Sunday, 25 October 2020

TOTALITARIAN ECONOMICS

TOTALITARIAN ECONOMICS is perhaps the most challenging study we have presented to date. - Which is why we are posting it in instalments. The aim of the study is to draw the enlightening parallels between economic theory and the political concepts that it never addresses where it does not actively seek to conceal - and their ultimate link to a vision of social totality and co-ordination, of orchestration and regimentation, that justifies our use of the epithet "totalitarian" to orthodox bourgeois economic analysis.

 

The notion of axiomatic mathematical truth as “despotic” was not lost on the earliest theoreticians of the doctrine of the Absolutist State – the “statolatrists” – in Renaissance Europe. Yet again, it was Hannah Arendt who came closest to intuiting the complex problematic of logico-mathematical id-entities or “laws” and the theorization of ab-solute power in On Revolution:

 

There is perhaps nothing surprising in that the Age of Enlightenment should have become aware of the compelling nature of axiomatic or self-evident truth, whose paradigmatic example, since Plato, has been the kind of statements with which we are confronted in mathematics. Le Mercier de la Riviere was perfectly right when he wrote: 'Euclide est un veritable despote et les verites geometriques qu'il nous a transmises sont des lois veritablement despotiques. Leur despotisme legal et le despotisme personnel de ce Legislateur n'en font qu'un, celui de la force irresistible de l'evidence';26 and Grotius, more than a hundred years earlier, had already insisted that 'even God cannot cause that two times two should not make four'. (Whatever the theological and philosophic implications of Grotius's formula might be, its political intention was clearly to bind and

Foundation II:Novus Ordo Saeclorum 193

limit the sovereign will of an absolute prince who claimed to incarnate divine omnipotence on earth, by declaring that even God's power was not without limitations. This must have appeared of great theoretical and practical relevance to the political thinkers of the seventeenth century for the simple reason that divine power, being by definition the power of One, could appear on earth only as superhuman strength, that is, strength multiplied and made irresistible by the means of violence. In our context,contex~, it is important to note that only mathematical laws were thought to be sufficiently irresistible to check the power of despots.) The fallacy of this position was not only to equate this compelling evidence with right reason –the dictamen rationis or a veritable dictate of reason - but to believe that these mathematical 'laws' were of the same nature as the laws of a community, or that the former could somehow inspire the latter. Jefferson must have been dimly aware of this, for otherwise he would not have indulged in the somewhat incongruous phrase, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident', but would have said: These truths are self-evident, namely, they possess a power to compel which is as irresistible as despotic power, they are not held by us but we are held by them; they stand in no need of agreement. He knew very well that the statement 'All men are created equal' could not possibly possess the same power to compel as the statement that two times two make four, for the former is indeed a statement of reason and even a reasoned statement which stands in need of agreement, unless one assumes that human reason is divinely informed to recognize certain truths as self-evident; the latter, on the contrary, is rooted in the physical structure of the human brain, and therefore is 'irresistible'. (pp.192-3)

 

In the passages Arendt quotes above, both Mercier and Grotius seek to equiparate the irresistible rational power of mathematical reasoning with the political power of kings, and indeed God himself. But mathematical power is democratic, it is egalitarian, and no political power can change its truth. There are “truths”, therefore, that are beyond the reach of political power; and this realization ought to show those who hold political power that there are limits to its exercise. The obvious objection is that, as Arendt indicates, political power is conventional, the fruit of agreement between subjects and monarch, whereas mathematical power is hypothetical because it does not compel specific humans to do or refrain from doing something. Yet, Mercier at least, in seeking to identify the source of mathematical power, actually mentions Euclid – a human being! -, indicating thereby that there is something conventional about mathematical power, too: there is, after all, a history of mathematics: mathematics itself is a “science” in constant evolution! Indeed, when we look closer into the “truth” of mathematics we discover that there is no “truth” at all in it: the definiens is already in the definiendum; it is not just the conclusion that is analytically contained in and deduced from the premises, but the premises are already implicit in the conclusion as well! In other words, mathematics is strict tautology: it tells us nothing; it is meaningless. – Which is not to say that it does not have a “use”, a “purpose”. Indeed, mathematics is the ultimate tool in that its use or purpose is coherent with the real objects to which it is applied. In this consists the purity of mathematics: - that it only takes on meaning when it is applied to a hypothesis about what is possible, to possible actions and outcomes.

 

Far from being the ultimate protection against political arbitrariness, as both Mercier and Grotius understood them, it is the very fact that the axiomatic rules of mathematics and logic can never acquire the status of ab-solute ultimate truth and value that reveals their ineluctable con-ventionality and therefore the im-possibility of truth, the utter value-lessness of life and the world! It is for this precise and quite understandable reason that Mercier and Grotius both feel tempted, induced to equiparate logico-mathematical necessity with political coercion – because “logico-mathematical necessity” is the ultimate instance of the ability of human beings to transmute a symbolic convention – indeed, a sterile tautology – into a tool that can be applied to a hypothetical reality so as to turn it forcefully, experimentally, into a politically reality, a fait accompli, a coercive outcome or result – indeed, even into a “scientific law”. This is the “secret” of the Rationalisierung!

 

Arendt completely fails to see that both logico-mathematical and juridical-ethical “laws” are con-ventional – as Hobbes, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein have taught us), and that therefore they too require “agreement” (!) just like juridical-ethical and nomothetic (regular) behavioural laws, which can also be given ab-solute logico-mathematical axiomatic form, as in game theory, and can then become a “fate” (in Wittgensteinian language games), which is the opposite of what “truth” is supposed to be!

 

Arendt assumes here that the “truth” of political coercion and power differs from the “truth” of mathematical calculation because the one is “conventional” and the other is “hypothetical”. The problem is that neither political coercion nor mathematical tools are “true” – they are both conventional in the devastating sense that even the latter can be applied hypothetically to any human reality at all. Convention here does not refer to “subjectively free agreement”: in fact, logico-mathematical tautologies are irresistible and inconfutable because they are purely conventional. Conventional here means “not corresponding to any objective reality because empty of content” – purely categorical thought, empty vessels and tools. The only reality open to logico-mathematical tools is that of a hypothesis that arms these categorical tools with contents or variables intended to lead by way of hypothesis to specific outcomes or results. Even the most “irresistible laws” (Arendt), the “laws” of logico-mathematics, are just as conventional as “the laws of a community” – indeed they are even more conventional precisely because they do not require agreement! They only acquire a meaning – and therefore agreement - when they are given a hypothetical purpose to achieve an intended outcome or result. Otherwise, if not applied, if pure, mathematical tools have no meaning at all because they are tauto-logical, hence purely, ab-solutely (unconditionally) conventional.

 

Indeed, it is the ultimate “con-ventionality” of even logico-mathematical “laws” that demonstrates how all laws, including moral and juridical ones, are ultimately “con-ventional” and therefore political. If mathematical laws pointed to a Truth, to a Universal Value or Summum Bonum or Good, then they would not be mere conventional tools or instruments whose only “use” is to be applied to real entities. But because they do not, because they are mere arbitrary and conventional tautological empty vessels, their value coincides with their use, with their purpose, with their hypothetical application to a given goal or objective – which is where and how political convention and scientific hypothesis meet!

 

According to what we have styled “Nietzsche’s invariance”, if truth existed we could not think of it , we could not con-ceive of it, we could not grasp or detect it: – it would be removed to the status of Leibniz’s intuitus originarius, what Arendt calls above “[a] human reason… divinely informed to recognize certain truths as self-evident” - which is why Nietzsche could satirize that the “higher” a “truth” becomes, the less “truthful” it grows because it becomes more “intuitive” and therefore less “provable” and more “de-monstrable” (in Wittgenstein’s sense of “showing”)! In other words, the ontological status of “truth” is “invariant”, makes no dif-ference, has no real material and practical impact on human affairs except for its impact as a “belief”, as a “faith”, as a “will to truth”! (This argument as applied to Leibnitz is in Heidegger’s Metaphysical Foundations of Logic.)

 To recapitulate, it is a common fallacy to mistake mathematical equivalence with “truth”. Indeed, it is common for some philosophers to claim, in the interests of democracy and political equality, that even God himself is subject to their “truth”. But where this equivalence represents mathematical symbols and operations, it is quite simply and incontrovertibly a tautology. In and of themselves, mathematical equations do not tell truth: they do not refer to any objective value or reality: they tell us absolutely nothing. – Which is why mathematical equations are purely conventional, and the hypothetical applications to which they are put are problematic in the extreme. This is because the moment we use these mathematical tools and equations to calculate elements of experience that we reduce to objectified and quantified entities or variables, then and only then do these tools assume a purpose because we attribute to them an intended meaning that they clearly lack so long as they are mere equivalences: they become hypothetical, coercive, because they embody the will of the hypothesizer who selects the purpose of conducting and testing the experimental hypothesis.

 

In other words, to the extent that calculations pretend to have meaning because they are applied to real entities, they are false. And to the extent that they lack meaning because they are pure, not applied to real entities, they are just tautological and therefore conventional: they tell us nothing about any objective reality or “truth”. They tell us nothing outside the hypothetical purpose for which we seek to manipulate the real categories and entities to which we apply the mathematical operations. It follows that mathematical calculations or “tools” can never be neutral – because to the extent that they are not applied to real categories, they are meaningless or tautological, and to the extent that they are so applied, they must be used for a purpose, whereby their “neutrality” is invalidated!

Mathematical id-entities and logical axioms are borderline concepts (Schmitt, Politische Theologie); they de-monstrate (in the Wittgensteinian sense of “showing”, “pointing to” but never explaining meaningfully or proving!) both the ultimate attempt and the ultimate inability of the human mind to con-ceive of “truth and value” as objective entities: they represent therefore not only the ultimate de-monstration of the “un-reality” of “truth and values”, their conventionality ; but also and most terrifying of all the possibility of turning human conventions and arbitrariness into science and logic through their hypothetical application as calculating tools. 

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