Commentary on Political Economy

Friday 10 November 2017

Individual and Cosmos

In this final instalment of  our "The Philosophy of the Flesh", our aim is to replace the opposition between individual and society with the participation of individual and cosmos. Events of all kinds surrounding our lives, point us every moment toward the need to supersede this sociological understanding of human being with an ecological notion that places human interests not between human beings inter se but rather between being human and the lifeworld.

The role of science and mathematics in the instrumentalisation of the human abuse and destruction of the lifeworld is absolutely central in a number of ways. First, science and technology are seen as neutral-technical paradigms that allow us to penetrate "the Truth". In reality, instead, science and technology are "specific directions" of human interests and conflict and activity. Second, scientific truth is seen as the result of infinitely repeatable experiments - with the consequent neglect of the fact that repeating an experiment changes the very conditions under which the experiment was performed originally, and therefore obscures the fact that human activity changes the very nature and import of "scientific truth". Finally, logico-mathematics is seen as a neutral-technical tool for the crystallisation of scientific truths. The fallacy here is to think ignore that (a) logico-mathematical identities are not "truths" but mere empty tautologies that, when identical, possess no "truth" because they tell us absolutely nothing, and when not identical they possess no truth by definition! Two apples and two apples do not make four apples - because by the time we "add" one aspect of reality to another aspect of it....we have a very different reality! This is the mystification that logico-mathematics operates and to which we are blinded, through ignorance or through violence.

If we return to the problem of “inflation” and other economic categories, for instance, we will see that – as Arendt herself points out intelligently in ‘HC’ – these can be given a meaningful and measurable role as “a box of tools” (Robinson, Schumpeter) only once the social environment (institutions) has been pre-determined by a certain praxis of political power! (Contrast this devastating insight with the idiotic platitudes of the “New Institutional Economics”.) Yet Arendt never develops this penetrating conception in ‘LotM’, confining herself instead to observing that “scientific truth” is guided by the research choices of scientists and to the fact that this has changed the attitude of scientists to their findings as one of “verities” (infinitely perfectible in the chain of “progress”) rather than “truths” (final and certain), (‘LotM’, pp55-6). Here the problem is that Arendt speaks of “science” in general and fails to understand its “subsumption” to social relations of production. It is this unwarranted, fallacious “separation” of scientific research from social relations that leads her to the equally fallacious separation of the interested use of what she calls “scientific common sense” and the dis-interested use of “sheer thinking” which, through its “critical capacity”, alone is capable of providing “safeguards” against the tendency of scientific research “to force the non-appearing to appear” in its quest for “infinite cognition or knowledge” (p56). Again, like Plato and Mach and Heidegger and myriads of other thinkers, Arendt draws the now well-established confrontation of “philosophers” against “sophists” – a banality that Nietzsche denounced (in ‘ToI’). Unlike Nietzsche and Weber, however, she has failed to integrate this “will to truth” in the broader socio-political context of the “real subsumption of science and technology” by the capitalist social relations of production. 

Once more, the thought of Nicholas of Cusa can assist us in this regard by “bringing into focus” the problem we are confronting.

But Cusanus does not consider ideas to be creative forces in the Neo-Platonic sense. Instead, he requires a concrete subject as the central point and as the point of departure for all truly creative activity. And this subject, according to him, can exist nowhere but in the mind of man. The first and foremost result of this point of view is a new version of the theory ofknowledge. Genuine and true knowledge is not merely directed towards a simple reproduction ofreality; rather, it always represents a specific direction ofintellectual activity. The necessity we recognize in science, and especially in mathematics, is due to this free activity. The mind attains genuine insight not when it reproduces external existence, but only when it 'explicates' itself and its own nature.Within itself, the mind finds the simple concept and 'principle' of the point; and from this, after con- tinuously repeated movements, it produces the line, the surface, and the entire world ofextension. Within itself, the mind fmds the simple idea of'now', out ofwhich unfolds the infmity oftemporal series. Andjust as the basic forms of intuition-space and time-are in this sense 'implied' by the mind, so too are the concepts ofnumber and ofsize, as well as all logical and mathematical categories. In the development of these categories the mind creates arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. In fact, everything logical-the ten predicates, the five universals, etc.-is included in this basic power of the mind. It is the necessary prerequisite to all 'discretion', i.e., all categorization of mul- tiplicity according to species and classes; and it is the necessary pre- requisite to the possibility of tracing the empirical-mutable back to strictly defined laws. (P.41)

Again, we see Nicholas’s insistence on the notion of “Subject” and “the human spirit” as the “source” of the intuition of time and space and in the “creation of ideas and concepts” that are “expressions of human freedom” and that above all bestow “values” that seek “to unite opposites” (Nature and Reason), to oscillate between chorismos and methexis, and even to intuit the divine or the totality from the consciousness of finitude. What is truly novel and most insightful in the thought of Nicholas of Cusa as explicated by Cassirer, however, is the intuition that human science and logico-mathematics itself, far from being pro-ducts  or ef-fects of the per-ception by humans of an “objective reality” that lies beyond our ability to com-prehend and that yet lends itself to being described as “truth” or “error”– far from this, Nicholas finally intuits as Nietzsche will do much later that science and logico-mathematics may be an expression of human activity aimed in a pre-determined or deliberate direction[determinada direccion]!

 “The necessity of science and mathematics” displays in reality- not “the truth”! - but only the “discretion”, the arbitrariness of human action, its de-liberation, its “value-lessness” or, as Nietzsche would say, its “extra-moral sense”! The apex of human arbitrium, of human discretion, is the all too human ability to decree “the necessity of logico-mathematical or scientific laws” that are then traduced into “laws of logico-mathematical and scientific necessity”! That is why Nietzsche claims – with profound intuition – that “human beings find in nature, in the world, what they had already hidden in it”. Far from being “necessary”, such deliberate or discretionary action is “auf Nichts gestellt” – originating from the void or nothingness (Nichts) – in exactly the same way in which Carl Schmitt will challenge the “vicious circle” of legality and legitimacy and the ultimate foundation of sovereignty and the State on the “decision on the exception”. Schmitt, like Donoso Cortes before him, acutely identifies the similarity of “the state of exception” or “dictatorship” that suspends the legal and constitutional order with the status of “miracles”, which suspend the physical order! 

Nicholas of Cusa himself had anticipated Nietzsche with his notion of “conjecture” (cf. his De Conjectura), which is the “hypothesis” behind the “convention”, where the “convention” (axioms, for instance) crystallizes human action so that “hypotheses” (modes of conduct toward the cosmos) can be made about life and the world.

 [Euclid. Extra-temporal time and extra-mundanity]

That is the second basic thought in the docta ignorantia. In relation to theology, this concept affirms the idea of knowing ignorance; with relation to experience and empirical knowledge, it affirms the idea of ignorant knowledge. Experience contains genuine knowledge; but cer- tainly this knowledge must recognize that, although it may go far, it can only reach a relative aim and end, never an absolute. And it must further recognize that in this realm of the relative there can be no exactness, no praecisio: rather, every pronouncement and every measure- ment, be it ever so precise, can and will be superseded by another, more precise. In this sense, all of our empirical knowledge remains a 'proba- bility', an attempt, a hypothesis which, from the very beginning, is reconciled to being superseded by better, more exact attempts. Through this concept of probability, of conjecture, the notion of the eternal 'otherness' ofidea and appearance isjoined with the notion ofthe par- ticipation of the appearance in the idea. Only this union renders pos- sible Cusanus' definition ofempirical knowledge: 'conjectura est posi- tiva assertio in alteritate veritatem uti est participans.'17
Now we have a negative theology together with a positive theory of experience. Neither contradicts the other; rather, each represents one and the same theory of knowledge seen from two aspects. The one truth, ungraspable in its absolute being, can present itself to us only in the realm ofotherness; on the other hand, there is no otherness for us that does not in some way point to the unity and participate in it.18 We must renounce any attempt at identifying the two, any thought of resolving the dualism or ofletting the one realm overlap into the other. But it is just this renunciation that gives our knowledge its relative right and its relative truth. In Kantian language, it shows that our knowledge, to be sure, is bounded by insurmountable limits; but that within the domain assigned to knowledge there are no limits placed upon it. (P.24)

It is clear from the above that “scientific language” (logico-mathematics) is the “instrument” that dis-covers “regularities” in life and the world – but these do not “belong to”, are not “properties of”, life and the world; rather, they are “dictated” by the ability of certain “experiences” to be described in and by that “language”. And this “language” is not simply an “inert and impartial tool”; it is much rather the expression of a certain “attitude” toward life and the world. Not only Nicholas of Cusa, but especially his scientific “inventors” like Galileo, Leonardo and then Kepler and Leibnitz understood that what they were “dis-covering” was quite similar to the Platonic anamnesis in that the “laws of nature”, although independent of the mind were nothing other than the extension and application to life and the world of a “harmony” that was already located in the human spirit and was now “re-called” or “re-collected” by human reason (see Cassirer quotation below at [79] re Leonardo and Galileo and Kepler). 

Nevertheless, this turn towards experience could not have been fruitful and could not have led to a true liberation from Scholasticism ifit had not created a new organ. In his Geschichte der neusprachlichen wissenschafilichen Literatur Olschki has masterfully demonstrated that the two tasks are interconnected and that they could only be solved through each other. The liberation from medieval Latin, the gradual construction
and development o f the volgare as an independent scientific form ofexpression was the necessary prerequisite for the free develop- ment ofscientific thought and its methodological ideals. This confirms the truth and depth of Humboldt's basic view, according to which language does not merely follow thought but, rather, is one of the essential moments in its formation. The difference between Scholastic Latin and modem Italian is not merely a 'difference of sounds and of signs'; rather, it expresses a 'difference in views of the world'. Here again, language did not merely serve as the vessel for the new view of the world; rather, it brought that view forth from within itself, letting it be born together with the form and shape ofthe language itself. The technical thought of the Renaissance moved in the same direc- tion as the linguistic.
In this, too, surprising though it may seem, Cusanus led the way. For in his philosophy, a new meaning and a new place are given to the technical spirit, the spirit of the 'inventor'. When Cusanus sets up and defends his basic view ofknowledge, when he explains that all knowledge is nothing but the unfolding and explica- tion ofthe complication that lies within the simple essence ofthe mind, he is referring not only to the basic concepts of logic, of mathematics, and of mathematical natural science, but also to the elements of tech- nical knowledge and technical creation. The mind develops space out ofthe principle ofthe point, which is in the mind; it develops time out of the simple 'now', and number out of unity. In like manner, an ideal 'blueprint' must precede the mind's working upon nature. Every art and every skill is based on such a blueprint. Besides the categories oflogic, the concepts of geometry and arithmetic, music and astronomy, Cusanus cites such technical accomplishments as the lyre of Orpheus and the astrolabe of Ptolemy as evidence of the independence and eternity ofthe mind.22 To be sure, in exercising its own creative power, the mind does not remain within itself but must have recourse to sensible 'matter', which it forms and transforms. But this does not indicate a retreat from the purely intellectual nature and essence o f the mind.
From this we can understand that a strong 'realistic' influence could stem from the Idealism of Cusanus. And we can also understand that the man who revived the Platonic doctrine of anamnesis could become the founder of modem empirical science and the leader of the great 'empiricists'. They also see no contradiction between 'apriorism' and 'empiricism'; because what they seek in experience is necessity-it is reason itself. When Leonardo refers to experience, it is to discover there the eternal and unchangeable order of reason. His true object is not experience itself but the rational principles, the ragioni that are hidden and, so to speak, incorporated in experience. And he emphatically states that nature is full of 'rational principles' that have not yet been part of experience: Ia natura e piena d' infinite ragioni che non Jurono mai in isperienza.24 Galileo follows the same path. Though he considered himselfa champion ofexperience, he nevertheless emphasized that the mind can only create true, necessary knowledge by its own principles (da per se). In view of this attitude on the part of the leading scientific minds, it becomes understandable that while science was freeing itself from Scholasticisn1, it felt no need to sever the bond that joined it both to ancient philosophy itself, and to the efforts at its restoration. In fact, that bond could now be strengthened.

The importance of this “attitude” or “view” cannot be over-emphasised. The earliest and greatest representatives of modern science and technology, as well as the greatest modern exponents of logico-mathematics, had no doubts or qualms about the fact that their “discoveries” were really an “un-covering” of “the truth”, of the laws of nature. The “necessity” of these laws lay for them not principally in the independent phenomena of nature that they sought to rationalize, but rather in the “instrument” that they adopted to describe them! It goes without saying that “science” thereby was interested only (!) in what could be described and encapsulated in mathematical formulae! Put in other words, “science” does not “dis-cover” the world but rather “orders” it in terms of the instrumental needs of the scientist and the inventor – indeed, the scientist as inventor! -, needs that are now ex-pressed through a new instrumental language, that of logico-mathematics, which, as Cassirer superbly reminds us, is “an essential moment” of the development of theories. The earliest scientists and inventors of the bourgeois era came very close to identifying the implicit nihilism of the transcendental attitude: what stopped them from recognizing it was the very “transcendentalism” that they espoused with regard to the supremacy of the human spirit or Reason, of the “divinity” of the Subject as opposed to “the created world of nature”, the Object.

Depending on the direction this analysis takes, it may lead either to a new metaphysic or to an exact science ofnature. The natural philo- sophy of the Renaissance took the first path. It took up the idea that nature is the 'book ofGod', and then transformed it into a host ofnew variations. Campanella built his entire theory of knowledge and his
entire metaphysics upon this foundation. For him, 'to know' means simply to read the divine signs that God has written into nature. Intelligere means nothing but intus Iegere. 'The world is the statue, the living temple, and the codex of God, into which He wrote and designed those infmitely worthy things He carried in his spirit. Blessed is he who reads in this book and learns from it the way things are and who does not invent things according to his own fancy or according to the opinion of others.'16 Here, a new and specific feeling for nature is expressed in an old parable that can be traced through Cusanus to medieval philosophy, to Augustine and Thomas. But it is significant that these sentences occur at the end ofthe work entitled De sensu rerum et magia. The bond that holds together the innermost recesses ofnature and that joins nature to man is still conceived of completely as a magical-mystical bond. Man can only understand nature by inserting his own life into it. The limits of his feeling for life, the barriers to a direct sympatheticfeeling ofnature, are at the same time the limits ofhis
knowledge ofnature.

The opposite form of interpretation is found in that study of nature
that leads from Cusanus through Leonardo to Galileo and Kepler. It is not satisfied with the imagistic and sensible force of the signs in which we read the spiritual structure of the universe; instead, it requires of these signs that they form a system, a thoroughly ordered whole. The sense ofnature must not be mystically felt; it must be understood as a logical sense. And this requirement can only be fulfilled by means of mathematics. Only mathematics establishes unequivocal and necessary standards against the arbitrariness and uncertainty of opinions. For Leonardo mathematics becomes the dividing line between sophistry and science. Whoever blames the supreme certainty of mathematics feeds his mind with confusion. Whoever relies on individual words falls prey to the uncertainty and ambiguity characteristic o f the single word, and fmds himself entangled in endless logomachies.17 Only mathe- matics can give a purpose to these disputes in that it fixes the meanings of words and subjects their connections to defmite rules. Instead of a mere aggregate of words, mathematics gives us a strictly syntactical structure of thoughts and propositions.
Galileo takes this path to its very end. For him, the individual sense
perception, no m4tter how intense or forceful it may be, is a mere 'name'; it neither 'says' anything nor has any objectively definite meaning.18 Such meaning is born only when the human mind relates the content of the perception to the basic forms of knowledge, the archetypes of which are in the mind itsel£ Only through this relation- ship and this interpenetration does the book ofnature become readable and comprehensible. Thus, from Cusanus' basic notion of 'indestruc- tible certitude' (incorruptibilis certitudo), which is proper to none ofthe symbols necessary and possible to the mind except the mathematical signs, we move in a continuous historical line and arrive at those famous fundamental and guiding principles by which Galilee defines the aim and the character ofhis research. And when the revelation of the 'book of nature' is juxtaposed to the revelation of the bible, the process of secularization is completed. There can be no fundamental opposition between them since both represent the same spiritual sense in different forms, i.e., since the unity ofthe divine originator ofnature is manifested in them. But if a disagreement between them should nevertheless seem to arise for us, it can only be settled in one way: we must prefer the revelation in works to that in words; for the word is something ofthe past and oftradition, whereas the work, as something at hand and enduring, stands before us, immediate and present, ready to be questioned.19

This is a point of the greatest importance that can be derived from, but is not made explicit in Heidegger’s Kantbuch, his lamentably much-neglected “sequel” to Being and Time. Indeed, the opposite is the case because Heidegger, as we shall see, remains chained to the “transcendental attitude” that we are de-structing here. In the tradition of the negatives Denken, Heidegger seeks to re-found metaphysics through a punctilious critical review of Kant’s epistemology which, he claims, was always intended as a meta-physics, though an ultimately flawed one. The “flaw” lies precisely in what we are discussing here: - the Kantian pre-requisite of a “separation” (chorismos or “gap”, hiatus) between noumenon and phenomenon between which he coveted a “bridge” (Ubergang) through the “mediation” of per-ception and con-ception by the Understanding or Intellect and its “constitutive” Schematismus that is ultimately “regulated” by Pure Reason. Kant’s “logic” – the Analytic that is founded on the Aesthetic – is so “formal”, so much the product not of experience itself but of Kantian moral formalism, the Sollen, that it invited the recriminations of Schopenhauer. Above all, it inspired the dialectical idealism of Fichte, Schelling and Hegel, in whose direction Nietzsche poured his atrabilious ridicule for what he lampooned as “cunning theology”. Of course, Marxian philosophy sprang from these transcendental, indeed theo-logical, loins - so much so that in Marx the valiant attempt at immanence is always threatened by the teleological tendency of his critique, which is what prompted R H Tawney to immortalize him as “the last of the Schoolmen”.

Now, we agree with Kant that for a sequence of homogeneous concepts or events it is impossible to be described consistently and coherently by individual elements that are dependent on that sequence for their meaning. And we agree with Heidegger that Leibnitz’s Principle of Sufficient Reason is flawed in that the “criterion” of what makes a “reason to be” sufficient needs to be made explicit given that “what is” is only an aspect or “moment” of becoming. But this does not apply to the “materiality” of our perception of life and the world which, whilst it does not com-prehend life and the world, yet at the same time is a part of it without which the very notion of life and the world, of “totality”, would have no meaning whatsoever. The notions of “Totality” and “Truth” can ec-sist as “notions” only because there is no such “thing” or “being” as totality or truth. Hegel’s “dialectic of self-consciousness” seeks to overcome the dualism of Kantian formal logic by introducing an “evolutionary” dimension that is “historical” only as a “moment” in the extrinsication of the Idea. Hegel supersedes Cartesian and Kantian transcendental idealism by “radicalizing” the Subject – in effect by making the Subject objectify itself. This is the Eskamotage to which all post-Hegelians (from Feuerbach to Bruno Bauer to Marx) and the negatives Denken (from Schopenhauer to Heidegger) objected with varying degrees of relevance and success, and then tried to supplant with their own teleologies.  

Our aim here is to overcome the “transcendental attitude” (Merleau-Ponty) by exposing its fallacies and antinomies; and then to pursue a return to immanence. Indeed, the point we are making is that once we understand properly the character and content of our perception of life and the world – its full immanence and materiality -, the very notion of “totality” (Kant’s “Thing in itself”, Schopenhauer’s “qualitas occulta”, Heidegger’s “Totalitat” or Jaspers’s “Um-greifende”) becomes contra-dictory. This is a conclusion that Nietzsche reached originally and that we have styled (partially, because as we have seen there are important corollaries to it) “Nietzsche’s Invariance” – and one that even Merleau-Ponty has articulated with great acumen and indeed…”perceptiveness”.

In a nutshell, philosophy has always perceived that human consciousness is “consciousness of some thing”, and therefore it is only a “partial” perspective on life and the world because it is “only a part of it”. Yet at the same time consciousness attempts to com-prehend the world: to de-fine it, to en-compass it and to encapsulate it – which it cannot do because life and the world are “greater” than consciousness. This “greater” – that without which consciousness cannot aspire to or claim “totality” – can be called the qualitas occulta, the “whatness” or quidditas of the world, its “essence”, its sub-stance (what “stands under” the world), that which subtends the world in its totality. Yet it is precisely this con-ception of “life and the world” as an ob-ject (“that”) that constitutes a “quantity”, a “whole” (“totality”, “part”, “greater”) that is the proton pseudos, the fundamental fallacy of this “Welt-anschauung”, of this “view” or perspective of the world! Starting with Kant, and continuing particularly with Schopenhauer and the negatives Denken, philosophy has renounced the task of com-prehending life and the world understood as a whole, as a “totality”. Utterly mis-conceived and mistaken, therefore, must remain for us Jaspers’s attempt to interpret Nietzsche’s critique in the perspective of “totality”, of the Um-greifende. It is exactly this “totality” as well as the Schopenhauerian “powerless” [ohn-machtig] illusion of “renouncing” it [!] that Nietzsche shatters forever. This “renunciation” or Entsagung represents the attempt by the bourgeoisie to eschew every “totality”, every inter esse or “common being” of humanity, preferring instead to highlight the ineluctable “conflict”, the “strife and struggle”, the Eris that characterizes relations between human beings as in-dividuals – that is, not in their “species-conscious being” or Gattungswesen (Marx) or phylo-genetic shared traits, but rather in their “onto-genetic” idiosyncrasies (Nietzsche). But whereas the bourgeoisie always relegates the construction of a humanized society to the unreachable horizon of utopian dreams, to the empyrean of “the human spirit”, the better to underline the futility of all attempts to overturn the established order of things, Nietzsche pitilessly de-structs precisely this bourgeois U-topia, this “opium of the masses”, this “kingdom of shadows” – this “true world” as well as the “apparent” world because these two worlds have “meaning” only in their op-position! By overcoming their opposition, Nietzsche was able to dispose of both worlds and to enter a wholly new dimension of the human perception of reality. It is thus that Nietzsche overcame both the Hegelian “spiritualization” (Vergeistigung) and the Weberian “dis-enchantment” (Ent-zauberung, Ent-seelung) – which are still products of the transcendental attitude and whose progeny is nihilism itself.

The peculiar praxis of the bourgeoisie resides precisely in this: - that whilst it posits the dualism of idea and reality, of subject and object, of soul and form, so as to interiorize or spiritualise life and the world – to reduce all praxis to Utopia -, at the same time the bourgeoisie renounces and denounces this U-topia (literally, no place) as inter esse, whilst it still traduces, exalts and elevates it as “in-dividuality”, as (private) inter-est for its own purposes, the better to seize on the effectuality of its instrumental praxis by constructing an entire “technico-scientific” reality around it. 

The problem is to show how it is possible for this instrumental praxis to become “scientific”, how this praxis can be “crystallised” (a term that Marx then Nietzsche and Simmel and Weber used) to become an “objective reality” – a reification. Part of the answer is that the bourgeoisie narrows, restricts and reduces the scope and sphere of human action to such an extent that its “science” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy! Contrary to what both Marx and Lukacs (or Weber with the homologous concept of Rationalisierung) believed, it is quite impossible – indeed, contra-dictory – for reification (or the fetishism of commodities) to be “a necessary illusion” in a “scientific” or mechanistic sense – because what distinguishes “reification” (or Nietzsche’s Verinnerlichung, that is, the “interiorisation” of social values) is precisely its “arbitrariness”, its utter contingency. The “necessity” of the “illusion” consists not in any “scientific” inevitability or logical inexorability, not in any “automatism”, but precisely in its arbitrariness (!), in its ec-sistence as a sheer ex-ercise of naked power, co-ercion and co-action made possible by the very “instrumentality” of the “science” or “the will to truth” that mathesis allows! In other words, it is exactly and precisely the ab-straction from life and the world that mathesis allows that permits the so-called “rationalization of the world”. The “iron necessity” of the “illusion” that reification represents is given by and made possible by the reduction of power relationships, of “violence”, to the status of mere ciphers, of mathesis. 

This is the “truth” (intended as the out-come, the “success” or effectuality [Er-folg], of “the will to truth”) of Nietzsche’s Invariance! Contrary to an almost universal belief, it is precisely (!) the precision of the mathematical exakte Kalkulation(Weber’s phrase) that enables, not the dis-covery of “truth”, but instead the en-forcement, the co-action of violent strategies! The limit of the Weberian Rationalisierung, re-cast in Marxist garb as “reification” by Lukacs, is that it hypostatizes “reification” itself (!) because it presents it either as the outcome of Zweck-rationalitat (Weber) - which, as we have shown in the ‘Weberbuch’, is an im-possible operation if we adopt Weber’s notion of “technical rationality”, the product of a flawed (Simmelian) formalism. Or else it presents it (Marx-Lukacs) as the “quantification” of labour-time – again a task that is either contra-dictory because human labour cannot be quantified; or else it is self-defeating because it admits what it seeks to condemn, - that labour time is “quantifiable” as “socially necessary labour time” and that therefore all that is wrong with reification is the “theft of labour time” as surplus value extraction. In effect, Marx-Lukacs concede the “possibility” of the quantification of human living labour, shifting the emphasis of “exploitation” from the social relation of alienated labour – the violent reduction of human living labour to dead labour - in the process of production to that of “distribution” of the social product. Interestingly, whereas the former notion (of alienated labour) points to a broader political scope of capitalist exploitation, the latter (the moralistic notion of “theft of labour time”) becomes frankly "reductionist" and “scientistic” – in effect “reifying” living labour and the notion of “production” in a “technical-scientistic” sense in terms of “the reproduction of society”, as well as “moralistic” in the sense denounced by Nietzsche. This is exactly what Habermas seeks to expose with his neo-Kantian “meta-critique” of Marx; and yet simultaneously it is the problem he elides and thus con-serves by “spiritualizing” or “idealizing” it through the notion of “reflection”! By op-posing “reflection” as theoretical action to “labour” understood as instrumental action, Habermas regresses to that dualism of Nature and Reason that Merleau-Ponty so elegantly indicts in our opening quotation.

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