware of these from the collective point of view.

Menger is confusedly aware of this, which is why he hastens to distinguish between “single” and “collective” phenomena – again to stress that “individual” does not mean “single” as distinct from “collective” – that, in other words, the scientific foundation of political economy cannot be purely numerical. But if “individual” does not mean “single”, if it is to mean, as Menger intends, “concrete phenomenon”, in what way can the single individual with which he starts his “science” be or represent the “concrete phenomenon” on which the phenomenic forms of “the exact theory of political economy” are to be erected?

This is precisely the error into which Menger has fallen. For, in selecting the single human being as the theoretical basis or “individual” from which his “general” is to be derived, he has failed to specify what makes a single human being “individual” rather than just “singular”! The only factor that he can identify is “human self-interest”. But any student of human history and human affairs should know that “human self-interest” is simply impossible to define and to theorise for “economic” purposes! Furthermore, Menger simply assumes, quite unjustifiably, that human “material needs” are ipso facto “economic”: but this assumption is entirely wrong! If by “economic” we mean “exchange of goods by different legal owners”, it is clear that this is both practically and historically a much narrower area of “human material needs” and of human activity. And this is what Knies was indicating in the quotation above.

Individualism presupposes inter-subjectivity and ownership, and both presuppose a social definition of Value, - which is consequently why “subjective value” is an oxymoron. If you asked Menger what makes self-interest “economic”, he would say that it is “material needs”. But material needs are not and cannot be confined to “individuals” because it is quite simply impossible to parcel out “social needs” into “individual needs” just as it is impossible to dissect social labour into “individual labours”!

If you asked Menger - and all bourgeois economists -, what determines market prices, he would say it is self-interest and specifically “economic” self-interest. But then, if you asked him what measures self-interest, he would say that it is market prices! The identification and measurement of “self-interest”, at least in a causative or aetiological and then even axiological sense (in terms of the ethical claim of producers to products) is the “anthropological” conundrum with which Menger struggled most of his later life: his burgeoning yet fruitless studies in ethnography and his preoccupation with the theory of money truly expose this “desperation” in his theoretical quest, as Hayek attests:

But his interests and the scope of the proposed work continued to expand to wider and wider circles. He found it necessary to go far in the study of other disciplines. Philosophy, psychology and ethnography claimed more and more of his time, and the publication of the work was again and again postponed. In 1903 he went so far as to resign from his chair at the comparatively early age of 63 in order to be able to devote himself entirely to his work, Hayek, “Carl Menger”, Intro. to Principles, p.32)

The normal function of organisms is conditioned by the function

of their parts (organs), and these in turn are conditioned

by the combination of the parts to form a higher unit, or by

the normal function of the other organs.-A similar observation

about social phenomena.-Organisms exhibit a purposefulness

of their parts in respect to the function of the whole

unit, a purposefulness which is not the result of human calculation,

however.-Analogous observation about social phenomena.-

The idea of an anatomical-physiological orientation

of research in the realm of the social sciences results as a

methodological consequence of these analogies between social

structures and natural organisms. (Headings to Part 3 of ‘Investigations’)

Schmoller1 retorted in a polemical form which was necessitated by the occasion, but as regards the subject-matter his approach was by no means simply a negative one. Already at this time he recognized not only that some of Menger's critical observations were justified but also how essentially similar the causal nexus in social science and natural science is; he also described the explanation of social phenomena in the form of cause and effect and in the form of laws—for him at this time both coincided—as the aim of scientific effort. Indeed we find even the far-reaching proposition that all perfect science is 'deductive', that is, that the state of ideal perfection is only reached when it has become possible to explain concrete phenomena completely with the help of theoretical premises. This proposition implies the acknowledgment that such a state of the science is possible in principle—even if in actual fact it


should remain unattainable for us. It also implies a complete rejection of the specifically historical belief in the 'incalculable’ and essentially 'irrational' nature of social events.

The aim of all “scientific activity”, of what Nietzsche called with awesome perspicacity “the will to Truth”, is to arrive at the total “deducibility” of life: “that is, that state of ideal perfection where it becomes possible to explain concrete phenomena completely with the help of theoretical premises”. To explain….and, most important, to predict! Schumpeter meaningfully leaves out the necessary corollary to “the state of ideal perfection” that scientific activity is truly aimed at – not least in the field of “economic science”. The true aim of scientific truth is to remove the normative sphere from human action. Either science is “perfect” and impervious to the sphere of choice and ethics – to values -, or else it is imperfect and cannot be “science” at all! If science is perfect deduction or calculation, no room can be left for history in the field of science. This is precisely what Schumpeter says in the quotation above: This “implies a complete rejection of the specifically historical belief in the ‘incalculable’ and essentially ‘irrational’ nature of social events”.

For it makes no sense to think that an individual’s behavior is “idio-syncratic” – meaning “irrational” – whereas the behavior of many individuals becomes more “rational” by reason of the larger numbers. It makes even less sense to associate “irrationality” or “idiosyncrasy” with “freedom”. These are fallacies into which the Old Historical School very easily fell, only to be attacked by the Historical School of Law (Savigny, Jhering) even before Weber (Roscher und Knies). Indeed, as Weber duly pointed out, “rationality” in the sense of “acting in one’s own interest” and not “irrationality” constitutes the true “freedom” of the individual in society.

But here already, with Savigny and the Historical School of Law and then Windelband, “rationality” is dictated by numbers, by the nomo-thetic. More correctly, rationality no longer has any substantive ethical value in terms of practical human action as it always had in all Western metaphysics from Plato onwards. With the Neoclassics, and explicitly with Weber, rationality becomes naked Rationalisierung – a specific methodical and therefore “rational” – “rational” because methodical! - exercise of social power aimed at maximizing the accumulation of capital or objectified labour.

Menger fails to see just how problematic this nexus between individual idiosyncrasy or “freedom” and general or typical nomothetic “predictability” is, and then above all how impossible the distinction between “individual or concrete phenomena” and the “typical forms”, both in terms of the choice of direction of scientific “research” (Weber, Wissenschaft als Beruf) and the choice of application of that “research”. And finally between “laws” and “things”.

Weber and Menger are right to insist that what is irrational is the individual-social distinction. Yet neither of them was ever able to reconcile individual content and general form – the concrete and the abstract in social theory.

I wish to contest the opinion of those who question the existence of laws of economic behavior by referring to human free will, since their argument would deny economics altogether the status of an exact science. Whether and under what conditions a thing is useful to me, whether and under what conditions it is a good, whether and under what conditions it is an economic good, whether and under what conditions it possesses value for me and how large the measure of this value is for me, whether and under what conditions an economic exchange of goods will take place between two economizing individuals, and the limits within which a price can be established if an exchange does occur—these and many other matters are fully as independent of my will as any law of chemistry is of the will of the practicing chemist. The view adopted by these persons rests, therefore, on an easily discernible error about the proper field of our science. For economic theory is concerned, not with practical rules for economic activity, but with the conditions under which men engage in provident activity directed to the satisfaction of their needs. Economic theory is related to the practical activities of economizing men4 in much the same way that chemistry is related to the operations of the practical chemist. Although reference to freedom of the human will may well be legitimate as an objection to the complete predictability of economic activity, it can never have force as a denial of the conformity to definite laws of phenomena that condition the outcome of the economic activity of men and are entirely independent of the human will. (Principles, Preface, p.48)

Menger wisely draws a distinction, then, between “the complete predictability of economic activity”, which would in fact turn economic theory into a perfect “science”, and “the conformity to definite laws of phenomena that condition the outcome of the economic activity”. In other words, what makes economic science consistent with free human activity is the fact that science cannot entirely predict or determine human choices, but it can specify the “conditions” of those choices or activity. But given that scientific activity, by definition, will never reach this state of “ideal perfection”, of “complete predictability”, it is utterly evident that “science” can never be “science” because it must always and everywhere remain “scientific activity”. There can never be, therefore, what Hayek and Robbins were aiming at when they described economics as “the science of choice” – for the simply devastating reason that perfect science leaves us no choice, and imperfect science itself can only be a “choice”, an “activity”! Thus, “scientific choice” is either a pleonasm – a petitio principii -, or else it is an oxymoron – a contradictio in adjecto. Economics then becomes “the choice of the science of choice” that is, a normative and political decision to apply a specific “method” prescribed by “economists” to the choice of social policy!

Interestingly, Menger includes in the domain of economics the question of “whether” something is “useful”. But then the question of “will” must be included unless we assume that some exchanges must take place and the exchange is pure barter. This “anthropology” is something the other Neoclassics will omit from their “science” because it points to the uncomfortable sphere of use values that are supposedly only “subjective”. Of course, marginal utility theory cannot be concerned with use values because it claims that they are inscrutable, metaphysical entities. Menger’s “empirical-realistic method” reasons in humanistic essentialist or anthropological terms of cause and effect, of “wealth”. By contrast, utility can only be thought of in relative and subjective terms of potential “exchange” – in terms of “marginal utility”. But if these matters of “will” are omitted, the sphere of “whether” and “usefulness” is barred from economics! If they are excluded from economic inquiry, then the content of economics is emptied out: economics becomes pure exchange, pure formal mathematical relations whereby “there is no change in the exchange”! Economics then becomes a study not of use values or technical pro-duction but a mere “tool” (cf. Schumpeter adopting Joan Robinson’s “box of tools” definition of economics) indicating what prices may signify in terms of inscrutable and unknowable, wholly subjective “utilities”. Menger’s subjectivism thus needs to be distinguished from the pure self-interest of neoclassical economic analysis.

Note how Schumpeter distinguishes, in a quotation given above, between “cause and effect” and “economic laws” – suggesting that “the box of tools” contains just “tools of analysis” and not empirical findings of causal relationships – which both Menger and Schmoller did:

He [Schmoller] also described the explanation of social phenomena in the form of cause and effect and in the form of laws—for him at this time both coincided—as the aim of scientific effort.

This is similar to Hayek’s pointing out Menger’s “error” of seeing economic laws as “causational” whereas they are means-ends, science-of-choice, “rational” or “pure logic of choice” relations:

2. An exception should, perhaps, be made for Hack’s review in the Zeitschrift für die gesamte Staatswissenschaft, 1872, who not only emphasized the excellence of the book [Menger’s Principles] and the novelty of its method of approach, but also pointed out as opposed to Menger that the economically relevant relationship between commodities and wants was not that of cause and effect but one of means and end. (Hayek at p.22, fn.2)

Thus, Hayek like Schumpeter draws a clear contrast between the Aristotelianism of Menger and the clearly Neo-Kantian and Machian orientation of the Austrian School from Mises onwards. This vital distinction wholly eludes Peter Klein in his introduction to the Principles where he confuses these two very different approaches:

Economics, for Menger, is the study of purposeful human choice, the relationship between means and ends [m.e.]. “All things are subject to the law of cause and effect,” he begins his treatise. “This great principle knows no exception.”2 Jevons and Walras rejected cause and effect in favor of simultaneous determination, the technique of modeling complex relations as systems of simultaneous equations in which no variable “causes” another. Theirs has become the standard approach in contemporary economics, accepted by nearly all economists but the followers of Carl Menger, (Intro. to Menger’s Principles, at p.8):

Here Klein mistakenly conflates what he intended to distinguish – that is, Menger’s cause-and-effect approach against the mathematical approach of neoclassical analysis. The mathematical approach of Jevons and Walras is based more on a neo-Kantian formalism of equivalence or indifference, so that actual use values and quantities are irrelevant, only ratios of exchange measurable ultimately by a numeraire are possible. All exchange ratios or “prices” are relative and can be fixed only at equilibrium, which is not a point in time but a pure mathematical entity. Menger instead was clearly of the view that economics was not merely a “tool” of analysis but actually an “empirical-realistic” science:

41 Economics has to investigate not only the general nature of those phenomena of human economy which are of "economic" nature, as for example, market price, rates of exchange and stock market quotations, currency, bank notes, commercial crises, etc. It also has to investigate the nature of the singular phenomena of human economy, e.g., the nature of the needs of the individual, the nature of goods, the nature of barter, indeed, even the nature of those phenomena which, being of purely subjective nature, simply appear in the individual, e.g., use value in its subjective form. How could economics draw exclusively on history? To conceive of history as an exclusive empirical basis of the social sciences is a glaring error….(Investigations, p.118)

Classical economics abstracts from use values by restricting their “supply” to what is pro-duced so that only the partial allocation of the total Value (the quantity of labour) to individual items is measured. This supply is taken to be an exogenous amount dependent of the available quantity of “labour” and its productivity in various processes of production. This allocation is then called “exchange value” and the question of use value is eliminated. Except that the substance and the measure are fused and confused as “labour” rather than distinguished as living labour and labour-power respectively so that the intensity of labour (the temporal intensity of labour, Marx’s socially necessary labour time, which is not “necessary” at all – it is simply violence) is left to one side. This mistaken identification by the Classical economists of the substance and measure of value in “labour” is the reason why “labour” and “Value” become metaphysical entities for the Neoclassics.

Menger’s astute criticism of the Classical Labour Theory of Value (in the Principles, Appendices C and D on the “nature” and the “measure of value”, respectively) is precisely that “labour” cannot be at once the content or substance of Value, its “nature”, and also its measure, just as a metre is not space and a second is not time – something that nearly every physicist (cf. Stephen Hawking) fails to understand! This objection formed the entire basis of Marx’s critique of political economy as the metaphysics of labour – the distinction between concrete or living labour (Arbeit) and its abstract or crystallised form as imposed by capitalists, that is to say, labour-power (Arbeits-kraft). (On Marx’s discovery of the Doppelcharakter of labour in capitalism, the fundamental work is M. Tronti, Operai e Capitale.) Marx’s critique clearly did not intend labour value to be an absolute but rather a relative quantity in that “socially necessary labour time” can refer to the labour time made “socially necessary” through the political violence of capitalists. Bohm-Bawerk’s critique of Marx will move from this “quantitative” – hence “essentialist” and objectivist – misunderstanding of Marx’s critique of Value, which Menger was the first to eschew despite his Aristotelian straying.