“HEALTH, NOT WEALTH”:
A CRITIQUE OF THE ASSUMPTIONS OF MODERNIST
NEOLIBERAL ECONOMIC THEORY
Why is economic theory so damn important? I majored in both philosophy and religious studies. I was primarily interested in issues drawn from the ancient near east’s religions and western theology, and issues drawn from Greek philosophy - ontology and metaphysics. For a long time, I did not feel economics was relevant to more important questions about the nature of reality found, for instance, in conversation with Mahayana Buddhism and the philosophy of physics.
In the early seventies, I helped organize a student led group within the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL) to re-start investigations into the “historical Jesus”. That group helped spark a larger interest and a resurgence of investigations into wider research about the historical Jesus in the SBL and beyond. As a result of Biblical scholarship pioneered by much more qualified researchers than I, many papers and books emerged applying sociological and economic models to the texts of the New Testament and other ancient documents. There was a time I thought that Jesus was just a “spiritual” teacher who dispensed salvation in religious language from “beyond” his time and place. I began to realize that buried just below reading the texts with that presupposition were terms Jesus used laden with economic and political importance. One clear example is the Lord’s Prayer – “our daily bread” and “forgive us our debts”. Several early studies – Jesus Before Christianity (1976) and papers by Douglas Oakman eventuating in Jesus and the Economic Questions of his Day(1986) - cemented my conviction that Jesus employed definite economic perspectives in his historical situation as a Jew “resistant” to the effects of occupation, with an alternative socio-political-economy response to the Imperial Roman Empire drawn mostly from the historical expressions of Exile and Exodus. It is my presupposition that by the time Jesus started his “ministry”, he had definite socio-political-economy-religious perspectives which may have stayed pretty much constant or may have continued to evolve as he lived his life in Israel occupied by the Romans and their legions.
In 1981-83 I studied all social studies subjects including economic theory to pass the NTE test in social studies, so I could get out of teaching math and physical science. Yet even as late as 1983 I dismissed serious study of the economic theory proposed by Herman Daly. Due to the staid mastery of economic theory by John Cobb and a master’s in Global Education, by 1988 I was teaching a course in economics at a high school in California.
My awareness of the importance of economic theory was birthed by my realization of the “historicity” of Jesus in his socio-religious-political-economic setting. He was not just a “spiritual” teacher. It was refined by my growing recognition that economics was somehow underneath and behind the growing ecological crises that had been plaguing the U.S. and the planetary creation. But how? This paper is a long-delayed answer to that question.
The Western world needs a “Second Enlightenment” and a new Second Enlightenment economic theory. The former proposition has been advanced in a book, The Second Enlightenment, published in China by Meijun Fan and Zhihe Wang (fn1). The latter goal has already been accomplished in 1989 when Herman Day and John Cobb, Jr. published For the Common Good (FCG). So, the assumed background for this paper is based on the analysis of the history of economic theory and the philosophy of economic theory accomplished by Herman Daly and John B. Cobb in For the Common Good . This paper carries forward and advances their effort in ways that are hopefully congenial with their post-modern paradigm shift in economic theory.
However, the conceptual framework for this paper is the further explication of economic theory discussed by John Cobb and developed by him in a series of papers written between 1998 and 2003. These references are set into the text of the paper at the point of reference inside quotation marks with the page number where the reference is found in his particular paper. All of Cobb’s papers used herein are listed in the “Bibliography” at the end of this paper under “Cobb, Jr., John B.” All of these papers are available online at http://www.religion-online.org/author/john-b-cobb-jr/ . Except for an overall perspective, I have relied on FCG very little in the development of the details of the proposals made in this elaboration of “an” economic theory based on Whitehead’s process philosophy.
The audience for this paper is not in the academy of scholars. It lies in the domain of common people of good will, especially in China, for whom the effects of all types of industrialization and corporatization on the “natural world” by modernist neo-liberal economic theory have become intolerable. Among these people are those in the sciences of all areas of biology, ecology, atmospheric science, oceanography, and those influenced by the “life sciences” as well as those related to the world’s “wisdom traditions”. Therefore, it is written as though reading it is an educational tutorial in learning about economic terminology and theory. Economic terms and concepts are introduced and repeated continually in multiple contexts with different variations in order to provide context and familiarity through repetition for the novice economist.
I began writing this paper in very early January 2020 before the covid-19 crisis. I am learning much about applied process philosophy from Gov. Cuomo of New York state. On April 20 Gov. Cuomo said,” What anyone does, effects everyone else.” And, “We’re all dependent on each other.” As I draw out the implications of a Whiteheadian account of economics in III.A-C, I describe how these statements are literally and physically true. A few days later Gov. Cuomo asserted, “Reimagine our economic future and build back better.” His message is akin to a philosophy of “recreation”. On April 26, he restated this assertion. We must “take the lessons learned and become better”. Gov. Cuomo says we must “reimagine” and “improve” and “build back better”. We can’t return to the unprepared days of yesterday. These are concepts and ideas advocated by Gov. Cuomo are very much in line with the ‘applied’ perspectives of “process philosophy”. As we reopen our economy, we should not go back to the way things were culturally or economically in our own lives. Why not really try to recreate our economy too? Why not give up the need to return to the past economies not based on mindfulness of and preparation for an inclusively healthy future for people and Planet? Following Gov. Cuomo, can we across cultures and national boundaries reimagine, revise, and remake what societies have done in the past?
As you will be able to tell, this paper and its thesis is being ‘birthed’ within the fierce “urgency of now” of the covid-19 global crisis. [[After 6-8 weeks of “stay at home” orders in the U.S. by state officials, some minority in several states is protesting in large cities the economic downturn of the mandatory shut down. In my estimation, a visible crack in society is appearing between those who are addicted to the increase of “gross domestic production” (GDP) and are opening up businesses and commerce in spite of the threat to the health and lives of many of their neighbors and friends. Some have even suggested that we reopen the economy and let the virus “wash through” the population. Clearly, their summum bonum is the GDP and wealth creation. I will suggest that we take this “time-out”, the New York “pause”, to “flatten the carbon-curve” the way we should be flattening the covid-19 curve.
We already know that most people are individualistically addicted to a growing GDP over the effects on their local and global environments. But now it is becoming clear that many will be addicted to their “individual liberty” and economic growth over the lives of their own community members. Now would be the time to implement Gov. Cuomo’s exhortation to ““Reimagine our economic future and build back better.” What if we did not commute to work by car unless it is necessary and, then only if its electric? What if we reconstitute our health care system so that all private facilities cooperate as in New York and the public health system is increased dramatically to prepare for the next pandemic that climate change will bring? What if we really enjoy spending lots of time with our families and strive to give everyone more “at home” community time in spite of the lowering of GDP? What if we don’t forget all the “essential workers” in the food, transportation, and health care sectors who are the facilitators that allow the rest of us to function? What if they all got public recognition and extra pay?
What if we enlarge our understanding of the goals of a revised, post-pandemic economy towards “holistic health”? What if we expand our “wants” from only goods and services to include expanded family and leisure time, development of our “whole self” via the arts and humanities, the enlargement and expansion of research facilities for scientific study to ensure the viability of “public health” as an essential “national security”, and restoration of a truly healthy eco-biosphere? These would be valuing the “public interest” over GDP and elevating the “common good” of “holistic health” over consumption.
I. Economic Assumptions Underlying Modernist
Neo-Liberal Economic Theory……………………………….20
I.A. The Economic Order is of Primary Importance and Its Ultimate Value is Economic Growth for Wealth Creation.20
I.C. Increased Efficiency of Labor Productivity…………………25
I.D. Larger Markets plus De-Regulation and Privatization..26
II. Philosophic Assumptions Underlying the
Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory……………….28
II.A. Modernist Dualistic, Reductionistic, Mechanistic, Substance Metaphysics…………………………………………………..29
II.A.1. Reductionistic Materialism………………………………………………33
II.A.2. Mechanistic, Physical Causation………………………………………34
II.A.3. Teleology of Subjectivity………………………………………………….35
II.B. Modernist’s Subtle Dualistic Bifurcation of the
Human and the Natural: “human” vs. “nature”………………38
II. C. The Modernist Theory of Human Nature or Homo Economicus…………………………………………………………………….43
Unlimited, Insatiable-Unending Wants-Desires plus Limited Resources Determine a World of Scarcity and Competition……………………………………………….48
Atomistic, Self-contained Individuals with External Relations……………………………50
Self-Interest and Utility Maximization……………………………………………………………….51
If Homo Economicus Is the Valid Perspective…………………………………………………….55
What if Homo Economicus, as an Abstraction and Proposition About Human Nature, is Partially Valid, but Vastly Incomplete?.................................................55
III. Critique of Philosophic Assumptions Underlying the Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory from A Constructive Post-Modernist, Whiteheadian Perspective………………………………………………………………………….56
III.A.1. Critique of Modernist Reductionistic, Mechanistic SubstanceMetaphysics…………………………………………………………..61
Dominance of Atomism in Modern Thought………………………………………63
“Minds” Are Also “Substances”, But There’s a Fatal Flaw……………………65
Explanation of Whitehead’s Non-Substantial “Event” or “Actual Occasion” Metaphysics………………………………………………………………68
Process Implications for Non-substantial Metaphysics and Economics.73
III.A.2 Organic, not Mechanistic, Causation……………………………75
WHITEHEAD’s Organic, “Event” Description of Causation…………………..76
Process Implications for Causation and Economics…………………………….80
III.A.3. Teleology of Subjectivity………………………………………..82
Whitehead’s “Event” Account of Subjectivity and Teleology………..83
Process Implications for Subjectivity and Teleology……………………..88
III. B. Modernist’s Subtle Dualistic Bifurcation of the
Human and the Natural: human vs. nature ……………………..91
Whitehead: “The many become one and are increased by one.”….96
III. C. The Modernist Theory of Human Nature or Homo Economicus……………………………………………………………………..102
The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness: Homo Economicus as Abstraction…………………………………………………………………………….105
The Transition from Description to Normative Use…………………….106
Substance Metaphysics Promotes Highly Individualistic Economics……………………………………………………………107
Four Consequences of Individualistic Economic Theory……………..108
What the Substance Metaphysical Vision Precludes…………………..110
Whiteheadian Perspectives for Postmodern Economic Theory – Introduction………………………………………………………………..113
A Contrasting Whiteheadian Account of Human Nature…………….115
Unlimited, Insatiable-Unending Wants-Desires plus Limited Resources Determine a World of Scarcity and Competition……….116
Separate Atomistic, Self-contained Individuals with External Relations……………………………………………………………..119
Substantial Atom Moving in Space…………………………………………….121
Innately Acquisitive, but not covetous or greedy of goods and services……………………………………………………………………..122
Self-Interest and Utility Maximization …………………………………………….124
Rational Homo Economicus……………………………………………………………..129
Consequential Whiteheadian “Process” Perspectives……………………131
Persons or “Individuals” in Community……………………………………………134
Community of Communities - Process Ethics…………………………………..138
IV. Critique of the Assumptions of Modernist Neo- Liberal Economic Theory from A Constructive Post-Modernist, Whiteheadian Perspective: “Holistic health, not GDP wealth”!..............................................139
IV. A. The Summum Bonum is the “common good” - the “holistic health” of all Lifeforms throughout Earth - of all “persons-in-community” (people and human community) and of all “lifeforms-in-community” throughout the Earth’s ecosphere………………………………………..143
IV. B. Abundance, not Scarcity, Means Cooperation-Collaboration, not Competition - “Homo vita”……………………..145
IV. C. Greater Efficiency of Market Activity Other Than Labor Productivity for the Production of Goods and Services………..147
IV. D. Local-Regional-State-National-International Markets OR Watershed-Bioregional-Mega-Bioregion-Intercontinental Markets with Appropriate Regulation and Privatization ……………………………………………….151
Many descriptions of the principles of standard neo-liberal economic theory are available in textbooks. But most of these are outlined fully developed (or “full blown”) without disclosing and examining underlying assumptions or the final sources of value or goals around which the principles of the economic system are formed. In the following pages, I will examine and critique six of the stated and also the veiled assumptions of modernist neo-liberal economic theory as it is currently formulated. Among these latter presuppositions are three crucial philosophical premises which are “veiled” and not recognized in the statements of the principles which guide the theory.
From a post-modern perspective, until these assumptions are made explicit and critically evaluated, this vision and understanding will continue to dominate the commitment of political leaders and their policies in the legislatures of national governments around the globe and to be socially accepted by people in those cultures. (ECG, 1) The four objectives of this paper are: I) to examine the globalist economic assumptions of modernist, neo-liberal economic theory, II) to unmask and clearly explain the philosophical presuppositions and philosophical assumptions of that economic theory, III) to provide a constructive post-modern, Whiteheadian critique of the unexamined philosophical assumptions which underlie the modernist worldview in which that theory was constructed, and IV) provide a constructive post-modern Whiteheadian critique and partial reconstruction of the economic assumptions underlying modernist, neo-liberal economic theory.
A transformational value that emerges from the critiques in Sections I and IV is that the summun bonum of the new paradigm for an economic theory, that is upheld by the Whiteheadian outlook that I’m suggesting, is the “holistic health” of all “Life” throughout Earth’s ecosphere which includes all human communities. In Section IV, I describe the summum bonum of human community as “holistic health, not GDP wealth” which is a “common good” I’m suggesting that human economic theory must express. In Section V., I will outline and clarify the economics of (Mother) Earth, “Mother Earth’s holistic health, not GDP (Corporate) Wealth!” Four modes of Life’s Organic economics are derived from the most holistic, planetary outlook – “Life, not chaos-entropy”.
Definitions and Clarification of Terminology Before I get into economic theory, I must clarify the terms I use to elucidate the terms “nature”, the “natural world”, and the “environment”. When discussing the modernist, neo-liberal economic theory I will employ these terms as those are the kinds of words used by the Enlightenment thinkers who crafted the market economic system to designate the world outside of human minds. But, throughout much of this paper I will begin employing terminology that approaches a more holistic model. The most inclusive concepts I have proposed in this paper are termed “ecosphere” and “Earth” or “Mother Earth”. As I understand the “ecosphere” conceptuality, it normally includes all the four “spheres” – lithosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere -, the biogeochemical cycles, and ecozones, but may not include the magnetosphere, the geomagnetic aspects of the planet. But my conceptuality for the Earth’s system of systems, the “ecosphere”, is totally inclusive. Besides the ecosphere as just described, it includes, the earth’s geomagnetic spheres, and the upper atmosphere “itself” as well as the oceans waters “themselves” and their circulatory currents. The four “spheres” can only be discussed abstractly. There is no “actual” separation. They are continuously reciprocally interrelated forming, along with earth’s geomagnetic spheres, the biogeochemical cycles, the upper atmosphere, the total lithosphere - from the inner core to the crust -, as well as the oceans and fresh waters, one system of systems – the ecosphere - of (Mother) Earth. Together in their interrelatedness they compose what I’m naming as the “ecosphere”. As you read you must remember, all of these components, defined in abstraction are “in actuality” continuously reciprocally interrelated and interdependent. They are necessary to provide and sustain the conditions for “Life”. As I am using these terms, “ecosphere” is the most inclusive and is a synonym for the interrelated and interdependent system of systems comprising (Mother) Earth.
The biosphere is also an abstraction from the interrelatedness of planet Earth wherever “life” is found in the other three “spheres” while emphasizing the reciprocal interrelatedness among the living and non-living “components”. I will sometimes utilize the term “eco-biosphere” to emphasize the interrelated, reciprocal interdependent nature of the ecosphere as it includes the biosphere.
As I use the term “ecosphere”, it is the global sum of all Earth’s system of systems described in the previous paragraph and all bioregions and ecosystems considered as an interrelated, interdependent whole. As I am defining and using it, including the energy from the sun, meteorites, and space plasma, the ecosphere is a planetarily open system of systems. As they are summed over and interrelated, “Earth”, or Mother Earth, is greater than the parts of the ecosphere considered individually. “Earth” or Mother Earth is an emergent whole which sums over and includes all the interrelated elements of the ecosphere. As you read the paper, especially Sections III and IV, you may need to refer back to this more detailed delineation of the “natural world” or “nature” and the set of more holistic concepts I have defined here.
What are the terms I will use to speak abstractly about portions of Earth’s system of systems? The following is my current understanding and usage of terminology used in this paper and how they correspond to each other. I have tried to list them in relation to their inclusiveness from larger to smaller based primarily on the geographical landscape and biological features together. These distinctions do not include analogous regions of oceanography about which I have very little knowledge. Ecozone (biogeographical realm) An ecozone is the broadest biogeographic division of the Earth's land surface, based on distributional patterns of terrestrial organisms. Ecozones delineate large areas of the Earth's surface within which organisms have been evolving in relative isolation over long periods of time, separated from one another by geographic features, such as oceans, broad deserts, or high mountain ranges, that constitute barriers to migration. As such, ecozone designations are used to indicate general groupings of organisms based on their shared biogeography. Ecozones correspond to the floristic kingdoms of botany or zoogeographic regions of zoology. Ecozones are characterized by the evolutionary history of the organisms they contain. They are distinct from biomes (see below), also known as major habitat types, which are divisions of the Earth's surface based on life forms, or the adaptation of plants and animals to climatic, soil, and other conditions. Biomes are characterized by similar climax vegetation. Each ecozone may include a number of different biomes. (https://www.definitions.net/definition/ecozone AND https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecozone),
=> biomes: (bioclimatic zones) are the largest geographic-biotic units across a specific geographic and climatological region of Earth and classified according to ecologically similar communities of plants and animals that live in it, but named for the dominant type of vegetation such as tundra, forest, grassland, desert, freshwater, and marine. A biome is different from an ecosystem. An ecosystem is the interaction of living and nonliving things in an environment. A biome can be made up of many ecosystems. https://wwf.panda.org/knowledge_hub/teacher_resources/webfieldtrips/major_biomes/ ; https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/biome/ ; https://www.britannica.com/science/biome ; https://ucmp.berkeley.edu/exhibits/biomes/index.php => Bioregions: a region whose limits are naturally defined by topographic and biological features (such as mountain ranges and ecosystems) (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/bioregion),
=> Ecoregions: is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than a biogeographic realm or ecozone. The biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems that characterise an ecoregion tends to be distinct from that of other ecoregions. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecoregion) and
=> watersheds: A watershed is an area of land that drains rainfall and snowmelt into streams and rivers that all flow into a single larger body of water, such as a stream, larger river, a lake, or an ocean. https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/watershed/ A watershed is an entire river system—an area drained by a river and its tributaries. It is sometimes called a drainage basin. https://oei2.org/our-watershed/definition-of-watershed/
Ecosystems: Geography - An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms, as well as weather and landscape, work together to form a “bubble of life”. Ecosystems contain biotic or living, parts, as well as abiotic factors, or nonliving parts. Biotic factors include plants, animals, and other organisms. (see biomes and bioregions) Abiotic factors include rocks, temperature, and humidity. (https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/ecosystem/) Biology - An ecosystem is a large community of living organisms (plants, animals and microbes) in a particular area. The living and physical components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Ecosystems are of any size, but usually they are in particular places. (https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecosystem) These two definitions-descriptions overlap in that a biological ecosystem is in a “particular geographic place”.
I also must clarify the terms “creatures” and “lifeforms”. “Creatures”: from a process, interrelated and interdependent perspective, each organic event, actual occasion, or entity is a “creature” composed of “organic” processes which harmonize the multiplicity of feelings of that subjectivity as contrasted with a materialistic metaphysics wherein the ultimate constituents - atoms of matter - are unchanging. “Lifeforms” are also “organic” entities composed of the same “organic” processes which harmonize the multiplicity feelings of that subjectivity and which fit our definition of life’s characteristics like - responsiveness to the environment, growth and change, ability to *reproduce, have a metabolism and/or breathe, maintain homeostasis, made of cells, and passes traits onto *offspring. As an individual “living” creature, a lifeform, is called an organism. Lifeforms are a subset of creatures. For this description of life characteristics see - (https://www.ck12.org/biology/Characteristics-of-Life/lesson/ Characteristics-of-Life-Advanced-BIO-ADV/)
I. Economic Assumptions Underlying Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory
I.A. The Economic Order is of Primary Importance and Its Ultimate Value is Economic Growth for Wealth Creation
The first assumption of modernist neoliberal economic theory to be here considered lies outside economic theory itself. It is the assumption that the economic order is the most important one, that the progress of “society” is to be viewed primarily as economic progress. It is this assumption that renders economic theory so important! If the economy and economic growth were viewed as one among several important components of society, perhaps as subordinate to sociological and political considerations, then it would be these sociological and political considerations to which we should be giving primary attention. Economic growth would then be capped to allow for and emphasize the “growth” of other social, environmental, or political values. But today this is not the case. Sociological, environmental, and political considerations are subordinated to economic ones. And, governmental policies worldwide are determined largely by their contribution to this accepted goal of economic progress. (ECG, 2; GETJ, 8; PEEP, 4)
The second assumption is that economic progress is understood in terms of economic growth. “Gross domestic production” (GDP) is the total market value of all final goods and services produced annually in a national economy. This dedication to the growth of GDP may be voiced in an altruistic concern for raising the standard of living for more and more people throughout the world. But, this may not the actual goal.
In determining the highest principles and goals for the economic, sociological, and political interests of a country, a society, or a region, a prior question which must be addressed concerns the summun bonum or set of values which are supreme in evaluating those principles and goals and according to which the society, politics, and economics are to be ordered or arranged! If this summun bonum question is not addressed clearly and directly, it will be answered covertly by the ultimate value(s) adopted from the societal, political, or economic realms. This is the situation underlying modernist neo-liberal economic theory. The voiced economic, and socio-political, “common good” or common goal for all of society is “economic growth”.
Thus the summum bonum, the supreme good from which all others are derived, is not “justice” (GETJ, 8) or “individual rights” – like “universal education and health care” - for all people, or for some “common good” – like opportunities for political participation or creating local employment and local food production - for the whole society considered as a community. Nor is it for human activities which would preserve some “common good” for all lifeforms – like “sustainability” - of the ecosphere of that “place”. As we shall soon discover, the real summum bonum for society is “wealth creation”!
But this assumption, that the economic order is the most important one with the progress of “society” viewed primarily as economic progress, hides other implicit components. The first is that we must aim at some kind of “progress” and economic progress is understood to be toward a higher standard of living for more people through the societal goal of “economic growth”, which means to increase market activity. And, constantly increasing market activity through the production of goods and services increases overall wealth. This goal, it is argued, will result over time in a higher standard of living, through greater consumption of goods and services, for more and more people.
The argument accepted today is that a higher standard of living, measured by greater consumption of goods and services, is the societal goal accomplished through the economic aim at increasing “growth” in the production of goods and services. Thus, the political system functions to help establish the physical infrastructure for movement of goods and services and the legislative infrastructure for interstate and international commerce to enable the continuous growth of GDP. But unmentioned and unacknowledged by modernist economic theory and covertly accepted is that the ultimate goal or aim, the summun bonum, is ever increasing wealth through economic growth. (cf. B-CN-LE, 5) The voiced assumption, that a higher standard of living will result for more and more people through the increasing production of goods and services, depends on “wealth creation” through economic growth.
Clearly stated, the actual summun bonum of neo-liberal economic theory is increasing the growth of wealth. The societal value promoted by economics and aided by political structures is increasing the production of wealth or “wealth creation”. This decision subordinates any and all societal and political considerations to economic ones. While there is oral conviction of a resultant improvement in the standard of living for people in neoliberal market economies, there is no direct commitment to wealth equity or any just distribution of wealth.
Therefore, not only does the assumption that the economic order is the most important lie outside the theory, but when neo-liberal theory voices the summum bonum of “economic growth”, it turns out to be penultimate. Economic growth serves the creation of wealth as the supreme value to which both societal and political values must bow.
I.B. Scarcity The most fundamental description of modernist market economic theory and its current neo-liberal configuration is contained in the third assumption – the assertion of “scarcity”. The theory claims to delineate “the” problem we face in life, and it is an economic problem. The core of the hypothesis is people’s wants are unlimited, while the resources available to satisfy these wants are limited. This characterization of human nature and its constraint – people’s wants are greater than the resources available to satisfy these wants because wants are unlimited – is called “scarcity”. The assertion is that every time a person makes a choice, she incurs an “opportunity cost”. That is, a person gives up the choices she could have made by spending her money for one item or service rather than spending it on others. Thus, because scarcity exits, choices have to be made. That is to say, because our wants are greater than the resources available to satisfy our wants, we must choose which of our wants will be satisfied and which will remain unsatisfied. So, scarcity could also be portrayed as “the limited resources for production relative to the wants for goods and services”.
But notice the inherent and subtle assumptions built into this claim. There’s a dichotomy in the formulation of this basic economic problem. The primary thesis is that a human’s wants are unlimited. But a contradictory claim opposes that. Nature imposes a constraint; resources are necessarily limited. All of the edifice of neo-liberal economic theory is rooted in this claim of “unlimited” human wants along with the oppositional contrast of “limited” resources. Even more precisely stated, all of the edifice of economic theory rests on the hypothesis that human wants are “unlimited” because if they weren’t, enough resources would be available.
C. Increased Efficiency of Labor Productivity The named goal of economic growth is today primarily accomplished by a fourth assumption, increased efficiency of labor productivity. (PEEP, 4) Greater overall production will result when an equal number of people working an equal amount of time produce more per hour of labor. Thus, labor is more productive when a given number of hours of labor produce more goods and services. (GETJ, 8) The assembly line, mechanical devises of all kinds, and automation increase the productivity of labor and therefore, also the productivity of capital and resources. That is, the efficient “productivity” of labor also focuses, in this activity, the efficient use of capital, raw material inputs, and all other resources at the point of production.
Thus, greater efficiency can be achieved by conservation of the use of natural resources or capital in the sourcing of materials or the supply chain for the processes of production, but it is the efficiency referred to as the “productivity” of labor that leads to the greatest increase in production of goods and services. Greater efficiencies of labor productivity spur economic growth and increase the productivity of capital and resources in the process. (GETJ, 8) Therefore, greater efficiency of labor productivity has become the focus of the engine of economic growth in the production of goods and services.
D. Larger Markets plus De-Regulation and Privatization
Two more assumptions further the efficiency of production overall: larger and larger markets lead to “economies of scale” and the regulation of markets by governments leads to inefficiency of time, resources, and artificially high prices. The latter argues for de-regulation and privatization. (GETJ, 6-7)
Economists have studied how less labor can produce more goods. They have found that reliance on free markets is the best way to achieve such efficiency and that the larger the market the greater are the efficiencies in “production” costs. (PEEP, 4) Thus, the fifth assumption means that the efficiencies gained through the productivity of labor just explained in Part C result in more goods than can be purchased and consumed at the local level. So, the size of the market must allow for enough “demand” to absorb all the production engendered by the increasing productivity of labor.
Therefore, as production increases pursuing economic growth for greater wealth creation, the area of demand (a greater population of consumers) must continue to enlarge to allow for increased consumption from the economies of scale. Local markets must become regional, then national, then international. (GETJ, 7) National boundaries are thus an impediment to economic efficiency. The goal, now largely realized, is a global economy. (GETJ, 12)
Regarding the sixth assumption, the market works best when sellers set prices for their goods and services and buyers try to purchase them as cheaply as possible. As long as there are several sellers of the same products, the buyers can bargain among them for the lowest price at which any of them is willing to sell. This puts pressure on the producers to find more efficient ways of producing to lower the price so as to undersell competitors. (GETJ, 7) Producers see that when governments regulate the market or interfere with the allocation of resources or labor for the greatest efficiency in production, the prices that result are artificial and do not represent the actual costs of producers. Therefore, markets must in principle be “laissez-faire” - opposing governmental interference in economic affairs - and de-regulated.
Also, if the government has regulated “natural monopolies” - like the post office or utilities -, these should be privatized. Market economic theory claims that in principle private efficiency unencumbered by government control and regulation will provide cheaper goods and services with much less waste of labor’s time or of natural resources.
II. Philosophic Assumptions Underlying the Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory
Like the assumptions that the economic order is the most important one, that the progress of “society” is to be viewed primarily as economic progress through economic growth, and the summun bonum of neo-liberal economic theory is increasing the growth of wealth, there are three more “philosophical” assumptions that quietly and covertly underlie economic theory. The first is a dualistic substance metaphysics with mechanistic causation which results from reductionistic thinking concerning the kinds of entities which make up the world – water and soils, sticks and stones, trees and birds, chairs and cars, squirrels and fish - and which was contained in the pre-understanding of the Enlightenment cultural milieu, also named the “modernist” worldview. The second is a dualistic bifurcation between human persons and ALL other “lifeforms” based on substance metaphysics. Third is a theory of human nature, homo economicus, derived from the human-nature dualism and also based on substance metaphysics. (GETJ, 10-12, 12-14)
Section II will examine and explain these three veiled philosophical assumptions and relate these “modernist” presuppositions to their inclusion or ‘embodiment’ in the basic concepts of neo-liberal economic theory. Also, in part II.A., I claim to be making a novel critique of a contradiction at the heart of modernistic neo-liberal economic theory. This contradiction may have been named by others, but I am unaware of another critique of this fundamental flaw.
II.A. Modernist Dualistic, Reductionistic, Mechanistic, Substance Metaphysics
Modern economic theory originated in the late eighteenth century and accepted the metaphysics that had emerged from the scientific revolution of the day. When one accepts the basic assumptions of one's culture, one is not pressed to acknowledge, much less to recognize, that one's assumptions are “metaphysical”. When economists proceed to reject metaphysical inquiry because metaphysics of substance is already integrated into their worldview, they close the door to effective criticism. Thus, metaphysical inquiry is virtually excluded from the university and each academic discipline, like economics, is allowed to develop its own assumptions. What is clear is that economics was conceived and founded in an era when modernist reductionistic, mechanistic substance metaphysics had proven to be experimentally successful. But modernist economics is not secure from criticism. (CGPW, 9) Let me explain how this charge is true.
The academic discipline of economics is a child of the university of the European Enlightenment, or what is called the “Modern Era”. There is much to be said positively about the achievements of the Enlightenment, but we must unmask and disclose metaphysical concepts that were unconsciously taken up into economic theory and connect those concepts with their disastrous consequences for human community and the “natural world”. These Enlightenment assumptions were drawn from the commonly accepted substantialistic worldview developed during the Enlightenment. I mean it is the understandings of the “nature of reality”- the metaphysics and ontology - implicit in this new European worldview which were uncritically included from the cultural milieu into economic theory. Deliberately and consciously the Enlightenment thinkers reacted against the Medieval understanding of the world in which organic models played a primary role. Within the public outlook of a dualistic, substance metaphysics, these Enlightenment intellects also proposed that the “machine” be taken as the basic model. In their public descriptions, the clock was the machine most often used as an analogy. (B-CCN-LE, 2) And in agreement with ancient Greek philosophers, they began to understand the world around them as being composed of substances or “matter’. “Material objects” had been shown by physical science to react in concert with external forces and according to predictable physical “laws”. The same predictability of physics was becoming apparent in the field of chemistry among elementary substances.
The point here is that the unreflective use of substantialistic concepts blocks an adequate conceptual understanding of economic theory and blocks our thinking about a more adequate conceptuality of human nature and of the intrinsic value of all other lifeforms.
So, much of the blame of what is wrong with the concepts in economic theory falls on substance thinking. Especially today, after centuries of living in a substantialistic culture few people consciously adopt substance metaphysics, but they continue to reflect deep-seated metaphysical habits. (CG:IR&CR, 1) The dominant, yet very subtle modern metaphysics, affirms a metaphysical dualism - the world is made up of two types of substances. There are mental substances and material substances. Each individual substance is self-contained, relating to other substances only externally. Intrinsic value is located only in the mental substances, and the only mental substances are human minds. The value of other things, including other animals, is their value to human beings. This metaphysics can be supported and developed in very subtle and complex ways. But the outcome, as relevant to economics, is quite simple – people’s “wants” are of intrinsic value. All other entities are of instrumental value in service of human wants. (CGPW, 9)
Because the modernist economic worldview was founded on the substantiatistic understandings of physical science, these metaphysical views simply constitute a large part of the assumptional basis of economic theory. The human beings who are the actors in the economic drama are self-contained, relating to other substances only externally. Intrinsic value is located only in human experience. Everything else has value only as human beings desire it. Economic theory goes on to identify this value with the price paid for such objects in the market place. (CGPW, 9)
There were three particularly important changes involved in this shift to a substance metaphysics with mechanistic causation that follows from reductionistic thinking. The first is a metaphysics of substance utilizing a reductionistic approach to materialism. The second is the empirically testable mechanistic, physical causation which is clock-like. Third is the rejection of any subjectivity or any goal-centered, any purposive behavior, by inorganic or living creatures. The conjunction of these concepts had great success in unlocking the patterns of regularity of the natural world. This reductionistic, mechanistic substantialistic ontology became the culturally accepted paradigm which pervaded the pre-understandings of the Enlightenment worldview.
II.A.1. REDUCTIONISTIC MATERIALISM: The first crucial change from the Medieval understanding was the basis for the next two: mechanistic, physical causation and rejection of teleology. Since the world operates mechanically like clockwork, apparent wholes can be understood by analysis into their parts. This process is “reductionistic”. Each of these parts can be analyzed into its parts, and so forth. This analysis should proceed until we arrive at those parts that are indivisible and therefore not further analyzable. These were thought to be atoms of which “matter” is finally composed. Ultimately, the whole natural world can in principle be explained by atoms moving in relation to one another according to the laws of motion. (B-CCN-LE, 2-3) Atoms were felt to be indivisible units of which all physical elements, chemicals, and objects, like rocks, soil, and living creatures, were composed. Like a clock, all changes and movement of these entities can be totally explained by completely rejecting the teleology of subjectivity and instead utilizing the predictability of a mechanistic account of physical causes “on” entities composed of matter or substances. As I suggested before, this reductionistic materialism was drawn from ancient Greek philosophy.
Ontologically, these material units are the finally real entities which constitute the nature of reality. They are completely unchanging substances, self-contained entities whose only relations with any other entities are external, i.e. physical and spatial.
II.A.2. MECHANISTIC, PHYSICAL CAUSATION: A second feature of the world clocklike machine, in contrast to conceiving the world organically, is that “causation” proceeds by physical and contiguous, mechanical forces.
The outcome of this view is that an entity studied is essentially unchanged by any changes in its environment. For example, within extreme limits, a clock remains what it is, virtually unchanged, in many different environments. An account of the full behavior of the clock can functionally ignore its environment. This means that the impact of any outside entity on the clock is not of the same order as that of one part of the clock acting contiguously on another. The activity of no outside entity or force can be shown to influence the clock unless it is a physical force – like a hammer - which strikes the clock. These are wholly physical and mechanical forces which can be observed and measured using Newtonian physics. The clock does not appear to be internally related to anything else outside of those mechanical forces. (B-CCN-LE, 2-3)
So, when Enlightenment thinkers decided that the whole of nature, the “world machine”, operates in terms of mechanical forces, they concluded that the apparent difference between organisms and mechanisms is only apparent. As I have explained, they assumed that a deeper analysis of organisms shows that their behavior is also explained by efficient causes operating among their parts or on them from without. Like the internal physical relations within their bodies, the effect of the environment upon them is also by physical and contiguous mechanical causes which are external. As we shall see next, organisms are no more purposeful or interrelated with their environments than machines. (B-CCN-LE, 3)
II.A.3. TELEOLOGY OF SUBJECTIVITY: The third critical change from the Medieval worldview was the rejection of teleology – decisions or purposive, goal-oriented behavior of a subject - in any understanding of ontology, or as a component of the “nature of reality”, except for human minds. As we will see, all of reality is understood to be composed of “matter” or “substance” consisting of two kinds – physical or mental. And, only human minds are “mental” substances.
Most ordinary people feel that they observe other creature’s “wants” as they make “choices” to go this way or that or to eat some things and not others. People normally believe they observe wild and domesticated animals and other organisms behaving purposefully, as they go about their efforts to stay alive. Medieval thinkers influenced by the philosophy of Aristotle gave a great deal of attention to this purposive behavior or “teleology”. That is, one could understand the behavior of an animal, or any, organism when one understood its purposes. By extending this insight, one could understand any part of the natural world when one understood its role in the ecology or biology of its natural environment. Early modern thinkers rightly saw that this preoccupation with teleology had misdirected much thought and research. To understand the world, they were convinced, one should focus only on “efficient causes”. (B-CCN-LE, 2)
Referring back to the clock-like physical, contiguous causes, there is no “purpose” disclosed in those interactions. There are only efficient causes. Now, clocks also serve purposes, but the purposes are not inherent in the clock. The behavior of the clock is to be explained in detail totally by the mechanical forces operating among its parts. The parts behave as they do, not because of their intrinsic nature or any subjective purposes, but because they are compelled to do so by the physical pressures, the efficient causes, exerted on them by other parts.
Teleological questions are included in the clock analogy only if we ask why the clock exists at all. Here mechanical analogy shifts to human purposes in creating the clock. But as we have seen, to understand the working of the clock we attend only to physical and efficient causes. Similarly, if we ask why the “great world machine” or the natural world exists, we could appeal to the purposes of “God” or of Gaia or of Pachamama or of Dadi Muqin. But when we ask how the “world machine” actually operates, we need only attend to efficient, or physical, causes. (B-CCN-LE, 2)
To be clear, the human’s empirical perception of purposive behavior in the activity of animals, and even in plants turning toward the sun, is not to be understood as exhibiting any teleological ‘intent’ in the “subjectivity” of those entities. In fact, along with the lack of purpose, these lifeforms actually display no “subjectivity” in their movements and behavior. They do not “think” or “feel” as do humans. They “are” or “have” no internality of experiencing. Therefore, as to their behavior in-and-for-themselves, there are no ‘wants’ occurring and there is no subjectivity going on. There is an assumption that a deeper level of analysis of all organisms shows that their behavior is totally explained by efficient causes operating among their parts or on them from without. So, along with the rejection of any Aristotelian teleology, both purpose and subjectivity disappear from any involvement in the explanation of the behavior of any living creature, except human beings. As we have seen, all entities are used as resources and all living creatures are available to be used as commodities for the production of goods and services in the increase of market activity, economic growth, in the goal of wealth production! The modernist reductionistic, mechanistic metaphysics of substance makes this economic worldview possible.
II.B. Modernist’s Subtle Dualistic Bifurcation of the Human and the Natural: “human” vs. “nature”
A second philosophical assumption and principle quietly underlying this market economic theory is a complementary dualism between the human and the natural, also called the “natural world”, “nature”, and the “environment”. (B-CCN-LE, 9) This is often expressed as “nature” vs. “history” or “man” vs. “nature” or as we shall soon see – “unlimited wants” v. “limits of nature”. This “modernist” economic pre-understanding means that humans are different in kind, not in degree, from nonhuman lifeforms. This pre-understanding subtlety declares, by its exclusion of the nonhuman world from any consideration or inclusion in the formulation of the theoretical principles of economics, that humans are totally different. The nonhuman-natural world’s relatedness to human society, except as resources or commodities for production of goods and services, need not be considered. Human existence is of a totally different order from the “natural world”. Humans, characterized by “wants” and “satisfying” choices, are not just more complex entities in a world of nonhuman lifeforms who are also entities with some kinds of wants and choices. As explained in the “Teleology of Subjectivity”, nonhuman lifeforms do not “want” and do not make any satisfying choices for their own lives like human “minds” make. They are different in “kind” and do not require any place in our human economic system except as resources and commodities to be processed into goods and services for the satisfaction of “human wants”. They are related only externally to the supreme good of human well-being which is understood to be wealth creation through the consumption of more and more production. Like the substance dualism, this subsequent vision between the human and nonhuman is dualistic.
This exemplification of dualism has characterized the entire Western tradition. Since the rise of physical science, this dualism was systematized in the thought of the Enlightenment by traditional economists, and continues in the dominant, neo-liberal school today. So, because of assumptions about the uniqueness of human nature, the only value that is acknowledged, that is recognized in the economic system, is that of “human satisfaction”, the satisfaction of human wants-desires. (GETJ, 12;B-CCN-LE, 10)
Dualistically this uniqueness was and is assumed to mean that nonhuman lifeforms do not want or desire, only people do. And, the only form of satisfaction of wants that are seriously considered by economists are those which are derived from the possession or consumption of desired goods and services which must appear in marketplace exchanges. Thus, unless human ‘wants’ for an environmental or social “good”, say clean air, an intangible social and environmental ‘good’, can be exchanged in the marketplace, those wants do not count! So, economists encourage the ordering of the economy to the end of increasing human satisfaction for goods and services through exchanges in the market. A current example is the market based “emissions trading” approach to pollution control. This end also serves the summum bonum of wealth creation through the consumption of production that increases market activity, which is called “economic growth”.
But, as we have seen, capitalist market theory developed without any consideration of the relationship of the natural world to “economy” except as a resource for production of goods and services for the satisfaction of insatiable human wants. (ECG, 10) “Land”, “labor”, and “capital” were the three original factors of production in capitalist theory. If it is included in economic theory at all, all the rest of the natural world, the planet, and all the nonhuman world, falls under the category of “land”. The only value that can be attributed to the lifeforms of the biosphere, and the air, soils, and waters is “transactional” or “instrumental”. They can only serve as resources, as commodities, in the satisfaction of human wants. (B-CCN-LE, 10) This commodification of nature expresses itself in many ways. But the totality of lifeforms interrelated in the biosphere, and hence the ecosphere which supports lifeforms of the biosphere, are only resources or commodities in an economic system that aims exclusively to satisfy human wants-desires by producing more and more to create economic growth in market activity to generate wealth. This subtle dualism between the wants of humans (homo economicus) and the commodification of the natural world in the neo-liberal economic theory has rendered modernist human societies largely indifferent to the degradation of all the interrelated “systems” of the earth and to the suffering of thousands of species of lifeforms who are consumed as products or to be included in the production of products and services .
Thus, the initial modernist assumptions both of neo-liberal economic theory and of the presupposed philosophical understandings of human nature and the natural world in that economic theory relegated all the nonhuman world to be only substantial objects and of value exclusively for the satisfaction of human wants-desires. As we have seen, these assumptions were part of the pre-understanding in the standard Enlightenment view of the world as composed of human subjects and nonhuman objects. According to the Enlightenment view that the world is composed of two kinds of entities, mind and matter, the dualism of humans and nonhuman commodities seemed appropriate. (GETJ, 12)
BUT as explained in part II.A., the more emphatically nature was denied any internality and purposiveness, the clearer it was that human minds are different from nature. The study of human minds and what they do in the world, accordingly, was separated sharply from the study of “nature” or the “natural world”. (B-CCN-LE, 3)
This dualism is applied easily to vegetation like trees and, with few qualms, when considering nonhuman animals. A cow is worth whatever price it brings in the market. What is totally omitted is the value of the cow, or any other living entity, for itself, the satisfactions it derives from being alive. (GETJ, 13; B-CCN-LE, 10) This description of the commodification of the “natural world” is a primary example of the subtle dualistic bifurcation between people and the rest of the biosphere and ecosphere. Thus, all the entities of the natural world are commodities of “transactional” value in market activity. Since the nonhuman lifeforms “have” no internality of experiencing, no behavior in-and-for-themselves, any increase in market activity which utilizes them in production creates more wealth for people.
This dualism drives in the direction of the commodification of everything, including people. For instance, when the medical system treats symptoms and does not focus on prevention, all human ailments create a treatment procedure that utilizes medical services, medicines, and medical supplies which leverage greater production of drugs and increased GDP for wealth creation. In this way people become commodities. And applied to the nonhuman, the reduction of the value of all nonhuman lifeforms to the price that individuals are now willing to pay for them in the market also reduces them to commodities and their instrumental value. (GETJ, 13)
But from perspective of modernist, neo-liberal economic theory, since all “natural resources” are goods which have market value, they should be privatized and priced, so that those who use them will pay for this use. Also, this economic theory declares that privatization insures the most efficient, or economic, use of the resources as commodities in the production of goods and services. (GETJ, 13)
II. C. The Modernist Theory of Human Nature or Homo
As I indicated on the very first page, most of economic theory is outlined in textbooks “full blown” without disclosing that there are underlying assumptions and without examining either these assumptions or the final sources of value or goals around which the principles of the economic system are formed. Next, I will present several approaches that are commonly used in academic settings to introduce the “economic man” (homo economicus) perspective into a description of human life, all from an presupposed outlook about the activity of human beings in a system of market capitalism.
Please notice that these economic choices are made by atomisticly, self-contained and self-interested individuals for the “good” of their own personal or household futures and not for the common good of an extended family, a small village or community, or the natural community of creatures their part of the biosphere and certainly not for the ecosphere. I will begin with the most historical and honest description and proceed to five other examples that do not initially explain or do not disclose at all that there are underlying assumptions and that do not examine either these assumptions or the summum bonum for which the principles of the economic system are formed. A summary of more information from each book is included in the footnotes for further explanation.
The first approach is directly historical and also honest about founding economics on “assumptions”. It begins with the development of capitalism, great economists, an overview of the economy – households, business, government, wealth -, historical trends in productivity and growth, and how America’s economy has historically fit into economies of the world’s nations. Then, the authors clearly explain the many “hypotheses” about human behavior – utility (pleasurable wealth) maximizers, acquisitive insatiable wants, and rationality – and constraints which operate against these hypotheses like “nature” and “opportunity costs”. “A powerful social science has been derived from the idea of interplay between maximizing and constraining forces.” “Because economics generalizes about human behavior and the behavior of nature, it can theorize about, and to some extent predict, the operations of a market society.” These last statements are as close as the most honest text examined here moves toward declaring that economics is a “deductive science”. The “generalizations” are about the “maximizing and constraining behaviors” of ‘humans’ and of ‘nature’. These are the assumptions from which deductions or “predictions” are made. (p. 132-33) (fn2)
Another more direct, but not historical approach, begins inside the economic system with individual economic “choices” and then discusses “wants” and that they are unlimited without stating that this claim about “wants” is a hypothesis. The assumptions admitted are that wants are never completely satisfied and that the resources available to satisfy human wants are limited. But the authors do include aims toward activity which promotes the “general welfare”. (fn3) A similar, but a less direct and ahistorical approach, is to start with an examination of the limited choices society and individuals must make because of “scarcity”. In this way, the limited resources available are stated to be “scarce” with respect to the decisions made for goods and services, the “demand”, to meet those needs, like energy. The acknowledgement of assumptions made regarding human behavior and the constraints of “nature” are not considered. (fn4)
Rather than economic “choices”, another similar approach is couched in terms of “costs and benefits” or “opportunity costs”. But this text is totally ahistorical and offers no admission that any assumptions are made. “Opportunity costs” are the most highly valued opportunity or alternative forfeited or given up when a choice is made. In this way, “choice” is introduced and choices lead to scarcity. Eventually “wants”, “utility”, and “satisfaction” are presented discussing scarcity. (fn5)
The next example is an indirect, sneaky, and ahistorical description without clearly stated hypotheses about human behavior. The basic concepts are just included in a brief definition of economics: “Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited human wants.” Then three different kinds of “resources” are described: natural, human, and capital – physical aids like tools, machinery and buildings. Later, in a discussion of scarcity and in relation to “desires”, existing resources are claimed to be woefully inadequate. Also, the authors simply claim that there are enough resources to produce only a small fraction of the goods and services that are “wanted”. There is no open and explicit disclosure of any hypotheses or assumptions made regarding human nature or behavior. Notice in this presentation, people too are considered resources to produce commodities. (fn6)
The final example is even more sneaky. Starting well inside the market economic system and without any reference to the hypotheses and assumptions of a deductive process, this approach begins with stating a few fundamental definitions of aspects of production. “Consumer goods are products…that satisfy people’s economic needs and wants. A producer makes the goods or provides the services that consumers use…Resources are materials from which the goods and services are made. There are three kinds of resources. Human resources…Natural resources…Capital resources….” Finally, scarcity is just stated as if a fact: “…no economy has an unlimited supply of resources.” Economists study how “…people use their resources to make the goods and provide the services they want….Human wants tend to be unlimited, but human, natural, and capital resources are, unfortunately, limited.” (fn7)
Unlimited, Insatiable-Unending Wants-Desires plus Limited Resources Determine a World of Scarcity and Competition
What general conclusions can we draw from the previous summaries of the textbook description of homo economicus? The homo economicus hypothesis that is abstracted from observed market activity proposes an economic human nature of unlimited-insatiable-unending wants-desires placed over and against its opposite, an alleged world which can’t contain enough resources (or at least enough available at that moment) if wants are unlimited. The dichotomy set up between limited resources and unlimited human wants is the heart and foundation of market economic theory. All of the edifice of economic theory is rooted in this claim of “unlimited” human wants along with the oppositional contrast of “limited” resources. According to standard neo-liberal economic theory, unlimited human wants considered simultaneously with limited resources create the “human condition” of “scarcity” in which we all exist. This condition is one of inexorable, individual and national competition for resources and is inherently competitive and fearful. Considered sequentially wants are “unending”, so another “want” will succeed the previous one and it will be also met with a world of “limited” resources available for the successive want. Wants are so unlimited that whether we consider the dichotomy between wants and resources “every moment” or in “unending” successive moments, there can be no amount of resources available to satisfy all the wants a human has.
Abstraction Economists admit that their account of human nature, homo economicus, is an abstraction from the fullness of human interactions. This is just as true for the proposals for human nature in the other disciplines in the academics of the university - homo politicus, homo religiosus, homo faber, or homo ludens. But economists assume humans follow certain behaviors in market transactions which accomplish the summun bonum, wealth creation, for the society as a whole. There is nothing wrong with examining human behavior in market transactions in separation from other behaviors. (GETJ, 10; B-CCN-LE, 6) But as we have seen, the assumption that the economic order is the most important one leads to the pursuit of economic growth for wealth creation. So, the assumptions regarding “human nature” are crucial because through those we aim to mold our political, social, and even ethical practices (CG:IR&CR, 3) around this theory, which is admittedly abstracted from the totality of all human activity. So, what are the basic claims for “human nature”, homo economicus?
Atomistic, Self-contained Individuals with External Relations
As we have seen, a major conclusion and “take away” from the various descriptions and approaches in common textbooks is that human beings are, at least for economic purposes, rightly to be understood only as “individuals” who are fundamentally self-contained and have “unlimited-insatiable-unending wants-desires”.
All these descriptions concerning homo economicus outlined in the textbook examples are basic assumptions of economic theory. In this economic model based on a metaphysics of substance, the wellbeing of any individual is not affected by the wellbeing either of “other” local people or the health of the “other” creatures in the local ecology. The model of the individual as separate and with only external-contractual relationships is sharpened by an exclusive focus on the exchange value of contractual market relationships of production and consumption. Thus, human beings are treated in economics as though they are self-contained, atomistic individuals whose major and important relations with other individuals are only through market transactions. (EE, 3) So, for economists there are only these “individuals” participating only in contractual relations which are external to who they are as individuals. At this point, I want to call attention to the absence of any role for human relationships other than those of exchange in the market place. (ECG, 6)
These connected descriptions lead to an explanation of homo economicus as acquisitive, self-interested, and “rational” actors in the marketplace. First, let me deal with “acquisitive”. As we have seen, both philosophically and practically, homo economicus is also understood to have unlimited and insatiable-unending wants which result in “acquisitive” behavior. What people ‘want’ to “acquire” is more goods and services. That human wants are insatiable and unending does not mean that the desire for a particular good cannot be satisfied. It means that there is no limit to the new wants that arise as old ones are satisfied. (GETJ, 10; B-CCN-LE, 6) Obviously, since people continue living over time and as situations change, there is an important element of truth to this perspective. As people live longer, day by day their wants change and they have more wants because they are still living. Their wants are, at least in this sense, insatiable and unending and lead to more acquisitions in the marketplace.
Self-Interest and Utility Maximization
Economists observed that when we buy and sell in our daily marketplace, we quite consistently seek to get the best bargains we can and sell our labor or services for as much as we can. When we need work, we try to get the best job at the highest salary we can. When we need to employ helpers, we try to employ them as inexpensively as possible. Economists abstracted this tendency from all the other human tendencies and attributed it to the “nature” of homo economicus. They describe homo economicus as devoted to individual, personal economic gain. (GETJ, 10; B-CCN-LE, 6; ECG, 5)
If economists are accused of advocating individual selfishness, they may deny this. If the goods and services individuals desire are for people other than themselves, they have no objection. The point is that people should be free to express their own desires by spending in the market without restrictions. Nevertheless, most economic thought assumes that people are seeking their personal advantage. An argument for this that has great power is that, when individuals all seek their maximum individual gain, the whole group benefits, because production increases and prices are reduced. There can be little doubt that behavior in the market approximates the economist's understanding of this individualistic rationality. Shoppers seek to get the best buys they can. Producers try to produce what shoppers most want and compete with one another to attract shoppers with low prices. (PEEP, 8) The problem, then, is not mainly with the abstract model as it operates in interpreting economies of scale market behavior. There it has proved brilliantly successful.
This judgment, that individuals remain what they are through time and achieve whatever satisfactions they desire, was supported by the discovery of advanced economic thinkers in the eighteenth century mentioned above that, when all persons seek their individual benefit, the result produces benefits for the whole society – prices are lower and it is assumed the standard of living goes up because more people achieve the satisfaction of what they desire. (CG:IR&CR, 3) That is to say, when all people seek their own individual welfare in transactions in market exchanges buying and selling for their own maximum benefit, all of society benefits. This is called “utility maximization” and if all people operate this way “rationally” everyone benefits because prices will be lower as producers strive to lower prices to attract buyers by producing most efficiently.
Remember, economists observed that in the daily marketplace when we buy and sell, we quite consistently seek to get the best bargains we can and sell our labor or services for as much as we can. And when we need work, we try to get the best job at the highest salary we can. They characterize homo economicus as devoted to individual, personal economic gain. (GETJ, 10; B-CCN-LE, 6; ECG, 5) They depict this behavior as “rational”. That is, every human’s efforts to behave in this way and maximize this behavior toward personal economic gain are rational behaviors. Their insistent assumption is that by rationally maximizing utility everyone gains because producers produce products much more efficiently and prices are lower for everyone.
Economic theory builds on these assumptions to state that people are fundamentally rational. Each strives to obtain as much as possible of desired commodities or services for as little expenditure as possible. Each strives to work as little as possible for the highest payment possible. Relations between people are essentially competitive. The theory shows that this aim of each individual to get as much as possible for as little as possible stimulates economic activity in such a way that the society, as a whole, benefits. What is meant by speaking of this general benefit is that there are more goods and services exchanged in market activity and available in the society as a whole.
It can further be shown, rationally within the theory, that the larger the market, the more efficiently resources can be allocated and, therefore, the more rapidly production increases. Originally this point was made in order to expand the market, that is, the region in which goods and investments move freely, from villages and regions to nations. Now, of course, the same argument justifies the global market. (CGPW, 9)
If Homo Economicus Is the Valid Perspective
But if people are understood as individuals benefited only by increased consumption of goods and services, then socio-political structures should adopt those policies that increase the availability of these goods and services. This is their most important function. Since we have discussed “economies of scale” we know that, the larger the market the more efficiently goods are produced. So, the socio-political structures should remove all barriers to the movement of capital and goods across socio-political boundaries. They should reduce their regulation of business to a minimum, and provide the most favorable and attractive context for investment. In short, they should adopt the role of servants of the national or global market. (ECG, 6)
Given the substance understanding of human beings, the policies that have aimed human economies toward economic growth and wealth creation, while destroying so many parts of the ecosphere and biosphere both in the United States and among the nations of rest of the world, are entirely rational and moral. They lead to increased productivity and thereby, assuming full employment, to increased per capita consumption and an improved standard of living.
What if Homo Economicus, as an Abstraction and Proposition About Human Nature, is Partially Valid, but Vastly Incomplete?
This paper asserts that the homo economicus philosophical understanding of “human nature” is not the whole truth about human relations. When it passes from descriptive use to prescriptive use, that is, when policies are proposed that treat human relationships as if consumption was the goal and main activity of human life, there are serious dangers of distortion with often disastrous consequences. (ECG, 6)
And, if in fact the substantialistic philosophical assumptions outlined here in Part II are actually false, then the suffering of the lifeforms in the eco-biosphere, including lots of people, will increase and eventually may collapse as the transnational commerce continues to expand and increase. (ECG, 6)
But, how is homo economicus incomplete? I will counter the homo economicus hypotheses much more thoroughly in Section III.C.
III. Critique of Philosophic Assumptions Underlying the Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory from A Constructive Post-Modernist, Whiteheadian Perspective
Because the philosophical assumptions are so determinative for the conceptuality of classical and neo-liberal economic theory, I will delineate my critique in reverse order from the foregoing presentation. That is, in Section III the philosophical presuppositions of Section II will be critiqued first and then Whiteheadian alternatives suggested. Section IV will be a reformulation of the traditional economic assumptions explained in Section I also offering a Whiteheadian approach.
We need to tell more inclusive, post-modern stories
Some postmodernists resist all sociological generalizations and new inclusive stories. But if we do not provide better economic generalizations than those that now rule the world, the aim at wealth creation over any political, social, or environmental values will continue to dominate democratic political goals, destroy human community, and decimate the sustainability of the biosphere and ecosphere.
We need to tell a more inclusive story about the economy than those that justify present economic practice which are aimed at economic growth for wealth creation that trickles down as wages for the destitute. These post-modern generalizations and stories must certainly be expressive of more inclusive outlooks and points of view. I admit that in this paper, I have been influenced by my position of middle-class comfort in the center of the American empire. My economic stories cannot be neutral and objective. But we need new economic and metaphysical stories about a sustainable human economy set within a healthy ecosphere. As I have tried to show, the stories that now control the course of planetary history are leading us to environmental destruction, into a period “void” of signification complex lifeforms. Some post-moderns eschew developing broad and comprehensive stories to focus only local or national stories. But I feel these parochial attempts cannot stop this pervasive ecological and human destruction. I feel those cannot overcome the aim at the true goal which is wealth creation by the modernist, neo-liberal economic development. We must take the risk and start to develop an overarching constructive postmodernist, post-substantialist, alternative to the neo-liberal economic theory which now controls efforts to complete the globalization process. (CGPW, 8)
This paper, as an example of constructive postmodernism, affirms the importance of explicitly considering metaphysics, a type of philosophical inquiry that has been rejected both by late modernists and by deconstructive postmodernists. As we have seen, embodied in the critique by some constructive postmodernists (c.f. p. 102) and Whiteheadians is the belief that modern substance metaphysics controls much of the thought even of those who reject any form of metaphysical discourse. In this paper, I have attempted to do just this - to bring these subtle metaphysical concepts and their consequences to consciousness and discuss them. Historically, when we have tried to replace metaphysics with something that is not at the level of inquiry about what ultimate entities make up the subjects and objects of the world around us, we fail people at the levels of the description of human character, of their human communities, and of the communities of communities of the eco-biosphere. Simply stated, we need to propose a better metaphysical understanding of human nature, human communities set in their part of the “natural world”, and of the totality of the “natural world” itself. (CGPW, 9)
As I have stated, a deconstruction of the extensive implications of substance thinking for the field of economic theory described in this paper, which I have attempted to do here, will not suffice. The current world order cannot exist without a functioning economic order. We need an economic order that supports local and regional human community in its physical watershed and biosphere rather than constantly demanding larger markets and privatization in pursuit of more efficient labor productivity for economic growth to achieve only wealth creation. We need an economic theory which can be developed in rich detail to deal with the many diverse situations that arise locally. Our theory also needs to be inclusive yet have depth so that it can describe the ways local economies relate to one another and how they all can relate to (planet) Earth as a whole. (CGPW, 12)
From the constructive postmodern point of view, the work of building up an alternative body of metaphysical theory for economics, which this paper represents, and beginning to implement it is urgent! Westerners created the modern substance metaphysics and built our economic, political, and social systems upon it. Many more constructive post-modernists around the planet need to do what I have tried to do in Sections I and II in deconstructing that substance metaphysics from the outlook of their own cultures and perspectives. We must attempt to reconceive the organization of knowledge in the fragmented academic disciplines that is based upon post-modernist, non-substantial metaphysics. In parts III and IV, I will attempt to critique and reconceive certain elements of economic theory from a “Constructive Post-Modernist, Whiteheadian Perspective”.
As you read, remember that the following critiques of neo-liberal economic theory in Section III will be done in reverse order from the topics outlined in Section I and II. First, I will critique the philosophical assumptions presupposed by neo-liberal economic theory as they were presented in Section II including alternative Whiteheadian conceptions to these metaphysical hypotheses. Then in Section IV, I analyze and evaluate the dominate elements of neo-liberal economic theory as I presented them in Section I. In both Section III and IV, the analysis and overhaul of neo-liberal economic theory will be attempted in part from the position of the constructive postmodernism of A.N. Whitehead’s process philosophy. Today we need to consider a metaphysics within the bounds of quantum science in the 21st century yet unencumbered by the historical restraints of substance conceptuality.
In III.A.3, I will propose that the “wants” are an abstraction from the “subjective aim” of an occasion as delineated by Whitehead’s ontological description. That is, in the modernist neo-liberal economic theory, wants describe “purposive” desires of humans that motivate their behavior. Here in Section III, I will marshal the critique of the philosophical assumptions embedded in modernist neo-liberal economic theory (Section II) and a Whiteheadian response and construction of alternative assumptions. In Section IV, I will critique the economic assumptions of modernist neo-liberal economic theory and propose replacements with Whiteheadian-like economic principles, including a different summum bonum, “health, not wealth”. Then in Section V, I will outline a “Post-Modernist Organic Economic Theory” with the “human” economy the acknowledged summun bonum of “holistic health, not GDP wealth”!
III.A.1. Critique of Modernist Reductionistic, Mechanis-tic Substance Metaphysics
The idea of “substance” has had great difficulty maintaining itself in philosophical circles. This has been one of the major reasons for the rejection of metaphysics in academia. It is my argument in this paper that abandoning the discussion of what a substance is and of whether there is anything that fits this requirement has not removed substance thinking from the dominant role in our everyday lives and language. (CG:IR&CR, 5) As we have seen, the most obvious examples of this thinking are still lurking in political and economic theories. (CG:IR&CR, 3)
A review is needed regarding the metaphysics of substance which Whitehead explicitly repudiates. (CGPW, 11) As explained in II. A. 1., the philosophical idea of substance arises from reflection about the kinds of objects with which we are surrounded: water and soils, sticks and stones, trees and birds, chairs and cars, squirrels and fish. To our eyes, these objects remain much the same throughout a considerable period of time. They occupy definable regions of space and are visually contained within those boundaries. They may move through space without suffering significant alteration. What changes in the movement of objects or living creatures are the spatial relations to other substances or lifeforms. But these relations do not affect objects or the substances themselves. A chair can be moved from one room to another while remaining the same chair with the same characteristics.
The chair as such can also be distinguished from its characteristics. It may be restained without becoming a different chair. In this sense it fulfills the common sense requirement for materialistic metaphysics. That is, there seems to be an unchanging substance underlying changing attributes. This sensitivity is at the heart of the substantialistic, materialistic conceptuality about the deepest reality of the natural world. Much of our language refers to objects as the subjects of sentences and then to their attributes or actions: The carpet is blue; The dog walks around the room. These express and support the emphasis on objects which are understood as having an enduring substantial nature.
Of course, the substances which are described as coming into being - like when a tree grows -, they will someday decay. Therefore, they do not satisfactorily fulfill the metaphysical idea of material substance which is unchanging reality underlying the changing attributes. But the reductionist, modernist Enlightenment worldview soon distinguished them as composite substances, made up from simpler substances or elements, of which they are composed. For a few centuries this seemed to solve the problem. Compound substances can be broken up into simple substances – chemical components or elements. A tree’s wood is made up from different chemical compounds. It is these basic components of the larger objects that are the true substances.
Dominance of Atomism in Modern Thought
This type of reductionistic reflection led to the dominance of atomism in modern thought. An atom is a simple substance, that is, a substance that cannot be broken up into smaller substances. Because it cannot be broken up, it is everlasting. It does not change in any way except in its location. Modern thought has supposed that the deepest truth about the world is that it is composed of material atoms in motion relative to one another. Then the goal of scientific explanation is to show how, following the laws of motion governing the movement of atoms, all the phenomena of the natural world can be explained and processes predicted. Although the course of physics has required many changes, the reductive program inherent in this substance metaphysics as described above in II.A.1. still guides most scientific work. (CG:IR&CR, 2)
In II. B., I outlined the modernist dualism which bifurcates human “substance” from all other forms of “natural”, non-human substance. Through our languages, which require a subject and an object and without consciously realizing they are taught that matter or substances compose the entities of our world, people commonly accept this form of modernist dualistic metaphysics. As I have explained, originally dualists exempted the human ”mind” from the laws of physics. Humans are of a fundamentally different nature. People have “mental substance” or “mind”. The founder of modern Western philosophy, Rene Descartes, held that whereas the primary characteristic of the entities making up nonhuman substance, the physical world, is “extension”, the primary characteristic of “minds”, i.e. “mental substances”, is thoughts or ideas. (CG:IR&CR, 2-3)
“Minds” Are Also “Substances”, But There’s a Fatal Flaw What is amazing and striking, however, is that Descartes and the modern thinkers who followed him, believed that thinking “minds” are also “substances”! This assertion is so subtle and common people assume substantialistic thinking and language without the realization that human “minds” are one form of a dualism of “substance”. As I explained previously, that means that philosophically conceived and explained, human minds are atomistically self-contained, unchanging entities, underlying the flow of changing experiences. The relations among them, like the relation among atoms, are external to their ‘substance’. These relations do not affect the “mind” as such.
I believe that after three decades of thinking about the philosophy of economics, I can point to an Achille’s heel, a fatal flaw, in the modernist neo-liberal economic theory of human nature – homo economicus. Perhaps others have discovered and fashioned this critique before me, but I am unaware of their analysis. As seen in the dualistic metaphysics of “substance” explained herein, I submit that the modernist metaphysics claim that a human being, homo economicus, is a self-contained, unchanging “mental” substance, a human “self”, which endures through time and which underlies changing experiences or attributes contains a hidden flaw deep inside its logic. While claiming that unchanging “mental” substance – the “self” - endures through time, this substance metaphysics simultaneously claims that homo economicus continuously expresses unlimited wants and desires which are constantly changing and unending. All these “wants” are not “external relations”. Wants come from an interiority. How can unchanging mental substance which underlies external changes and endures through time be reconciled with unlimited, always changing wants and desires? And we have also just concluded that thoughts and ideas are always changing! How can there be an unchanging mental substance that is always expressing unlimited wants and desires AND always producing new thoughts and ideas?
May be one materialistic response would be that unlimited wants and desires that are always and unendingly changing can be admitted as the “essence” of homo economicus and thus satisfy the neo-liberal economic claims of acquisitive and unlimited wants and desires. But then, wouldn’t you have to give up the materialism of substance thinking, the metaphysical idea of “material substance”, an unchanging reality underlying the changing attributes. Or another response might be that the “unchanging” nature of this material substance is that it’s “always changing”. It seems the first response is to concede the inadequacy of materialistic metaphysics and the second is to be a glaring word game.
Again, although I have never read or heard the following proposal, it would be an explanation to counter my preceding criticism. The traditional modernist metaphysics could argue dualistically that there are two completely different kinds of substance: one which is unchanging matter-substance with only external physical relations, expressed in Descartes’ “extension” or the physical world, and another completely different which is “mindful” matter - a self-contained, always changing entity of unlimited wants-desires, a “mental” substance only. This mindful matter could underlie and provide the explanation for the changing attributes of “wants” and always producing new thoughts and ideas. This claim could resolve the issue of how a mind or mental substance can produce unlimited wants-desires, yet keep the materialist metaphysical intuition that an unchanging substance underlies changing attributes. It would, however, mean that there are two diametrically opposed descriptions for the metaphysical claim of “substance” which somehow interface together and make the world we experience. We still have the “mind-body problem” of explaining how these two completely kinds of substance interact. The problem is writ large across the natural world as more and more “minds” are confirmed in lifeforms.
Another possibility is to purpose that we understand both forms of “substance”, instead of unchanging, as constantly changing, this would be more like Whitehead’s approach. But, in that case, why should we conceive the most fundamental units of reality in a materialistic way as “substance”? In the next portion of this section, I will describe Whitehead’s proposal which might be portrayed as type of “atomism” with two aspects, mental and physical – a dual aspect monism.
The whole point of “substance” for the Enlightenment thinkers was was that atoms only change their external relationships – physical, location, and spatial. In their atomistic existence as a self-contained substances – mental and physical, they do not change. They are everlasting. Following Whitehead below, I will describe and discuss a metaphysics of an atomism of “events” which are both physical and mental, always changing, not self-contained and constituted largely by their relations to other entities in their worlds. Whitehead’s can be deemed a dual aspect monism of “events”. That is, the physical and the mental are both aspects of one unifying process. Every entity is composed of its relationality to/with all other entities. It’s amenable to quantum theory.
Explanation of Whitehead’s Non-Substantial “Event” or “Actual Occasion” Metaphysics
“The many become one and are increased by one.” – A.N. Whitehead
In reaction to the dualistic and materialistic ontology assumed in modernist economic theory, Alfred North Whitehead developed a metaphysics able to deal with the complexities of relativity and quantum theory as well as with historicity and all experiencing whatsoever. It is a monistic ontology that denies the separateness of the dualistic ontology of human experiencing versus nonhuman repetition or determinism. First, I will attempt to state the features of Whitehead’s postmodern metaphysics that are relevant for rethinking economic theory.
Rather than materialistic substance interactions, Whitehead and process philosophers recognize that the world in which we live is a world of occurrences, happenings, and experiences. In this outlook, the relationality among and between all events are constitutive of what those entities become. There are conversations, sports matches, and clear-cutting forests as well as houses and cars, but these do not have to be conceived in terms of matter. As I have suggested, the dominant philosophy of modernity has analyzed all events in terms of substance or “matter in motion in/through space”. An alternative, which I will construe in III.A.1-3, is illustrative in Whitehead’s famous phrase, “The many become one and are increased by one.” Rather than “matter” or “substance”, Whitehead’s “event” or “actual occasion” ontology could be described as “reciprocally interdependent relationality or reciprocally interdependent interrelatedness”.
As I have just indicated above, the process, post-modern metaphysical alternative to material substance is “event”. Contemporary quantum physics, as well as rigorous philosophical analysis, suggests that what we call objects or even “particles” - like electrons or protons - are ultimately better understood as “complex patterns of energy events”. In this case, we do not require a dualism between matter and mind. Events of human experiencing and quantum events are very different, but Whitehead’s claim is that they share the same basic structure. Whitehead offers an atomism of events rather than of substances. Each atomistic ‘event’ is of the same structure as all other events in the sense that both human experiencing and quantum events, as well as all other individuals, internalize their worlds. That is, all are constituted by their relations to/with other entities in their worlds. They are themselves successions of discrete events, each including much of their own predecessors, and each adding something to what they have inherited from them. (CG:IR&CR, 5) Above I have called this dual aspect monism because both physical and mental “feelings” are integrated and harmonized in every “event”. (Fn8)
Whitehead’s tome of cosmology is called Process and Reality (PR). His well-known succinct phrase illustrative of his ontology is, “The many become one and are increased by one.” In order to reconceive economic theory from an inclusive non-substantial perspective, I will clarify my explication of this phrase in its two related parts. First, “the many become one…”. This part of the book’s title, “Process and Reality” is “process” as ontological “present” – an atomistic, momentary “now” - as “the many become one…”. Whitehead’s term for an event is “actual occasion”. Each event is reciprocally interrelated to other events in the past and also internalizes its own past in this new “now”- a new moment, a novel becoming. This reciprocal interrelatedness between past “many”, settled events and the novel occasion “becoming one”, constitutes the multiplicity of interrelationships which the “momentary becoming” integrates and harmonizes into a definite, concrete, settled outcome. The event is constituted by these interrelationships, these “feelings” of the past actual world, which are constitutive of its “becoming”. These would include one’s own individual history as well as, in the case of humans, family and other people in one’s community. But an event could also be reciprocally interrelated, through “feeling” relationships, to those entities comprising the ecologies and biosphere in which it is embedded. That is, the focus and aim of the harmonization of the event could also be to integrate feelings of lifeforms that compose the ecosystems of its ‘place’. The aim of the occasion guides how all these interrelations will be integrated into a unified outcome in that “now”.
This unification of the many past feelings into one concrete outcome is the “process” for “the many (to) become one”. The unification happens in the immediacy of the moment, of “now”. For Whitehead, the present, the “now”, is “actuality”. Actuality is the interface in the “present” (now) between a vast multiplicity of feelings internalized by the becoming entity and “potentiality” or “possibilities”. As the many are integrated into a new “one”, some harmonization is achieved which adds something to what has been received. But the integration made by many, many entities, herein called “creatures”, is to basically repeat the past with very little to no variation. However, more complex individuals, herein called “lifeforms”, may over time vary significantly from past outcomes. In a simplistic way I can describe “process”, the “present” or the “now”, as “becoming”.
Second, the contrasting part of the phrase is “…and are increased by one”. This part of “Process and Reality” is “reality”. It is the historical one-way movement of time’s arrow. It is the outcome that “emerges” from “actuality”. It is Descartes’ “extension”. It is concrete and definite. The outcomes are what are detected in the empiricism of scientific inquiry. Some new information emerges and is added to the historical compilation of past events which can and will be felt as “data” by subsequent events. It provides additional “context” for new events as they arise. Possibilities actualized by events in outcomes are available to be felt by subsequent events as they arise. In a simplistic way I can describe “reality” as the immediate “past”, as “determined”, as “being”. The “…increased by one” outcomes (become) “manifest”. A common phrase expresses this: they “come into being”.
Notice that this explanation of “events”, in contrast to the materialistic modernist Enlightenment perspective, is “organic”, not reductionistic and mechanical. Each atomistic event can be viewed in abstraction “developmentally”. It integrates and harmonizes and “grows” from its context. It can be understood as a microcosm of evolutionary change. The growth and change are not contiguous, incremental, and linear as in a mechanical explanation. The “process” of becoming is “organic”. Conceived in contrast with philosophies of substance, Whitehead’s philosophic approach is specified as the “philosophy of organism”.
Process Implications for Non-substantial Metaphysics and Economics
1. Whitehead provides a “process” account of a monistic ontology that denies the materialist separateness with the modernist dualistic ontology of human experiencing versus nonhuman substance. In this process perspective, all events or occasions are “different in degree”, not “different in kind”. Therefore, all lifeforms are “kindred spirits”. If they were here first, they “are” our ancestors.
2. Whitehead’s claim is that all “events” or “actual occasions” share the same basic structure. We are just “different in degree” of complexity. Whitehead offers an “atomism of events” rather than substance.
3. The relationality among and between all events are constitutive of what those entities become. That is, all are constituted by their relations to/with other entities in their worlds. We are all interrelated and interdependent through actual interrelationships and connections.
4. Each event is reciprocally interrelated to other events in the past and internalizes its own past in this new “now”- a new moment, a novel becoming. This reciprocal interrelatedness constitutes the multiplicity of interrelationships which the “momentary becoming” integrates and harmonizes into a definite, concrete, settled outcome. Literally, “I am ‘in’ them and they are ‘in’ me”.
5. The event is constituted by these interrelationships, these “feelings”, of the past actual world which it includes. An event is therefore reciprocally interrelated, through “feeling” relationships, even to those entities comprising the ecologies and biosphere in which it is embedded. I can include in my own becoming, feelings of nonhuman lifeforms which live in the watershed of my part of the biosphere.
6. For Whitehead, the present, the “now”, is “actuality”. Actuality is the interface in the “present” (now) between a vast multiplicity of feelings internalized by the becoming entity and “potentiality” or “possibilities”. There is never a stagnant repetition of the “present”. The present is always here and now and always changing.
7. “Reality” is the historical one-way movement of time’s arrow. It is the outcome that “emerges” from “actuality”. It is Descartes’ “extension”. It is concrete and definite. The outcomes are what are detected in the empiricism of scientific inquiry which provide additional “context” for new events as they arise. What we do matters. Our actions effect the future for the “holistic health” of all subsequent events, not just for the GDP of consumption.
III.A.2 Organic, not Mechanistic, Causation (c.f. II.A.2 – p. 34)
Referring back to II.A.2 (c.f. p. 34), the empirical understanding of causation that became pervasive during the Enlightenment held that “causation” is “mechanical” and occurs through physical and contiguous forces which are external among material entities. Causation is incremental and linear. It is sometimes referred to as “efficient causation”. Although external, there is no “action at a distance” meaning that change or motion cannot be affected without physical force or contact. For example, there are no nonlocal affects between objects that are spatially separated. These understandings of cause are built into our materialistic conception of substance which is presupposed by not only physical science but political, social, and economic theory.
Enlightenment thinkers and modernist economic theory assumed that the whole of “Nature” operates in terms of these mechanical forces. This assumption about causation was transferred to economic concepts like homo economicus, human “labor”, as well as “land” - the Earth’s systems, ecosystems, and all of the lifeforms of the “natural world”. Remember that, according to economic theory, the latter group imposes “constraints” on unlimited human “wants” producing our pervasive human situation of “scarcity”. The crux of the differences found in the Enlightenment outlook and that of alternative views resides in conceptions of causality. As I understand the history of science and its applications, humans jettisoned people to the moon and returned them relying basically on Newtonian mechanical causation. So, mechanical causation is not wrong, but it is incomplete. How is it incomplete?
WHITEHEAD’s Organic, “Event” Description of Causation
Unfortunately, I cannot thoroughly describe and delineate a full technical explanation of physical “causation”, efficient cause, from a Whiteheadian “process” philosophy of organism perspective in this paper. That explanation is unnecessary for this thesis. So, I will continue to depict efficient cause in terms of Whitehead’s phrase, “The many become one and are increased by one”. But first let me refer directly to Whitehead.
To begin to grasp a distinction between mechanical causation of substance metaphysics and an event explanation, I must quote Whitehead from PR, “A simple physical feeling is an act of causation. The actual entity which is the initial datum is the ‘cause’, the simple physical feeling is the ‘effect’, and the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect. This ‘conditioned’ actual entity will also be called the ‘effect’.” (page 236)
In the quote above, Whitehead depicts physical causation in the most elementary form as a “simple physical feeling” which is an “act of causation“. This “cause” lies in a past, resultant outcome from the “many (having) becoming one”, an “increased by one”, which is contributed into a new context, felt by and taken into subsequent events via simple physical feelings. The simple physical feeling ‘is’ the “effect” and the actual entity conditioned by ‘its’/this feeling is also the “effect”. A simple physical feeling, or causality for Whitehead, is a “reciprocal” process.
Thus, to comprehend a process description of physical causation, both parts of Whitehead’s phrase must be considered as interrelated. But, stated in terms of our phrase, “The many become one and are increased by one,” “mechanical cause” refers to the physical outcome of the many having become one, as a ‘datum’, available to subsequent events and ‘felt’ or empirically ‘detected’ as an outcome. From a Whiteheadian perspective, Enlightenment physical theory describes the physical effects of the outcome of the “many becoming one” without recognizing or considering the process of “the many becoming one”. But Whitehead’s process causation requires the interrelatedness of both parts of his phrase. A simple physical feeling answers, in part, the question, “How do the many become one?”.
The most novel “process” conceptuality capable of rendering Whitehead’s statement sensible is that every event (‘subject’ in the quote) is a “bundle of feeling(s)” ‘by’ the presently-becoming entity of the effects of the past. Among these feelings, the most basic are physical feelings described in Whitehead’s quote which are embodied in the concrete outcome of the prior event. These are the physical effects detected by and quantified in the empirical sciences.
Although sometimes referred to as quantum “mechanics”, quantum theory does not actually employ mechanical causation as understood in Newtonian physical theory. As a generalization, I referred to the term ‘subject’ in Whitehead’s quote as a “bundle of feeling”. On page 70, I referred to “particles” in quantum theory as ultimately better understood as “complex patterns of energy events”. For help in understanding the connections here in this clarification, I will roughly equate “energy event” with “bundle of feelings” and “subject”. These are all approximately equivalent to “process” as “the many become one”. Any simple physical feeling “by/of” an event, an actual occasion, “while” the many are becoming one is an act of causation as described in the Whiteheadian quote above.
In section III.A.1, I initially described Whitehead’s explanation of “events” by saying that each is constituted largely by its relations to/with other entities in its world. (p. 70) Then I portrayed the many becoming one through a “reciprocal interrelatedness” which is constituted by a “multiplicity of interrelationships”. (p. 71f.) Whitehead’s account of a “simple physical feeling” is that “reciprocal interrelatedness”. And what I have referred to as a “bundle of feelings” is a “multiplicity of interrelationships”. Thus, the event is constituted by these interrelationships, these “feelings”, of the past actual world. Understanding how an “atomistic event”, an “actual occasion”, “becomes one” through the integration of feelings which are reciprocal relationships will be crucial as we formulate a fundamentally distinctive alternative to an economics which has in the past been conceived materialistically.
Process Implications for Causation and Economics
1. Physical causation is not best described as contiguous forces which are external among material entities. Although the outcomes may “appear” incremental and linear, physical causation is depicted by Whitehead’s portrayal of a “simple physical feeling”. (c.f. p. 77f.)
2. Considering “simple physical feelings”, there are nonlocal affects, and therefore, “action at a distance”. The feelings felt in Whitehead’s quote do not have to be of contiguous occasions or events.
3. A process homo economicus, a “homo vital”(life-person), would be modeled on an “event” or “occasion”. A human person is understood as reciprocally interrelated and, therefore, dependent on the community of communities – human and nonhuman - which contribute to the process of its “becoming one”.
4. A “process” understanding of human “labor” would not abstract the personal contribution to physical effort-exertion or mental expertise from the person. It would recognize that people are not cogs on the wheel of production replaceable by some other person with similar skills. Each person in every business brings unique personality – a ‘whole person’ - and skill sets that make her/him a valuable member of the team solving problems in the productive and distributive procedures.
5. A “process” conceptuality of “land” is very unlike a substance, materialist outlook. “Land” is an abstraction from “Nature”. In a “process” conceptuality, Nature is not a constraint diametrically opposed to unlimited human “wants” creating a dreadful situation of “scarcity”. And land is not a synonym for “resources” or “commodities” to be used in production of goods for satisfying unlimited wants. In fact, a process vision the human “situation” is more like “abundance”! The natural world “gifts” to our communities all the “resources” to satisfy our “needs” and many of our “wants”. But, we must be grateful and thankful for their contribution to our “life”. People are not different in “kind” from all the other lifeforms on Earth, people belong to Earth.
6. A “process” conceptuality of “nature” portrays all the entities of the “natural world”, including people, as literally interconnected via “simple physical feelings”. Entities are actually interrelated and interdependent via reciprocal relations by which entities are constitutive of each other. Events are partially formative of other events.
7. In terms of the human “outcomes” from our economic activity, the effects of “production”, our “physical causation”, should ensure the sustainability and holistic health of all the lifeforms of local watersheds and bioregions. The specific aim of this causation will be addressed in III.C – ecosystem-biosphere sustainability. (c.F. p. 105, 133f.)
III.A.3. Teleology of Subjectivity (c.f. II.A.3 – p. 35f.)
Traditionally in Western philosophical history since Aristotle and the Greeks, there were four “causes” involved in every entity: material, efficient, formal, and final. The modernist, mechanistic materialistic metaphysics erased all final cause (purpose) from entering into the explanation of causation regarding human experiencing and behavior. (c.f. p. 35f.) The Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment metaphysics includes only material, efficient, and formal causes. Along with any goal-oriented behavior, no allowance was made for the subjectivity or purposeful behavior of nonhuman lifeforms or entities. The assumptions of a material world of unchanging substance underlying changing attributes meant that all other lifeforms and physical entities are devoid of subjectivity. They are not ‘subjects’ like people are. They do not behave in-and-for-themselves. They experience no “internality”, no “subjectivity”, no “purpose”. Remember in terms of “wants”, they do not “want” as people do. Nonhuman entities of all kinds do not “feel” like human “subjects” do. They do not exhibit “purposive” behavior like humans. None of them are “experiencing” lifeforms like people. They are different in “kind”. Just to be clear in modernist materialistic explanation no subjectivity, purpose, experiencing, feeling, or even agency is allowed in any way.
However, prior to the Enlightenment worldview, organisms were understood to require particular types of environments in order to survive. The behavior of any creature was observed to be extensively affected by the limits of its environment. For instance, an animal in a cage would behave very differently from the same animal in its “wild habitat”. The animal appears to be internally affected as it reacts to the “wild” environment of its natural world. That is, its reality in-and-for-itself is informed by its relations to the activities of other entities in its environment who are also behaving in-and-for-themselves. The living organism was understood to be internally related to its environment. (B-CCN-LE, 2-3) But with the presuppositions of materialism and the fragmentation of knowledge in the university came the organization of research into academic disciplines and the view that the parts can be separated from one another like clockworks for purposes of analysis. Their relations to one another and to their environment are not important to understanding them. (B-CCN-LE, 3)
Whitehead’s “Event” Account of Subjectivity and Teleology
Whitehead proclaims clearly in his philosophy of organism, Process and Reality: “The philosophies of substance presuppose a subject which then encounters a datum, and then reacts to the datum. The philosophy of organism presupposes a datum which is met with feelings, and progressively attains the unity of a subject.” (emphasis mine) (PR 155) Modernist economic theory is predicated on this first, substantialistic understanding of a subject which endures through time. For Whitehead, a subject does not first “exist” and then encounter data to be “experienced”. For “process” philosophy, a unified subject is the outcome of the process of “the many becoming one”. Subjective feelings “meet” and are reciprocally interdependent with the past. It is a process of the many becoming one “in-and-for-itself”. The contrast between these two notions of subjectivity cannot be overstated. In the final analysis, each person must consult the immediacy of her/his own subjectivity and choose between these two alternatives.
To explain how Whitehead reintroduces the teleology of final cause – sentience or experiencing, subjectivity, purpose, and aim at value, I will refer again to his famous phrase, “The many become one and are increased by one,” and the quote from PR page 236: “A simple physical feeling is an act of causation. The actual entity which is the initial datum is the ‘cause’, the simple physical feeling is the ‘effect’, and the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect. This ‘conditioned’ actual entity will also be called the ‘effect’.”
As I have suggested, mechanical causation refers mostly to the “increased by one” from the efficient force, the physical outcome of the “many having become one”. Whereas, the focus on the teleology of subjectivity points primarily to “the many becoming one” and the concrete outcome. Previously on p. 79, I generally equated “energy event” with “bundle of feelings” and “subject”. Here I am using “bundle” in a metaphorical way, like a “bundle of energy” is a “quantum event”. Every bundle of energy, every quantum event, every actual occasion is a “subjecting” which arises with any bundle of energy, the bundle of feelings.
In the quote from Whitehead, he refers to “…the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect…”(emphasis mine). Here Whitehead uses the word “subject”, but not in a substantialistic way. The word “subjecting” would almost be better because when he refers to a “subject”, it’s always “here and now” and “always changing”, or harmonizing feeling, and new with each subsequent event or occasion. (fn9) Whitehead felt that the modernist, completely mechanistic materialistic worldview was too extreme in excluding subjectivity and purpose from any contribution in the explanation of “process and reality”. Whitehead focused on his own immediate experiencing to decide whether to extend the immediacy of experiencing by/through “feeling” to all events or occasions. (SMW?PR, X??X) -
Derived from his own sense of vivid immediacy is his intuition/ conviction that all experiencing whatsoever is sentient and purposive. This issue is pivotal. The bifurcation of the modernistic perspective described in Sections I and II ascribes subjectivity and purpose only to humans. For many reasons including evolutionary complexity, Whitehead advanced his proposals which ascribe sentience, subjectivity, and purpose to all entities “all the way down”. Remember I have called this ontology “dual aspect monism” because both physical and mental feelings are integrated and harmonized towards one, unified outcome.
Whitehead proposes that, arising with the feelings as described in the quote concerning the reciprocal relations of causation of the “subject”, is a “subjective aim”. The theme of “self-organizing behavior” has been prevalent in science and philosophy of science discussions for several decades. I can easily point to what I have called integrating and harmonizing behavior in the process of the many becoming one as self-organizing behavior. But this self-organizing behavior aims at and becomes ordered around achieving some “value”. I would correlate “self-organizing behavior” with “subjective aim”. As it “becomes one” each event aims at achieving some value in-and-for-itself and for its contribution – the “increased by one” - to the new context for subsequent events. This purposive aim – the subjective aim - arises with the sentience illustrated in the PR quote and acquires the unity of a subject around achieving some value. The subjecting arises ‘with’ and the unified subject emerges ‘from’ the “process”. This statement is my way of saying, “…the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect. This ‘conditioned’ actual entity will also be called the ‘effect’.”(PR, 236)
But the subject becomes determinate by “choosing”, from among many, many alternates, “one” to actualize. This choosing should not be conceived as a conscious, rational “decision”. But “decision” is Whitehead’s word and it is a “decision” in the root sense of “cutting off”. From among many, many values in the process of the integration and harmonization of the subjective aim, one value is chosen to actualize. Every occasion is partially determined by the past, but the “decision” is totally its own act. This decision makes one value “concrete”. An event is not totally determined by the past even though the potentially for novelty in each occasion may be minisculely small. Although this is an empirical question, I feel there is some minute “choice” for creativity in protos, neutrons, electrons, and even quarks and gluons.
I must add another essential process component which is at extreme tension with the determinism of modernist, mechanistic, reductionistic materialism delineated in Sections II and III. The mechanistic causation of materialism requires determinism. As we have seen for Whitehead, each event or occasion includes “decision” as an essential component of self-determination. The decision is its own “cutting off”. Every event-occasion not only self-organizes the many, many feelings, but also is the only “decider” regarding what value to actualize. Whitehead uses the Latin term causa sui – self caused - to specify this idea. Causa sui, self-causation, is of monumental importance. It means that even with overwhelming efficient causation from the past that event’s process of becoming is its own reason for the decision which integrates and harmonizes the many feelings “becoming one”.??
Process Implications for Subjectivity and Teleology
1. Every event-occasion is “sentient” in the sense of experiencing or “feeling”, but not with the connotation or implication of “consciousness”. Remember from the quote, “…the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling…”. Every becoming occasion-event is constituted by reciprocal feelings of many, many, many past events and the most elementary occasion-events can be imagined as “non-conscious experiencing”. The direct process inference is that all nonhuman lifeforms, and ultimately all entities, are sentient in this way. Referring to the quote, sentience constitutes the “experiencing” of a “subject”. Every lifeform in all of the ecosystems of the natural world, in all the eco-biosphere, are composed of feeling-sentient entities.
2. As the partial quote in 1) described, for Whitehead, every entity is a “subject”, but not in an enduring, substantial way. I suggested may be “subjecting” might be a better connotation. Every lifeform in all of the ecosystems of the natural world and all the eco-biosphere are subjects in this sense. There is no bifurcation between human sentience and nonhuman. Like the notion of substance, of matter, the dualism between matter and mind - nature and human - is disastrously false. All lifeforms are sentient, experiencing subjects as depicted in Whitehead’s quote (PR, p. 236)’.
3. Each event-occasion is a sentient subjecting integrating and harmonizing feelings ‘around’ a “subjective aim”. A subjective aim directly introduces the issue of final cause, the end or aim toward which an entity subjectively organizes and integrates its outcome or action. Once again, every lifeform in all of the ecosystems of the natural world and all the eco-biosphere are “aiming” subjects toward their own momentary enjoyment and ‘finality’ in this sense. But each aims at an end value in-and-for-itself. Each “subjecting” aims at the actualization-outcome of some value in-and-for that occasion. This end value actualized in the outcome is the final cause. All lifeforms and all events attain values, not only people. 4. “Purpose” is a synonym for “aim”, so you might say “subjective purpose” instead of “subjective aim”. If modernist economic theory is partially correct about its version of homo economicus, but it’s an “abstraction”, what is it an abstraction from? I proposed that “wants” in the modernist neo-liberal economic theory are the “purposive behaviors” of humans. I suggest “wants” are an abstraction from an essential aspect of human experiencing that is named in the Whiteheadian account. I propose “wants” are an abstraction from the “subjective aims” of occasions. And therefore, I propose that the “subjective aim” of an “event” or “occasion” is “purpose” in the traditional philosophical language. (*see PR, ??) But in the process outlook, this means that all lifeforms and all events embody purposive outcomes and behaviors that are “self-organizing”. All sentient entities, experiencing, events, occasions are purposive and self-organizing in Whitehead’s account.
5. But the exact value which emerges from the “many becoming one” is not totally predictable until the event-occasion “decides”. The subject becomes determinate by choosing, from among many, many alternates, “one” value to actualize. The “decision” is totally its own act. The natural world is composed of every lifeform in all of the ecosystems and all the eco-biosphere are subjects that “decide” the exact value to actualize their own momentary becoming. Every event of the natural world is causa sui – self caused, and therefore, not “totally determined”. All lifeforms and all events are self-caused and decide among values.
6. Whitehead claims that in the subjective aim at value, the occasion “enjoys” its own momentary experiencing, its own “subjective immediacy”. This is not a datum of a physical feeling. This enjoyment is the actuality of the occasion for itself, its “immediacy”. All lifeforms and all events aim at enjoyment of their own (subjective) immediacy.
7. This subjective aim at “value”, i. e. some specific value relative to that entity in that momentary becoming, is what I have named earlier as “intrinsic value” in II.A and II.C. All lifeforms and all events aim at actualizing an intrinsic value in their own (subjective) immediacy.
8. From a Whiteheadian economic outlook, the ultimate aim for both a human subject and of the economic system itself cannot be “to increase GDP for wealth creation”. Subjects aim at many other values than the consumption of goods and services to increase GDP to create wealth.
III. B. Modernist’s Subtle Dualistic Bifurcation of the Human and the Natural: human vs. nature As we have seen in III.A, the “human” vs. “nature” dualism results from the metaphysical vision accepted during the Enlightenment that the
ultimate reality of the world is composed of matter or substance. But there is a dualism of substances. One is ‘physical substance’ comprising all the “natural world”. The other is ‘mental substance’ which characterizes humans. These are two very different, oppositional “orders of being”, like “matter and spirit” or “mind and matter”.
As spelled out above for neo-liberal economic theory today, the only value that is recognized in the economic system is that of homo economicus, human satisfaction. And the only form of satisfaction that is recognized for homo economicus is that derived from the consumption or possession of desired goods and services. Economists encourage the ordering of the economy, not for the health and well-being of people and the natural world, but to the end of increasing human satisfaction for wealth creation by consumerism. Thus, as I have established in II.B., the only value that can be attributed to the non-human world is transactional. All lifeforms great and small can only serve toward the satisfaction of human wants. Their value is the price that someone is prepared to pay for them in the marketplace. Therefore, all of the biosphere as a whole and the ecosystems of ecosystems of individual watersheds are viewed as a commodities with only instrumental value for the satisfactions of people. Given the standard Enlightenment two forms of “substance” view that the world as composed of human minds and non-human objects, this dualism of humans and nonhuman commodities seemed appropriate. It is derived from the idea that all of the non-human world are non-renewable and renewable resources which are available for the market. That way market forces can levy a market price on them. (B-CCN-LE, 10)
Since the natural world is understood simply as resources for production and for commodities, there is no concern about ecological decay. Since human relations to the natural world are purely external, there can be no consideration of how the decay of that world affects the health and general well-being of its human inhabitants. Since everything except human minds is, as I have described, simply substance or matter moved about mechanically by physical forces, exhaustion of resources does not figure in an account of modernist economic theory. Substitutes can be found. One bit of matter can be found to replace other bits of matter. (CGPW, 10)
As you will remember, another outcome of the conclusions of modern economic science is that the natural environment is a “given” to which no positive attention, no sense of its health need be paid. At the time economics developed, all natural resources were globally abundant. Their local scarcity was a function of the extractive and transportation difficulties of getting them to markets. As wealth and technology grew, more resources could be obtained. Scarcities were always relative scarcities. (PEEP, 11) Since the Enlightenment view was that the natural world is a “given” to be used up in the production of goods and services, that presupposition became part of the worldview promoted by the dichotomy between the human and the natural. A similar bifurcation is evident in the conception of homo economicus between unlimited wants and necessarily limited resources (c.f. III.C).
You will remember that the original factors of production condensed all the “natural world” – ecosphere – into the factor of “land” all of which is understood to be “commodities” used in the production of goods and services for the satisfaction of human wants. That is, all the “natural world” is objectified as resources and condensed into the economic concept of commodities. As a “given”, the health and well-being of the rest of the natural world can be disregarded because they constitute no necessary relationships to people’s welfare. (PEEP, 11) Because economic theory has had no place for nature, economists have been slow to recognize that some scarcities are absolute. This is especially true of "sinks"- atmosphere or lakes, rivers, oceans - for disposal of pollutants. When human activity was small in relation to the natural environment, pollution was local. Now that human economy and is transnational, pollution is global. For example, the oceans and all her lifeforms are choking on plastic debris.
Similarly, as outlined in II.B., a lack of deep and inclusive understanding of the “natural world” and of separate attention to the health of “nature”, “natural world”, or “environment” involved in ‘production’ has meant that all nonhuman entities are treated only under the headings of capital or commodities. Since the “natural world” is just a given, the “subjective” character of all “natural” lifeforms is unacknowledged (c.f., Whitehead’s “Event” Account of Subjectivity and Teleology above, p. 88) and therefore neglected, as is their intrinsic value. This means their value in-and-for-themselves – their own experiencing that was extensively outlined in III.A.3 – is not taken into account in market activity and GDP. Left to itself the market puts a money value on all creatures devoid of their intrinsic value and causes the extinction of many species. Technology cannot replace these varied species throughout any distinct ecological system. Also, economic theory gives no grounds for any concern about the suffering of nonhuman lifeforms. Only human desires count. If human desires are better satisfied when suffering is inflicted on other lifeforms, then from the economic perspective, that is no problem in the pursuit of the satisfaction of these unlimited human wants. (PEEP, 11)
Challenging the underlying unrecognized assumptions implicit in long accepted neo-liberal economic theory and practice may only prove possible when cultures recognize that the deadly-toxic effects of industrial economic assumptions on the lifeforms of the biosphere, on the local ecologies in which human societies are embedded, as well as on the air, soils, and waters of each society are directly affecting their own health and well-being. Because modernist economic theory objectifies the natural world and perceives nonhuman lifeforms as having only instrumental value, business and industry can continue to argue for privatization of resources used to satisfy human wants for wealth creation. But the position taken in this paper is that the inability to give sustained economic attention to the intrinsic value of the rest of the lifeforms of the natural world, in their continuity with human character as being also intrinsically valuable, is a profound failure of modernist neo-liberal economic theory. (GETJ, 14) My conclusion here is that contained in the Enlightenment vision is the presupposition that the whole planet is just a “stage” for the human drama, for human history, for the satisfaction of wants. When this is the pre-understanding of societies, they degrade and poison the natural systems which support the health and well-being of those same human communities. “All the world’s a stage and only humans are the ‘actors’ (or ‘wanters’)”.
Whitehead: “The many become one and are increased by one.” The deep and inclusive understanding of the terms “natural world” or ”nature” or ”environment” or “nonhuman” are decisive issues for the revisioning of economic theory which I cannot directly deal with in Sections I-IV. As defined and contrasted in the “Introduction”, I have used broader physical geography-biological terms like “ecosphere” or “biosphere”. I have intentionally used these words together, in new ways. This is because, although we commonly refer to different “spheres” - “atmosphere”, “lithosphere”, atmosphere”, or “biosphere”, they are not in any way separate. In the actual world, each is contained in the others. ”Biosphere”, “ecozone”, and “ecosphere” are not actually separate. We make these distinctions for our own mental pictures and categorization much like we separate the Mediterranean Sea into the Aegean, Adriatic, Ionian, etc. So, in many places I have conjoined them - like “eco-biosphere”.
As suggested in III.A., viewing reality through Whiteheadian spectacles leads to very different judgments. Because all entities whatsoever share the same process of harmonizing their worlds, human existence is continuous with the rest of the natural world. Humans have special and distinctive characteristics and intrinsic value, but this does not discount or displace the intrinsic value of other natural entities. A different economic system would call us to balance the contribution to our lives to other lifeforms, even ‘against’ our wants, and the value they have in-and-for-themselves. Close attention to the natural world – the eco-biosphere - is called for, and especially to the consequences for all lifeforms from the human economy and activity. (PEEP, 11)
As described earlier from a Whiteheadian outlook, human experiencing is constituted largely by its relation to past personal experiences, events in one's body, and events in the wider world. Amongst the most important relations are those to other people. I am what I am in this moment as an expression of the relations I have had and now have to other people in the past and the present moment. All these people in my human community, past and present, are part of who I am. At the same time, from a Whiteheadian perspective, so are all the relationships I now concurrently have to all the nonhuman lifeforms especially in my portion of the eco-biosphere, my watershed and bioregion. All of them also could constitute a portion of my physical feelings, “me now”.
Note how this enlargement of human relationship to other humans and to “nature” changes the categories of economic thought. Modern economics took for granted that the economic individual is a self-contained individual remaining self-identical through time. Prudential concern for one's own future seems rational in this view, but real concern for anyone else or any nonhuman lifeforms is problematic. As we have seen from a modernist neo-liberal perspective, individualistic, acquisitive self-interest is the expected normative behavior.
But if, from a Whiteheadian viewpoint, a human person is a flow of experiences, each of which is an “event”, that are always “here and now”, always changing, and also socially constituted partly from the feelings of immediately past events, the question is quite different. Each momentary experiencing is what it is by virtue of the way others have been constituted in the immediate past. It can be benefited or harmed by them or tune them out. In turn, it can constitute itself so as to flow not only into successor experiences in its own personal stream, but into other subsequent streams also. Some of these streams of experiences may be nonhuman “events”. Contrary to neo-liberal individualistic economic theory, there is no reason to be interested only in what happens to one's personal future. At times, one’s decisions concerning their own immediate influence on all those events in the natural world around them may seem considerably more important than the immediate effects of one's wants and personal self-interest. But from a Whiteheadian perspective, that this is so requires no special explanation.
Remember, from a modernist neo-liberal economic perspective, exclusive concern for one's personal future would be expected to be self-interested and rational. Indeed, total indifference to the effects on others would also be expected to be normal. But, my post-modern economic claim would be that the rational self-interest claimed by neo-liberal economic theory need not always predominate. (CG:IR&CR, 6)]
The special explanation is that with a Whiteheadian ontology, we have a metaphysics of a relational person, a “relational self”. Regarding this concept in economic theory, Cobb calls this concept “person-in-community” (ECG, 7) which can be understood in a holistic way without dividing him/her into economic, political, social, psychological, or religious “selves”. One internalizes one's parents, siblings, and community. Their influence is inescapable. Influence means flowing into, and in Whitehead’s metaphysics, this is taken quite literally. The mother's experience flows into that of the child before birth and in infancy. So, do those of the father and of other family members. The child, the human “relational-self”, does not first exist independently and then enter into relations as asserted by neo-liberal economic theory. The only child there “is” is the one who is largely constituted by these relationships and by relationships to those entities comprising the ecologies and biosphere in which it is embedded. The only person who engages in all the activities of economic, political, social, psychological, or religious activities is a holistic person as a flow of experiences that are socially constituted by the kinds of relations just described. (CG:IR&CR, 6) Such a “relational self” will be described more extensively in III. C. below.
“But, the struggle to save the natural environment has not been led by those who view it as a commodity. It has been led by those who see it as having value in itself and as intimately interconnected with human well-being.” (GETJ, 14)
But as the limitations of economic theory have appeared, new branches of economic theory have developed to deal with them. For example, as economists are forced to recognize that there are costs associated with exhausting resources and polluting the environment, it is not possible to tackle these new questions in terms of the existing economic paradigm. This is an important realization. Those who do not share the modern metaphysics find these effects profoundly unsatisfactory. Persons responsible for the environment have found that standard economic theories do not help them. (CGPW, 10)
Some people have concluded that the environmental effects show the toxic results of the dualistic assumptions of modernistic substantialistic economic theory. Thus, those who do not totally share the modern substantialistic metaphysics find the modernist neo-liberal economic perspective profoundly unsatisfactory, especially because of the resulting decimation of ecosystems and species. (CGPW, 10) But, because we still live in the modern age, the ecologists are handicapped by having to make their case in modernist substantialistic terms. (EE,3)
In order to challenge the extension of the modernist reductionistic, mechanistic materialistic paradigm to new fields, there has arisen, largely outside of economics departments, an international society for ecological economics. There are also national societies, such as the Canadian Society for Ecological Economics, and international societies, like the International Society for Ecological Economics. The ways of thinking of these organizations is largely excluded from economics departments because it approaches the question with different assumptions about who human beings are, how they are related to one another, what the natural world is, and how humans are related to it. These different assumptions are not the ones that shaped modernity. Whiteheadians call them “constructive postmodernists”. (CGPW, 10)
III. C. A Whiteheadian Alternative to the Modernist Theory of Human Nature or Homo Economicus
The Whiteheadian critique and proposals that have been made in Sections III. A.- B. will now be cumulatively applied in Section III.C. If as I outlined in Sections II.A-II. C., people are understood as individuals benefited only by increased consumption of goods and services, then socio-political structures should adopt those policies that increase the availability of these goods and services. Recently, this has been the most important function of political bodies around the world. And as reasoned in Section I., since the larger the market the more efficiently goods are produced, the socio-political structures should remove all barriers to the movement of capital and goods across socio-political boundaries. In addition, legislatures should reduce their regulation of business to a minimum, and provide the most favorable and attractive context for investment. In short, they should continue to adopt the role of servants of the national or global market. (ECG, 6)
And given the understanding of human beings described in II.B. and II.C., the policies that have aimed human economies toward economic growth and wealth creation, while destroying so many parts of the biosphere both in the United States and in the Third World, are entirely rational and moral. They lead to increased productivity and thereby, assuming full employment, to increased per capita consumption, a higher standard of living, and an increase of wealth. (c.f., p. 55) The argument that has been made herein is that the philosophical assumptions of modernist neo-liberal economic perspective, outlined in Section II are actually false. (ECG, 6)
Considering the global success of the modernist neo-liberal economic theory, there are important elements of truth in these perspectives. These concepts are founded as a valid aspect of human behavior in a communal “market” setting based using the exchange value of money, but this is an abstraction from the whole set of community relationships. This problem comes from supposing that the implications homo economicus generates should be applied to the entirety of human community in which markets are only one part of the whole of social life and in which human community is only one community in the ecosphere and biosphere. For most people, there are other societal or political goals in life besides acquiring goods and services. (PEEP, 9)
The substance metaphysical views, as explained in II.A.-C., constitute a large part of these assumptions which are the subtle bases of neo-liberal economic theory. As depicted therein, the human beings who are the actors in the economic drama are self-contained, unchanging individuals, relating to other people only externally through contractual exchanges in the daily market of their lives. Intrinsic value is located only in human experiencing. Economic theory goes on to identify this value with the price paid for such “objects” in the market place. (CGPW, 9)
But the point of a postmodern economics is that the economy should serve the society and the sustainability of the ecosphere and biosphere. The current situation, in which societies have been restructured to serve wealth creation while the natural world is devastated in the service of the global economy, is intolerable. (CGPW, 8)
The Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness: Homo Economicus as Abstraction (see “Abstraction”, p.48)
As we have seen in Section II.C., economists admit that their account of human nature, homo economicus, is an abstraction from the fullness of human interactions. There is also nothing wrong with examining human behavior in market transactions in separation from other behaviors. It would be normal that in a cash market setting each producer of products is almost always attempting to sell their goods or services for the highest prices. But, when that behavior is then generalized to every transaction by every actor in the market with the subtle additional claim of individual acquisitive self-interest through an innate human motivation of unending, unlimited wants-desires, the abstraction is treated as a normative actuality. This then becomes the rule governing economic behavior.
Whitehead calls this “the fallacy of misplaced concreteness”. This is the error of “mistaking the abstract for the concrete”. It results from restricting the focus to a separate group of abstractions with clear and precise relationships and then mistaking the abstraction for a concrete actuality. (PR 7, 18) So, as an abstraction from aspects of human behavior in the marketplace, homo economicus is not wrong. It is partially accurate.
The Transition from Description to Normative Use
Therefore, this homo economicus philosophical understanding of “human nature” is not the whole truth about human relations. When it passes from descriptive use to prescriptive use, that is, when policies are proposed that treat human relationships as if consumption was the goal and main activity of human life, there are serious dangers of distortion with often disastrous consequences.
This transition from description to normative use occurs also with respect to the view of homo economicus as acquisitive. Economists call the selfish behavior they describe "rational". (see p. 32f., 41f.) They show that rational behavior leads to greater wealth not only on the part of those who practice it but also for society as a whole. (GETJ, 11; B-CCN-LE, 7) Thus, by encouraging only individualistic wealth through exchange “bidding” in the market place, rational behavior of homo economicus supports the covert economic supreme value of wealth creation. And so, the goal of each human life and of society becomes wealth and wealth creation.
When economists’ description of how most of us act in our economic dealings most of the time has become a norm, people who do not want to act that way are forced to do so. The social and economic system turns them into this kind of promotion of one’s own self-interest. (B-CCN-LE, 7-8; GETJ, 11)
Substance Metaphysics Promotes Highly Individualistic Economics
As I concluded in II. C., the philosophical implication of homo economicus is a radical form of individualism. This individualism dominated thought about society throughout the early modern period and has shaped much of late modern thought as well. (CG:IR&CR, 3) But, if in fact people are not the substantialistic, self-contained, separate individuals depicted in modernist economic theory, then the theory developed on this basis is distorted.
Also, remember many modern people have supposed that the movement of the atoms can explain human experience, too. So, people are to be understood also as are the objects of the substantial world. We may also think of our “selves” as substances. "I" seems to name an entity that remains the same in many different contexts and with changing experiences and feelings. I am sometimes talking and sometimes listening. I am sometimes sad and sometimes joyful. But "I" seem to remain the same "I" throughout these changes. (CG:IR&CR, 1-3; 5)
Now recall the assumption discussed in II. C. from substantialistic economics that, for purposes of economics, people can be adequately understood as separate individuals who seek utility maximization. Of course, these individuals may choose to use their resources to gift or share with others, but that is an aberrant behavior from the norm. An economist need not deny the value of community for “some” individuals. But its value is to be determined only through voluntary associations, by how much separate individuals are willing to pay for the collective values of community. (PEEP, 10)
Four Consequences of Individualistic Economic Theory
Four more issues result from substantialistic economic theory which focuses primarily on self-contained, self-interested, acquisitive, rational individuals with unlimited wants and desires only for goods and services. One problem is that today economists sometimes worry that consumers will not buy enough goods and services in order to keep the GDP increasing. To prevent this failure of individuals to live up to their billing as insatiable, we have created a system designed to generate new desires as old ones are satisfied. “New, improved” products are constantly replacing “old” versions including clothes. Products are created with “planned obsolescence”, so that they wear out within a few years. “Durable goods” last only 5-7 years. (GETJ, 11; B-CCN-LE, 7)
A second problem is in holding that the supreme goal is enabling individuals to satisfy as many of their desires as possible regardless of what these wants are for. Economists argue that it is not their business, or the business of the public, to prefer one set of desired goods over others. If people prefer pornography to art, that is what they should have, and that is what the market will supply them. If people want nicotine, it is the job of the market to provide it just as freely as milk. (PEEP, 9)
A third problem is the view that because there is no basis for judging among values beyond the strength of desire expressed in market bidding, one cannot favor the meeting of one person's wants-desires over another's. This means that those with money dominate the decision as to what the market will supply. It means that a third car for a rich family is of equal importance with food on the table of the poor. (PEEP, 9).
Finally, another issue is that the self-interested aim at the maximization of individual benefits is not able to be applied to a conception of the “common good” for the whole community for the maximization of social or political benefits. The lack of this conceptuality shackles attempts to aim at comprehensive societal goals.
A Whiteheadian must disagree with conclusions such as these. Societal values cannot be identified with what is desired, and society cannot accept the market alone as the basis for deciding which desires should be fulfilled. Historically, no society does this. In fact, societies provide benefits and costs for values they favor. All societies express their collective values by regulations which favor some desires over others for the common good of the entire community. (PEEP, 8) (fn10 - More can be learned about the Individualistic Conceptual Dominance in Economics and in Western History from Cobb)
What the Substance Metaphysical Vision Precludes Now consider what this substance metaphysical vision precludes. Since people are related to one another only externally, there can be no real relationships of community. There can only be voluntary associations, and the members of these associations will calculate whether each association is beneficial to them as individuals. Non-market relations among human beings do not contribute to the intrinsic value of human wants and desires. Hence, the destruction of human community and the deterioration of human relations by people moving away from their families that accompany the expansion of the market are not considered to be losses to any individual person. Similarly, societal or political goals like the ideas of fairness or justice and political participation play no role in economic theory. (CGPW, 10)
So rather than fostering societal or political goals, the fundamental purpose of the economy, as understood on the basis of modern substance metaphysics, is to increase the total quantity of goods and services available to human beings as individuals in the market place of everyday life. Economic theory has succeeded brilliantly in guiding human development in this direction. But since the theory has likewise no place for just distribution of goods and services, the huge growth in production has not greatly benefited the poor. And, there is an extreme discordance with the claim that it is not up to the market to fairly distribute goods and services and the initial claim to increase GDP in order to improve the standard of living for everyone, especially the poor. (c.f. p. 21)
Since the theory has no place for community, this growth has destroyed most “traditional” communities and many modern national ones as well. Since the theory has no place for the natural world, the practice is now clearly unsustainable in physical terms and has already severely degraded the eco-biosphere. (CGPW, 12)
Several other assumptions built into the dominant modernist neo-liberal theory of economics are contrary to a Whiteheadian understanding. First, human beings are understood, for purposes of economics, to only aim at the acquisition of the goods and services they desire for as little of their labor as possible. This is understood to be rational behavior, and if people are not behaving "rationally" economists encourage them to do so. The point is that people should be free to fulfill their desires in the market exchanges without any restrictions. In fact, most economic thought assumes that people are only seeking their personal advantage even in civic and political participation. (PEEP, 8)
Economics arose in the same context as modern political theory. In a similar way, this posited individuals who may or may not decide to pay the price of personal liberty in order to achieve political order. The political theory assumed that people benefit so much from that order that it is rational for them to enter into contractual agreements that sacrifice considerable personal freedom. In contrast, economic theory argues that there is no need for sacrifice. The contractual relations that contribute to the good functioning of the market and the enrichment of the whole group require no restriction on individual personal freedom. (PEEP, 10) In fact, increased consumption without “restraints” is the goal of market exchanges.
Thus, according to Enlightenment academic divisions, we are homo politicus as well as homo economicus. Until fairly recently, our overall global behavior reflected our political nature more than our economic nature. We fought wars for national advantage, not global economic gain. But today nations, like the United States, which would not dream of sacrificing sovereignty to an international political body such as the United Nations, are prepared to sacrifice it to international economic institutions for the sake of economic growth. (B-CCN-LE, 7)
Whiteheadian Perspectives for Postmodern Economic Theory - Introduction
Let me quickly summarize aspects of modernist neo-liberal economic theory. As I have proposed, modernist neo-liberal economic theory is abstracted from human behavior and is not wrong. But when it moves from description of dominant behavior to the normative expectation of all economic behavior and founds that behavior on a hypothesis about human nature itself, homo economicus, it leaves out much that is crucial to human life and community as well as all of the nonhuman world. For example, “all” of the ecosphere and the biosphere excluding people are “externalities” to the neo-liberal economic vision. That is, only human wants-desires are “intrinsic values” in this system and all other lifeforms and “resources” are valued in the market according to exchanges by market “price” for the production of goods and services to satisfy those human wants-desires.
As we have seen, because the modernist economic worldview was founded on the substantiatistic understandings of physical science, the Western European market economics internalized these concepts. Human identity - a “self” - is conceived equivalent to the basic constituents of the physical world. Atoms are self-contained, unchanging individuals having only external relations moving through space. So also, humans are conceived as self-contained individuals who endure through time and move through (the) space of their market activities having only external or “contractual” relations with other people.
Added to this conceptuality is the “hypothesis” about why this financially maximizing behavior observed in market transactions is normative. It is founded on a hypothesis about the innate acquisitive character of human individuals consisting of insatiable, unending, unlimited wants-desires. People are self-interested individuals who rationally maximize their behavior to acquire pleasurable wealth. The substantialistic understandings are mirrored in human identity and coupled with the normative “prescriptive” claims of innate acquisitive behavior grounded in the “unlimited wanting” character of all human beings leading necessarily to the universal, determinative, individual and collective circumstance called “scarcity”.
If we need an alternative economic theory, why use Whitehead’s philosophy? Whitehead, who did develop a metaphysics able to deal with the complexities of human experiencing and quantum theory as well as with nonhuman experiencing, provides the bases for an inclusive, coherent, and holistic postmodern economic theory. In order to state the features of this postmodern metaphysics that are relevant for rethinking economic theory, several points are needed. (CGPW, 11)
The process understanding of “human nature" must account for homo economicus, but cannot be identified with: 1) only an abstraction from dominate aspects of market activity; 2) constituted by insatiable-unending wants-desires which are diametrically opposed by limited resources which necessarily lead to scarcity and competition; 3) separate atomistic, self-contained, unchanging human individual with external relations and conceived of on analogy with atoms moving through space; 4) innately individualistic; 5) innately acquisitive of goods and services; 6) entirely self-Interested; and 7) invariably rational maximizers.
A Contrasting Whiteheadian Account of Human Nature So, if people are not the self-contained and separate “individuals” depicted in economic theory, then the theory developed on this basis has distorted homo economicus which limits humans’ activity in the market to “self-interest” only and has no place at all for the nonhuman world except as commodities for production. It is not surprising that the social and political policies based on this theory lead to so much human suffering and ecosphere destruction. It is crucially important to articulate this Whiteheadian alternative. (ECG, 6) Under each of the descriptive characteristics of homo economicus, I shall formulate an alternative Whiteheadian response.
Unlimited, Insatiable-Unending Wants-Desires plus Limited Resources Determine a World of Scarcity and Competition
Remember that according to standard neo-liberal economic theory, unlimited human wants considered simultaneously with limited resources create the “human condition” of “scarcity” in which we all exist. Homo economicus generates so-o many wants that there can never be enough resources to satisfy those wants. Nature is a “constraint” against human wants. Scarcity is a condition of inexorable, individual and national competition for resources and is inherently fearful. Considered sequentially wants are “unending”, so another “want” will succeed the previous one and it will be also met with a world of “limited” resources available for the successive want. Wants are so unlimited that whether we consider the dichotomy between wants and resources every moment or in “unending” successive moments, there can be no amount of resources available to satisfy all the wants for goods and services a human has. (c.f. p. 48-49)
Whereas homo economicus postulates unlimited, insatiable-unending wants-desires with limited resources determining a world of scarcity and competition (c.f. p.24-25), a Whiteheadian account of human experiencing is very different. There is no bifurcation between human and natural. All events and lifeforms are experiencing subjects. The subjectivity of every becoming occasion-event is constituted by reciprocal feelings of many, many, many past events. Every creature in all of the ecosystems of the natural world, in all the eco-biosphere, are composed of such feeling-sentient entities and are subjects in the sense that they are constituted by feeling their worlds.
Each event-occasion is a sentient “subjecting” integrating and harmonizing feelings around a “subjective aim”. A subjective aim directly introduces the issue of final cause, the end, aim, or purpose toward which an entity subjectively organizes and integrates its outcome. I have suggested that “wants” in the modernist neo-liberal economic theory are the “purposive behaviors” of humans. I submit “wants” are an abstraction from an essential aspect of human experiencing that is named in the Whiteheadian account. I proposed “wants” are an abstraction from the “subjective aim” of an occasion. Specifically, “wants” for the market based neo-liberal economic theory are subjective aims for the acquisition of a good or a service which can be monetarized in a market transaction. And I have proposed the “subjective aim” of an event is “purpose” in the traditional philosophical language. ll 90)
But contrary to modernist neoliberal economic theory, “wants” or “desires” for a Whiteheadian are not unlimited in any moment. Even though each occasion or event may have many, many competing values to choose among to actualize, they are not “Unlimited”. Each occasion or event coalescences many possible choices with “a” single aim toward one concrete outcome, a “subjective aim”. If instead of unlimited wants every moment, neoliberal economic theory means “unending” wants, of course, there is truth in this perspective. New subjective aims arise with every subsequent occasion, but the many possible “aims” coalesce toward some “value” which eventuates in “a” decision for the actualization of one complex value. So, for a Whiteheadian there may be many competing values for actualization in any one moment. That is, every occasion may have many possible choices, call them “wants”, to actualize each moment, but it integrates and harmonizes these into one “limited” want, through its subjective aim.
In the vast majority of moments, the aims are not for the acquisition of goods or services that are monetarized through market transactions. So, from a process perspective there are volumes of “wants” which are potential aims, goals, or purposes other than for goods and services. An entity may “want” good health or to learn to dance, paint, or play a musical instrument. She may desire to read and respond to all kinds of literature or learn another language. Although possibly monetarized by market transactions, many of these wants do not require “goods” in the normal sense or services that utilize lots of resources.
Separate Atomistic, Self-contained Individuals with External Relations (p. 38)
As outlined previously, homo economicus is conceived as a separate atomistic, self-contained, unchanging entity with external relations and conceived of on analogy with atoms moving through space. But an atomistic event, or occasion, or even a human person is understood as reciprocally interrelated and interdependent through actual inter-connections. This reciprocal interrelatedness constitutes the multiplicity of interrelationships which the “momentary becoming” integrates and harmonizes into a definite, concrete, settled outcome.
The event is constituted by these interrelationships, these “feelings”, of the past actual world which it includes. An event is therefore reciprocally interrelated, through “feeling” relationships, to those entities comprising the human community as well as the lifeforms of the ecologies and biosphere in which it is embedded (c.f. p. 69f.)
As I’ve just described, his event-occasion is not substantial, not self-contained, not a separate individual, and not externally related to other entities in its world. An event is basically the inverse of “substance”. It is “internally” related to all the past actual events in its world. Recalling Whitehead’s quote, “The actual entity which is the initial datum is the ‘cause’, the simple physical feeling is the ‘effect’, and the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect.” (PR, p.236) This is a description of internal relatedness. And consequently, an event-occasion is not an enduring substance or a separate individual, and therefore is composed of feelings of its world and is constituted by those interrelationships.
Therefore, unlike in substance metaphysics, for Whitehead a moment of human experiencing is not at all self-contained. Experiencing is “non-substantial”! It grows out of the immediate personal past experiences, the body, its near environment, and finally out of the whole past world. Among the most important relations are those to other people. I am what I am in this moment as an expression of the relations I have had and now I have to other people in the past and present. All these people in my human community, past and present, are part of who I am. These relations are not external to the experiencing. These relations are internal to it. All of them could constitute a portion of “me now”. In other words, a human experiencing is constituted largely by its relations to all other entities, human and nonhuman lifeforms, especially in its portion of the eco-biosphere.
Substantial Atom Moving in Space (c.f. p. 50) In the market understanding of homo economicus, the emphasis on individualism and external relations is partly an expression of a substance metaphysics! (CG:IR&CR, 5) Recall that each human is most basically understood individualistically and fundamentally as an actor in the marketplace influenced only by external contractual relationships and exchange agreements. Why does this sound to me like, and pictured in my “mind’s eye”, as a substantial atom, a self-contained entity, moving through space whose only relations with any other entities are external, i.e. physical and spatial? The substantial “atom” is like a human individual who only has external, contractual relations. This atom is constantly moving through the “space” of the marketplace conducting exchanges to his own benefit. This analogy between an atom and a human individual seems “on its face” congruent and true to me.
This atomistic substantialistic analogy must be replaced by an “event” atomism that describes a “relational” entity, or a “relational self”, or “person-in-community”. This description follows at the end of “Rational Homo Economicus” below.
Innately Acquisitive (p. 39), but not covetous or greedy of goods and services.
“Acquisitive” is defined as “eager and often selfish desire especially for material possessions”. Synonyms for “acquisitive” are “covetous” and “greedy”. Well, at least as far as their behavior in market transactions, modernist neo-liberal economic theory claims that people “do” and “should” act in this manner. The market theory advocates that people buy at a lower price and force producers to generate goods and services more efficiently to benefit everyone participating in the market. “Acquisitive” behavior in market activity is partly about acquiring more goods and services at lower prices. This is normative behavior. Or stated bluntly, “(Personal) Greed is good!”.
From a process perspective, thousands and thousands of decisions are made moment by moment throughout the day that have nothing whatsoever to do with the market. People are washing and folding clothes, preparing a meal, working in the yard, or playing with their children. Many of these daily decisions can and are made by people from a desire to acquire “holistic health” for themselves or their community, or for enlarging their artistic and musical abilities or other personal capacities. Of course, a market analyst would agree and claim that they are not pointing to these behaviors.
From a process outlook, acquisitive goals are forms of subjective aims that value a concrete outcome of a service performed by another or some commodity. But a process perspective claims that decisions made by subjects do not have to trend toward greed or coveting goods and services. In fact, people do want to acquire more and more over time, but this acquisitive behavior can be for “other than marketplace goods and services”. As the outcome of purposive “wants”, the notion of acquisitive behavior should be greatly expanded to all kinds of “goods”, i.e. helpful for community, which cannot be monetized by market exchanges as measured by GDP.
Also remember that because it’s conceived individualistically, the self-interested aim at the maximization of individual benefits is not able to be applied to a conception of the “common good” for the whole community for the maximization of social or political benefits. (c.f. p. 110) But if a person is a “relational self” (c.f. p. 131) and a “person-in-community” (c.f. p. 134f.), the individualistic melts into relationality with family-societal interrelatedness.
People “want” an economic system that promotes the “common good” of their local and regional communities. They want clean water and clean air and for their part of the biosphere so that they are healthy. These wants are outside of the market system because they cannot be monetarized. I propose that a Whiteheadian economics be able to include wants which are unable to be monetarized by the market. How can that be done? I will suggest an answer in Section IV. (c.f. p. XX)
Self-Interest and Utility Maximization (c.f. p.51f.) But, is it then the case that modernistic neo-liberal materialistic economic theory advocates that innately people are self-centered and selfish? Certainly, if self-interest becomes normative through focus on market transactions, acquiring ‘things’ or ‘services’ for personal or household benefit can become an individual’s fixation. But by definition, that’s what the market is set up to provide. So, to claim that using the market continually to acquire goods and services is innately acquisitive is somewhat circular.
Further as we have seen, this theory institutionalizes the human actor’s pursuit of “self-interest” and “utility maximization”. (c.f., p. 51f.) So, the claim is that, normatively in all their market trades, innately people should be self-centered and selfish. Remember the claim is that in all our market trading, we try to buy as cheaply as possible and sell our labor or services for as much as possible. If we must hire workers, we try to pay as little as possible. People are individually dedicated to choosing to act for their own personal economic gain.
What does this homo economicus description – highly self-interested, innately acquisitive (greedy and covetous) individuals with unlimited, insatiable-unending wants and desires who rationally maximize their own self-interest - sound like? I propose that this representation of the character of homo economicus aptly portrays a secular account of the Christian doctrine of “original sin”. And I propose that, since this kind of self-centered motivation and activity was understood to show the true nature of persons as observed in market transactions, a complete economic system was inadvertently constructed upon it. To justify this claim would take years of study and a dissertation which I cannot accomplish, but the connections to appropriate Christian theology during the Enlightenment are possible.
Whether or not a convincing connection can be made to Christian theology, to build an economic theory on the hypothesis that individuals with unlimited, insatiable-unending wants and desires who rationally maximize their own self-interest is to say, “Acquisitive greed is natural” to all people. This character would not be condoned by theologians who point to self-centeredness as sin or Buddhists for whom “desire” is, like clinging, to be avoided in the present moment.
So, what is an alternative process response? You may recall one's self is at every moment a unification of feeling. The data of physical feelings are feIt as part of the “immediacy” of momentary becoming. These feelings are something with which one can empathetically identify. “Self-interest” can merge with the feelings of others. (c.f. p. 99-100) The only term in English which identifies this momentary unification of one’s feeling(s) with those of another individual or group is “empathy”. Empathy is the capacity to actually feel another’s feeling(s) – like the anguish transferred from another's suffering. Remember PR, “A simple physical feeling is an act of causation. The actual entity which is the initial datum is the ‘cause’, the simple physical feeling is the ‘effect’, and the subject entertaining the simple physical feeling is the actual entity ‘conditioned’ by the effect. This ‘conditioned’ actual entity will also be called the ‘effect’.(emphases mine)” (page 236) Simple physical feeling(s) can be empathetic feeling(s) of one entities suffering by the event “in process”; that is, of a human by another human or of a nonhuman by a human or of one nonhuman by another nonhuman. If you will recall Whitehead’s “event” account of subjectivity and teleology (c.f. p. 83f.), an “actual occasion” is not entirely self-interested and not invariably a rational maximizer. All lifeforms, including people, in all of the ecosystems of the natural world and all the eco-biosphere are “aiming” subjects toward their own momentary ‘finality’ - as an end value in-and-for-itself. That is, each “subjecting” aims at the actualization-outcome of some value in-and-for that occasion. Since purpose is a synonym for “aim”, you might say “subjective purpose”. I proposed that the “wants” of homo economicus in the modernist neo-liberal economic theory are the “purposive behaviors” of humans.
Contrary to neo-liberal individualistic economic theory, there is no reason that one has to be interested only in what happens to one's personal future. But each momentary experiencing can constitute itself, its subjective aim or value, so as to flow, not only into successor experiences for its own well-being, but also include the well-being of other entities in its momentary final outcome.(c.f. p. 99) Parents act this way continually for their children just like brothers and sisters do for each other. As relational individuals, one may actualize values which promote societal goals.
Besides one’s family and society, some of these personal outcomes may support the healthy experiencing of nonhuman lifeforms. A person could alter his/her own self-interest for the benefit of lifeforms in their own ecosystem or ecosphere. At times, one’s decisions concerning their own immediate influence on all those events in the natural world around them may seem considerably more important than the immediate effects of one's wants and personal self-interest. But from a Whiteheadian perspective, this requires no special explanation.
But what about “utility maximization”? “Utility” is pleasurable wealth. (c.f. p. 45). If we substitute pleasurable wealth into the phrase, it becomes ” pleasurable wealth maximization”! Neo-liberal theory asserts that human desires for “utility” can never be filled. It asserts that when all people seek their own individual welfare in transactions in market exchanges buying and selling for their own maximum benefit, all of society benefits because prices will be lower as producers strive to lower prices to attract buyers by producing most efficiently. This maximizing individual self-interest is called “utility maximization”. (c.f. p. 45-46, 53-54) There is no place for such individual maximization in a process outlook in part because it leads to the following question. But what about the effects of utility maximization on those “externalities” not a part of the market except as resources or commodities? Since the welfare of all lifeforms except persons are not considered, i.e. they have no “wants” for their own welfare, the toxic effects of individually and societal maximizing utility are evident in the destruction of ecosystems and the suffering of nonhuman lifeforms all over Mother Earth.
Rational Homo Economicus (c.f. p. 53-54)
As I explained in part II.C., modern economic theory builds on the preceding assumptions to state that people are fundamentally “rational”. Each strives to obtain as much as possible of desired commodities or services for as little expenditure, the lowest price, as possible. Each person strives to “labor” as little as possible for the highest salary or payment possible. Relations between people are essentially contractual and competitive. The theory shows that this aim of each individual to get as much as possible for as little as possible, i.e. “rational”, stimulates economic activity in such a way that the society, as a whole, benefits. This behavior is deemed “rational”. What is meant by speaking of this “rational” benefit is people acquire more goods and services for less money and that through this behavior there are more goods and services generated in market activities and available in the society as a whole. (CGPW, 9)
From a process perspective, people are not continually rational maximizers. People may be rationally comparing prices, amounts, and quality of the consumer items they purchase. And they may shop for “10%, 15%, 20%, or 25% off” sales among a variety of vendors for a specific product they need. But often they walk into one store and buy several items without comparing prices and quality of like products in other stores. People make “impulse” purchases without considering alternatives. In addition, people buy products that they do not need immediately without comparing prices among stores or shopping for a sale. Much of advertising is aimed at countering rational utility maximization. I would assert that no person is continuously rational. A better economic account is that people are intermittently rational in their utility maximization or they may not even understand that economic theory expects that they are to be rationally maximizing their consumptive choices. All kinds of “feel good” advertising mitigates against it and many purchases choices are made without rational consideration.
Additionally, this rational maximization may not always work. Consider hiring labor. If you hire laborers for doing a manual labor project and pay minimum wage, the workers may not work quickly or hard and take small breaks between segments of the process. But, if you pay them a higher than necessary amount, they are likely to appreciate it and work harder because they feel “valued”. They are also likely to make helpful suggestions throughout the process for a better outcome for the project. If you press for the lowest wages, you may not save a lot of money and/or may not receive the best outcome.
Although “rational maximization” may be the expectation of homo economicus, clearly to maximize one’s own self-interest in market transactions to the exclusion of the “value in-and-for-themselves” of all other lifeforms is not rational. Why? Because the health of the ecosystems of the place an individual resides effects that individual’s health too. Rather than a highly individualistic “self”, if a person is rather a “relational self” and a “person-in-community” living in an interdependent, relational world, the aim could be to maximize one’s total interrelatedness with their own local community and with the ecosystems, biosphere, and ecosphere available in one’s watershed for the benefit of all. As we can all understand in these days of the covid-19 pandemic, one’s “rational self-interest” would include the aim at the health of one’s entire human community. Since we are living in an interdependent, relational world, our interrelatedness with the lifeforms, even viruses, in the ecosystems of our watershed in our part of the biosphere, and actually in the whole ecosphere, sets parameters for our human community’s health. Individual, self-interested economic gain is no longer “rational”.
Consequential Whiteheadian “Process” Perspectives Since the modernist neo-liberal economic theory is founded on culturally accepted metaphysics, we cannot glimpse how a new post-modern economic theory can arise unless we can provide a 21st century alternative metaphysics that is scientifically based. Whitehead provides an atomistic, yet non-substantialistic alternative to the materialistic, reductionistic, and mechanistic metaphysics of the 17th and 18th centuries.
The title of Whitehead’s most comprehensive book about metaphysics, Process and Reality, summarizes the two parts of his most important phrase I used in III.A.1. Remember there I used Whitehead’s famous summary of his metaphysical philosophy, “The many become one and are increased by one.”? The first phrase is an “ontological” account. “Process” in Process and Reality describes the ontological ‘now’ of the becoming of any entity as “the many become one.” Similar to the substantial nature of matter claimed by the physics of science, “The many become one…” describes an atomistic “event”. Each is a process of “becoming” that originates and becomes by feeling the settled past. This part of the phrase describes the “actuality of present moment”. The “…increased by one” captures the historical, one-way arrow of time after the immediacy of the now at its outcome. The “increased one” emerges into “reality” becoming part of a new “past” context which helps to form the new many. This is the “Reality” in the title Process and Reality. These outcomes are the newly emergent historical “reality” aspects of which are detected and studied by science among which are momentum and velocity.
For Whitehead’s non-substantial metaphysics, each “event” is constituted by its “feelings of”, which are actual relations with, all “entities” in its own immediate past (think of Whiteheads “causal feeling”). These entities would include the human and also nonhuman entities of the ecosphere and biosphere in its location or “place” in the “natural world”.
So for Whitehead, our feeling of other entities - our “internal relations
- are not only with other people. They are with the natural world – nature or our environment - as well. As just explained in the last paragraph above on “Rational Homo Economicus”, the health of the biosphere and ecosphere is important to human health. The well-being of the other creatures has intrinsic importance for them and their health has a crucial influence on humans and our health. Therefore, the human economy should serve ecological sustainability, not destroy it. These claims follow quite directly from a postmodern non-substance Whiteheadian metaphysics. (CGPW, 11)
This means that relationships to other people, organic creatures – like animals and plants -, and even inorganic things are included in the relationships which ‘could’ constitute the experiencing of a human person. All these other entities, when fully analyzed, are found to be composed of these same characteristics as human experiencing. That is, every actual entity, while primarily composed of its immediate personal past experiences, its body, other people, and its near environment, could also include a coalescence of the feelings of the organic and inorganic entities of its “natural world”. Whitehead's term for this coalescence is “concrescence”. (CGPW, 11)
The Whiteheadian description I have just provided means that homo economicus cannot either be self-contained nor individualistic. The implications for economic theory should be clear. Each of us is “bound up with” and related to many other human and nonhumans - organic and inorganic - entities. The well-being of “all” other entities in our experiencing contributes to our well-being. This does not exclude self-interest and acquisitive competition in the marketplace, but these can be subordinated to our valuing relations with our human community.
For a Whiteheadian, the individualism underlying both political and economic theory misrepresents the human situation. Our personhood is already a function of our immersion in community. We are members of one another. In addition, what we “desire” is largely a function of the human and the nonhuman ecology in our part of the biosphere that forms who we are and who we become. What values we can realize depend for the most part on the healthy functioning of that human community and the health of the ecosphere in which they are embedded. (PEEP, 10) For “process”, humans are “relational “selves.
But a human community requires some measure of harmony and participation. And there can be no community without some consensus about fairness and justice, whether these terms are used or others. None of these crucial points can arise within modern economic thinking. Within today’s global economic crises, nothing is more important than that the economic order serve human and nonhuman community instead of, as now occurs, destroying them both. (CGPW, 11)
Whitehead emphasizes that we are not mere products of human community. In each moment we are not only shaped by community, but also transcend it and participate in shaping it. But as relational selves, we are persons-in-community rather than separated individuals. (PEEP, 10)
Unfortunately, in the formative period of modern political and economic theory, thinkers took human community for granted. It did not enter into their theoretical reflections. As a result, the economic judgments to which that theory gives rise place no value on human community. The social and political policies that have followed from those abstracted judgments have been systematically destructive of human community. (PEEP, 11) The policies that would follow from a process understanding of human beings would seek the wellbeing of persons primarily through supporting the health and wellbeing of the communities that form them. In turn, sustaining the health and wellbeing of the natural communities in which human communities are embedded is essential for human health and well-being. This health and wellbeing of human community includes and requires the freedom of all their members, but it is relational. It does not focus on this freedom apart from their belonging to the community. (PEEP, 11) Freedom does not mean individual independence. For Whitehead, freedom is reciprocally related to responsibility. Recall that as “the many become a new one and are increased by one”, the newly emergent one composes part of the new context. That means we transcend our community and, along with others, shape it.
Cobb has proposed a Whiteheadian alternative - that we view people as “persons-in-community. (PEEP, 10) His position does not want to minimize the importance of individuals, but he regards true individuality as emerging only in “community” relationships. The well-being of individuals is more affected by the health of the human and non-human communities in which they participate than by the total quantity of goods and services they “want” and consume. Hence the economy should be so ordered as to strengthen human and nonhuman communities and make them truly healthy rather than to destroy them. (ECG, 6) But, when there is no concept of a community, the idea of a “common good” that relates to all persons is inevitably curtailed and stunted.
In the neo-liberal market economy, policies designed to strengthen the “standard of living” of communities in general lead to increases in per capita production and consumption of goods and services in market exchanges. The issue is not whether market activity should increase. The alternative Whiteheadian issue is whether policies should be geared primarily to a large GDP increase for wealth creation or primarily to benefit people in local communities to meet their “needs” for goods and services at the local and regional levels. (ECG, 6)
If we view people as persons-in-community, the socio-political structures will aim to constitute themselves as the kind of society that strengthens and enriches the self-sufficiency of community starting at the local and regional levels. They will favor local businesses and protect them from unreasonable competition from without. They will establish minimum wages at a level that provides for a living wage and make sure that working conditions are safe and healthy. They will make sure that the use of local resources is sustainable and non-polluting. They will make sure that the local economy, the local marketplace, ensures the sustainability of the local biosphere and ecosphere. They will gear education to the challenges of climate change impacts and well-being of their people and their place in the biosphere rather than to competing economically against other distant economic units or for international trade. In short, they will develop a relatively self-reliant economy and protect it from erosion by national and by global economic forces. (ECG, 7)
Community of Communities and Process Ethics
Note how the enlargement of human relationship to “nature” changes the categories of ethical thought. Modern ethics took for granted that the ethical agent is a self-contained individual remaining self-identical through time. Prudential concern for one's own future seems rational in this view, but real concern for anyone else or any nonhuman lifeforms is problematic.
But if a human person is a flow of experiences, an “event”, that is socially constituted, the question is quite different. Each momentary experience is what it is by virtue of the way others have been constituted in the immediate past. It benefits or is harmed by them. In turn it constitutes itself so as to flow not only into successor experiences in its personal stream, but flows into a new “past” context which helps to form the new many in a positive or “healthy” way. There is no reason to be interested only in what happens to one's personal future. Especially if the health of one’s human community members are seriously affected by one’s own aims and outcomes. The immediate influence on those around one may seem considerably more important than the effects on one's personal immediate or more distant future. Certainly, many parent-child or sister-brother relationships respond in this fashion. From a Whiteheadian standpoint, this requires no special explanation. From a process outlook, exclusive concern for one's personal future would be expected to be a rarity, just as would neglect of the importance of that future. Total indifference to the effects on others, even nonhuman lifeforms, would also be expected to be rare. (CG:IR&CR, 6)
A Whiteheadian relationally interdependent vision of reality depicts a “community of communities” or a “community of communities of communities”. A process economic system conceives of human communities as reciprocally related to the nonhuman communities of ecological systems within their watershed’s location in the bioregion in the biosphere within the ecosphere of the planet’s systems of systems. It does not resemble the modernist neo-liberal system’s emphasis on “individuality” or its lack of a concept of “community”. This will be delineated more extensively in Section V where I will expand the concept of “person-in-community” into “lifeforms-in-community” to encompass the total, holistic reciprocal interrelatedness and interdependency of the ecosphere as described on p. 10-12.
IV. Critique of the Assumptions of Modernist Neo-Liberal Economic Theory from A Constructive Post-Modernist, Whiteheadian Perspective: “Holistic health, not GDP wealth”!
It is a mistake to suppose that there is no alternative to the present form of market capitalist, laissez-faire, economic theory. There are important alternatives to the neo-liberal theory described in this paper. These alternatives would emphasize community, personal fulfillment, and the sustainable flourishing of the natural world, as well as increased economic activity where that is needed. This would be a very different economic theory. (GETJ, 14-15) In Section V, I will attempt to delineate such a vision.
From the constructive postmodern point of view, the work of building up an alternative body of economic theory and beginning to implement it is urgent. Westerners created the modern substance metaphysics and built our economic, political, and social systems upon it. We need to deconstruct that substance metaphysics and reconceive the organization of knowledge across the fragmented academic disciplines that are based upon it. But a deconstruction of the extensive implications of substance thinking described in this paper will not suffice. The human population and ecosphere cannot both be healthy without a clearly developed planetary-life sustaining economic order. We also need an economic order that supports the local and regional human communities rather than constantly demanding larger markets and privatization in pursuit of more efficient labor productivity for economic growth to achieve wealth creation. We need a theory that both shows the reasons for these two needs and also which can be developed in rich detail to deal with the many diverse global situations that arise locally. It must necessarily describe the ways local economies relate to one another and to the planet’s ecosphere as a whole. (CGPW, 12)
As I have outlined in Section III, Whitehead’s organic theory is an alternative to the present form of market capitalist, laissez-faire, economic theory. So far, this paper has proposed important ontological and metaphysical alternatives to the assumptions of neo-liberal theory. This economic alternative has emphasized an inclusive conceptuality of homo economicus which might politically incorporate into market activity many more modes of human community, like public health care. It would also encourage all forms of personal health and human fulfillment like the arts, music, and humanities rather than consumerism. It would promote economic justice with no “persons-in-community” left out, including increased economic activity (GDP) where that is needed, and, equally important, the sustainable health of the ecosphere. (GETJ, 14-15)
You may remember that “gross domestic production” (GDP) is the total market monitory value of all final goods and services produced annually within a national economy. (I.A, p. 14f.). As we have seen, the goal of the neoliberal economic theory is to maximize the increase of GDP to increase the standard of living for more people by increasing wealth creation overall. I have delineated the multitude of problems associated with this goal for society. The summum bonum I will advocate here is no longer to increase market activity overall or for the increase of wealth thereby. The supreme good advocated in this paper is “holistic health” of communities of people and of all lifeforms which constitute their local watersheds, bioregion, and region of the biosphere.
Section IV will not address the assumptions of neoliberal economic theory in the same order as Section I. The true supreme value that guides human economic theory must not be a penultimate ruse that veils the consummate value. I will transpose the order of assumptions one and two as they were presented in Section I. The summum bonum must guide the socio-political-economy, including financial, goals of the society as a whole, not one part. Therefore, first I will deal with the summum bonum – the “common good”, for a human economics for planet “Earth” and her “lifeforms”. Then I will deal with the idea of economic growth and with the application of the concept of “progress”. Finally, I will contrast alternatives to the next three: “abundance, not scarcity”, “greater efficiency of other than goods and services market activity”, and “local-regional-bioregional markets for sustainability, not consumerism”.
IV. A. The Summum Bonum is the “common good” - the “holistic health” of all Lifeforms throughout Earth - of all “persons-in-community” and of all “lifeforms-in-community” throughout the Earth’s ecosphere.
Now we need to focus on overcoming the first of the assumptions noted in I.A. It is an assumption that is not part of economic theory but rather of contemporary politics, namely, the primacy of the economy in shaping human welfare. (ECG, 10) Recall that this first, “apriori” assumption lies outside economic theory. Remember, it is the assumption that the economic order is the most important one, that progress is to be viewed primarily as economic progress through increased GDP. It is this assumption that renders economic theory so important. (ECG, 2) When we question this presumption, we can then make clear that what is now called “economics” is better defined as marketology, the study of market activity. (ECG, 10)
If we do not concur with the assumption of contemporary politics - that it is to be the human economy, i.e. political-economy, - that is primary in shaping human welfare, then what is? Back on page 110 I referred to Cobb’s thesis that societies provide benefits and costs for values they favor. That is, all societies express their collective values, by regulations which favor some desires over others, for the “common good” of the entire community. (PEEP, 8) The value(s) favored express what is seen as the “common good” for society as a whole.
Also recall from Section I, the summum bonum for modernist neoliberal economic theory is “wealth creation”! There I questioned whether the economic order is the most important and whether economic growth for wealth creation should be the summum bonum, or supreme value [c.f. p. 12] But now, I am explicitly denying “wealth creation” as the value that expresses any “common” good. Rather, I assert a very different summum bonum for human community. It is the “common good” for all persons-in-community, and even more inclusively, for all lifeforms-in-community. It is the “common good” for all lifeforms on-of Mother Earth. The ideal is one of providing benefits and costs for values benefitting the common good for persons and for all lifeforms on-of Mother Earth. But what are these values? What ‘forms’ will the “common good” take?
I am advocating that the most basic description, most basic ‘form’ of the “common good”, in contrast to neo-liberal economic theory, be named “holistic health”, which is explicitly not GDP wealth. It is this common good around which a new process economic theory should be advanced. What is “holistic health”? Holistic health is physical health, psychic health, familial health, and human community “public” health in relationship to the (public) health of their local watershed ecosystems in that bioregion of the ecosphere. It is an inclusively relational approach to the health of (all) lifeforms throughout the ecosphere in that bioregional location.
Again, I am describing the summum bonum of human community as “holistic health, not GDP wealth” which human economic theory must express. Holistic health is ‘the’ most basic form of “common good” for Mother Earth and “all” lifeforms. Stated a little differently, the summun bonum of the new paradigm for a human economic theory, that is upheld by the Whiteheadian outlook that I’m suggesting, is the “holistic health” of-for all lifeforms throughout Earth’s ecosphere which includes all human communities embedded therein. (Fn11)
Here I am using one term with a noun and adjective to name and “frame” the most basic form of “common good’. There are other ‘forms’ of “common good”, but I am here attentive to the most basic form. I am not using two nouns like health and “well-being” or “wholeness” or “welfare” or “security”, etc. Besides being (almost) synonyms, they are too vague and “squishy”. I propose “holistic health”.
Again, my claim is that the summum bonum is the “common good” of all persons-in-community (people and human community) and of all lifeforms-in-community throughout the Earth’s ecosphere. Persons-in-community is a subset of lifeforms-in-community. The common good “is” the holistic health of “lifeforms” as they are embedded everywhere in the ecosphere. This applies to human persons as one of the lifeforms. Ultimately since the “community” of all lifeforms includes all events comprising the “Life” of (Mother) Earth, this “common good” will include Earth’s holistic ecosphere system of systems which encompasses all people, all lifeforms, and all creatures, events or actual occasions. (CG:IR&CR, 7-8)
[[In Section V., I will outline and clarify the economics of (Mother) Earth as, “Mother Earth’s holistic health, not GDP (Corporate) Wealth!”. Three modes of Life are derived from the most holistic, and organic planetary outlook – “Life, not chaos-entropy”.]]??????
IV. B. Abundance, not Scarcity, Means Cooperation-Collaboration, not Competition: “Homo vita”
The new post-modernist economic theory cannot be founded in the “homo economicus” understanding of human nature. What shall we name, and therefore “frame”, the new outlook for an encompassing, holistic vision for people everywhere on Earth to internalize common understandings of “human nature”? Is there any term which can be modified to apply across cultures and landscapes? This may be too speculative and even a “colonizing” attempt, there may not be “one” ‘human nature’. But at the beginning of Section III, I called for the telling of more inclusive “stories”. (c.f. p. 57-58) This is an attempt to start that discussion. Provisionally, I will offer the term “homo vita”. Homo vita does not mean “living person”. It describes a malleable Earth systems ecospheric economic term that directly corresponds to “holistic health”. Homo vita means “life-person”. A “life-person” intuitively is concerned, not with consuming production, but with making decisions that benefit themselves-in-community and the community of lifeforms in their local region of the biosphere. That is, “persons-in-community” and “lifeforms-in-community”. Of course, a “life-person” faces different issues and problems in different cultures across the eco-biosphere and would therefore might make different decisions facing similar conditions depending on the local-regional circumstances.
This “Life centered” economic theory will not be founded on “unlimited individualistic wants”. As I have explained, its manifest summum bonum is a “common good” for “persons-in-community” and for all “lifeforms-in-community” throughout the Earth’s ecosphere. If human wants are unending over time and not unlimited in any moment, nature is not a “constraint” and resources are not limited. Earth and all of her lifeforms and creatures are not “resources” as in “commodities” to be used in the production of goods and services to satisfy unlimited human wants without regard to the effects on the eco-biosphere. From this outlook, we view Earth as a place of abundance for all our needs and many of our wants. (Mother) Earth provides enough abundance for all lifeforms in the ecosphere IF we do not “compete” individually or racially or nationally, but rather co-operate, collaborate, and share. Sharing means human community built on cooperation and collaboration locally, regionally, and bioregionally. It means a society that aims for the common good for each individual with a rich community life and community relationships. Humans are embedded in Earth’s systems of systems and “(Mother) Earth’s holistic health” is paramount to our own individual human health and well-being.
IV. C. Greater Efficiency of Market Activity Other Than Labor Productivity for the Production of Goods and Services [c.f. p. 17]
In place of the greater and greater efficiency of (only) labor’s productivity, this new human economics would use all of the renewable and especially non-renewable resources as efficiently as possible. The application of efficiency must also be expanded and applied to the many aspects of holistic health - physical health, psychic health, and persons-in-community health. To be and remain healthy “holistically”, people require, not only efficient personal health care including preventative care, but a widespread, inclusive public health system. We must begin to experience our economic system as part of a “health care system for all lifeforms” and as part of a “health care system even for Mother Earth”.
To live ecologically sustainable lives people require pure water, nutritious food, energy efficient shelter and appliances, clean and efficient energy production. A primary component of “efficiency” in all these requirements is “no waste”. Thus, the aim of efficiency that the human market activity requires for ecologically sustainable lives is that “nothing is wasted”. (Almost) everything must be recycled or reused long term. The holistic health system must produce no waste they cannot reuse in some way or ‘safely’ sequester.
But because people, as persons-in-community, are embedded in the uncountable interdependent interrelationships of-with their eco-biosphere, the “lifeforms-in-community” throughout the Earth’s ecosphere are directly internally connected to the holistic health of all human “persons-in-community”. This perception of direct reciprocal interrelatedness is the basic vision of Whitehead’s process-relational description. This requires that human communities act so as to preserve the holistic health of local ecologies, ecoregion lifeform’s health, and bioregional lifeform’s health. This would also necessitate the holistic preservation by the persons-in-community of the biosphere in their local and regional place. Biosphere preservation means maintenance of the complex biodiversity and not let those interrelationships be lost by species extinction. Efficiencies of preservation would replace efficiencies of production. Persons-in-community locality by locality and region by region must institute maximum “efficiency” in the “CPR” of the biosphere. CPR means “conserve” the ecological system of systems in that ecoregion as it is now, take no economic actions that would not “preserve” the biosphere of that locality or region, and to the extent humanly possible “restore” the local ecologies and bioregions as comprehensively as possible. In all of these tasks – no waste, recycle and reuse, and biosphere conservation, preservation, and restoration -, the expectation of greater efficiency of human labor can be applied to these tasks. Greater efficiencies of productivity would be applied to other functions than the production of goods and services for products for consumerism!
Thus, the myopic focus on human wants for the acquisition of efficiently produced goods and services must be vastly expanded. Greater efficiency of labor productivity can no longer be an overriding goal in the traditional “economies of scale” for mass production of consumer goods. The efficiencies demanded must accrue to other than consumer goods. Many forms of human fulfillment – health care, education, music, arts, etc. - can be placed into the economic arena along with consumer products produced from natural “resources”. These too become “wants” that raise our standard of living, but not in the material sense of consumerism. The “scale” of the economies of scale will have varying breadth of application depending on the effects of production on the sustainability and health of the eco-biopshere in that landscape.
Other “efficiencies” must be considered besides efficiencies in the cost of labor and the cost per item in the economies of scale for lower priced consumer products. There must be an increased efficiency in the use of resources, especially of non-renewable resources, necessary in the production of goods and services essential for “holistic health” care of people and for restoration and maintenance of the local biosphere. As I have explained, we must apply the criteria of “efficiency” for other purposes than “economies of scale” and “prices” and to other purposes outside of “production” of goods and services.
Also, under the meaning of “productivity” as efficiency, we must greatly enlarge out conception of “national security” from predominately military preparedness to issues vital to “holistic health”. That is to say, Public health “is” national security. Of course, this would include the human healthcare system and national production of essential healthcare equipment and PPE. Besides the sustainability and preservation of the local-regional eco-biosphere, national security would encompass, truly renewable (not ‘net neutral’) energy production, water purity within the local watersheds, health and well-being of human and nonhuman community of communities. The goal of the satisfaction of human wants would be shaped within the maintenance and sustainability of the health and well-being, the holistic health, of the total Earth’s system of systems.
Another major component of efficiency would be in the highly efficient bio-physical monitoring of the water, soils, and air quality in a watershed locality and bioregionally. Monitoring would be tied together by continual hydrological assessments including along coastlines. This monitoring would be the data needed for the CPR parameters and activities previously discussed.
IV. D. Local-Regional-State-National-International Markets OR Watershed-Bioregional-Mega-bioregion-Intercontinental Markets with Appropriate Regulation and Privatization, Not Larger and Larger Markets for Increased Consumerism with Goals of Privatization and No Regulation (c.f. p. 26f.)
Recall that rationally within modernist economic theory, it can be shown that the larger the market, the more efficiently resources can be allocated and, therefore, the more rapidly production increases. (c.f. p. 26, 54-55, 103) Originally this point was made in order to expand the market, that is, the region in which goods and investments move freely, from villages and regions to nations. Now, of course, the same argument justifies the global market. (CGPW, 9) But, if our “common good” aim for all the Earth’s lifeforms is “holistic health”, this justification no longer applies and we must revise our consideration of “production” and appropriate scale.
Rather than considering the efficiency of “production” of goods and services to only satisfy human wants, a new economics could consider simultaneously the efficiency of both the “production” of goods and services for the holistic health of people and the “output” of goods services for the CPR (c.f. p. 149) of the “lifeforms-in-community” in the specific ecosystems of the watersheds of the ecoregions or bioregions of that local community. The “production” of goods AND the “output” of services for the satisfaction of human “needs” for water, food, energy, shelter, and health care would be addressed for all “persons-in-community” along with the maintenance of the health of the local watershed “lifeforms-in-community”.
In answering this question: “Is the ‘product’ for persons-in-community or for lifeforms-in-community?”, I suggest the following distinction. If the production is for the former, I suggest scales of local-regional-state-national-international markets. If the service is for the latter, I recommend scales of watershed-bioregional-mega-bioregion-intercontinental markets.???
The scales local, regional, state, national, and international are geopolitically based. The scales watershed, bioregional, mega-bioregion, and intercontinental are bio-geographically based. I am suggesting the former as varying scales of “production” of goods and “output” of services areas depending on the intended type of use for “persons-in-community”. I am suggesting the latter as varying the scales of “production” of goods and “output” of services areas depending on the intended type of use for “lifeforms-in-community”.
The summum bonum of the common good as “holistic health” applies most inclusively to the health of the ecosphere of Mother Earth which is congruent and harmonious with the analogous human societal common good “holistic health” goal that must include the human sectors of economics, politics, and finances. The GDP can be increased especially in the areas where the holistic health of persons-in-community or lifeforms-in-community is needed most. For instance, the growth in GDP would be focused on the CPR of the specific ecosystems of the watersheds of the ecoregions of that local community and the continual monitoring thereof. This monitoring would trigger increased GDP for the CPR of that watershed or region.
Utilizing the monitoring just discussed, extensive government regulation would be required to set limits of sustainability on the local, regional, state, national, and international production and output for the “needs” and for the “wants” for “persons-in-community”. Compliance with these regulations would not be voluntary or self-monitored. There would be no privatization of the public goods associated with the production and outputs of the human “needs” for water, food, energy, shelter, and health care for “persons-in-community”.
The growth of GDP for the output of holistic health goods and services and for the needs for water, food, energy, shelter for “persons-in-community” and for the CPR of “lifeforms-in-community” would be favored. The growth in GDP for consumer products from local and regional productivity would be encouraged over importing from the national or international markets.
From a holistic health outlook, larger, global markets would only be for products not able to be produced locally, regionally, or even nationally. Even if some countries could produce any good more efficiently, i.e. cheaply, than other countries the transportation costs and the effects of that transport on the oceans and atmosphere would not be an “externality”. Those externalities would have to be considered in the total “lifecycle” costs of the item as well as the costs to CPR the biosphere. The general rule would be that all products and services described in the preceding IV. C would be produced as cost effectively as possible, including non-polluting extraction and transport costs, within each locality, region and nation. If products can be produced and distributed efficiently at the regional level without toxic “lifecycle” effects on the health of the biosphere, then the landscape size of the market would be larger. If not, it might cost more to produce locally, but the detrimental effects on the biosphere would be avoided. The same would apply to production moving from the regional or state to the national level. As discussed, regulation would be necessary for the healthy production of goods and services so that no “externalities” are produced that could not be recycled without toxicity to the biosphere. To promote the “common good”, there would be no privatization of “public goods”. And no pollution of the “air, soil, and water commons” beyond their capacity to absorb it without threating its viability.
- We must “Reimagine” our understanding and implementation of economic theory. John Cobb gives us some hints in the last chapter of his book, The Earthist Challenge to Economism (1999).
- “Both Eastern and Western stories were products of a great historical shift from focused attention on the Earth to focused attention to human salvation in separation from the Earth… [But primal peoples] knew themselves to be part of a natural system that sustained and nurtured them. They adapted themselves to that system…They depended on the fecundity of the Earth and experienced it as a gift. Human beings throughout most of their sojourn on Earth understood themselves to be children of the Earth, not its owners, and they lived gracefully and sustainably with other creatures.” (p. 174)
- How can we refocus the “attention” of humans to forms of human fulfillment as “earthlings” in conjunction ‘with’ the health of all life on Earth?
- What will be the elements of a process reset of an Earthist story by “earthlings”? I propose we discuss our “process reset” in the inclusive context of a “process understanding” of “Earth as a whole”, as a system of reciprocally-interrelated-interdependent systems.
- Because ours is a process-relational outlook, we must begin employing terminology that approaches a more holistic, interrelated model. The elements of a process reset and the most inclusive concepts I will propose are termed “ecosphere” and “Earth”.
All is “energy” which emerges as a concreteness we call “matter.
(fn1) p. 3 – See Zhihe Wang & Meijun Fan, Second Enlightenment. Beijing: Peking University Press,2011.
[fn1] ASSUMPTION #7 E. Standard Measurements of Economic Growth: GDP = OK! (ECF, p. 2f) and are the best indicator of the health and well-being of society.
[fn1] ASSUMPTION #8 F. Deriving basic political values and policies from assumptions built into the science of economics is a subsequent aspect of the economization of politics through the service of wealth creation. (PEEP, 4)
(fn2) p. 41- (The Economic Problem, Heilbroner, Robert and Galbraith, James. 1987, p. 13-52, 103-19, 124-132) Maximizing v. Constraints 1. Two attributes of a market society attract (economists) attention. Individuals in such a society….behave in an acquisitive, money-searching, maximizing ways. 2. A series obstacles or constraints stands between the acquisitive drive of marketers and their realization of economic gain. Some are the constraints of nature; some are the obstacles of social institutions. A great deal of economic activity can be explained as the outcome of two interacting forces. One is the force of maximizing behavior…. The other is the constraining counterforce of nature or social institutions. Hypotheses about Behavior …economists about behavior…People are maximizers. (p. 124) Maximizing Utilities What does that mean?...people in market societies seek to gain as much pleasurable wealth from their economic activity as they can. We call this pleasurable wealth “utility”. Thus we hypothesize that men and women are “utility maximizers”….utility is pleasurable wealth. Satiable and Insatiable Wants Economics not only assumes that men and women are maximizers, but it also has a hypothesis about why they behave so acquisitively. The hypothesis is that peoples’ wants are insatiable; that human desires for utility can never be filled. (Insatiability & maximizing are assumptions with prima facie plausibility.) (p. 125) Rationality Equally important is an assumption about the way individuals think and act as they go about striving to fulfill insatiable wants-in-general and their satiable wants-in-particular. This assumption is that people are rational maximizers….people in a market milieu will stop to consider the various courses of action open to them and to calculate in some fashion the means that will best suit their maximizing aims….As rational actors, people will choose the method that will yield them the good for the smallest effort or cost. But when people are engaged in producing the goods and services of ordinary life (not = cathedrals), seeking to achieve the largest possible incomes or the most satisfaction-yielding patterns of consumption, the economist assumes that they will stop to think about the differing ways of attaining a given end and will then choose the way that is least costly. (p. 126) Hypotheses about Constraints …maximizing describes what we want to do while constraints describe what we cannot do. Economics thus studies the problems, and sometimes the impossibility, of achieving what we want. That is why economics is often characterized as maximizing subject to constraints. Constraints of Nature 1. Diminishing Returns…2. Economies of scale…production will become more efficient, and that each unit will become cheaper, as we move from small-scale to large-scale production….3. Increasing cost…the more of any one product that we want, the more of some other product we have to give up to get it. Opportunity Cost….Cost constrains us because it means that we have to give something up to gain wealth. (p. 127)
(fn3) p. 41 - (The American Economy, Marienhoff, Ira and Sampson, Roy, 1985, p. 3, 12, 15) 1) “Everyone makes economic choices. Everyone must decide how to spend his or her own money. Such a decision might involve a choice of what to…buy….He or she may want to save money….the student may decide not to work….All of these instances involve economic choices and decisions….A family or household must decide how to use its available funds….Regardless of income, all families are likely to have one thing in common. They want more things than they can afford. All of their wants cannot be completely satisfied….Wants always are much greater than one’s limited means of satisfying them. (p.3)…the key assumptions that people’s wants are without limit, and that the resources available to satisfy these wants are limited in quanity…..From the viewpoint of the individual, the important economic questions are those concerned with present and future wants….From society’s viewpoint, individuals have the responsibility of choosing between various programs of action or policies designed to further the general welfare. (p. 15)
(fn4) p. 41 - (The Study of Economics. Mings, Turley,1983, p. 5-6) “Why do we have to make economic choices? As a society, we have to decide how to make the best use of our limited energy resources. Obviously, we do not have enough petroleum to meet all of our wants…. Scarcity (is) the limited resources for production relative to the wants for goods and services. (p. 5)…Because resources are scarce relative to the demand for them, people have to decide what they will do with the limited resources they have….Because of the scarcity of resources, trade-offs between alternative uses of these resources must be made. (p. 6) What are society’s goals? Efficiency + Price stability + Full employment + Growth + Socio-economic goals: protection of the environment; financial security for individuals; economic equity; just treatment for all individuals in economic matters; freedom to carry out economic choices. (p. 10-12)
The American economic system operates on two important assumptions. One is that human wants are never completely satisfied. People never have all of everything they want. The second premise on which the economy is based is that the things (resources) available to satisfy human wants are limited in amount. (p. 12)
(fn5) p. 42 - (Economics in Our Times. Arnold, Roger, 1995, p. 4-5, 9) “Thinking like an economist…Thinking in terms of costs and benefits – According to economists, there are costs and benefits to almost everything we do….the cost of anything – learning economics, driving a car, or buying a house – is the most highly valued opportunity or alternative you forfeit, or give up, when you make a choice….In economics “cost” means…the opportunity you forfeit, or give up, when you choose to do something….economists often use the term opportunity cost….(p. 4) Opportunity cost (is) the most highly valued opportunity or alternative forfeited or given up when a choice is made. (p. 5) Three important concepts in economics are scarcity, choice, and opportunity cost….What is Scarcity? People have wants….They want things that they expect will give them utility or satisfaction….You will notice that some things people want are tangible and some things are intangible. Wants (are) things that we desire to have. Utility - a synonym for this word is satisfaction. Resources (are) anything that is used to produce goods and services. Resources fall into four categories: land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship. (p. 9) Here is the problem we find in life, and it is an economic problem. Peoples wants are unlimited, while the resources available to satisfy these wants are limited. This condition – people’s wants are greater than the resources available to satisfy these wants are limited – is called scarcity. (p. 11) Every time a person makes a choice…he incurs an opportunity cost….We know that because scarcity exits, choices have to be made. That is, because our wants are greater than the resources available to satisfy our wants, we must choose which of our wants will be satisfied and which will remain unsatisfied….because choices have to be made, opportunity costs will be incurred. Why? Because every time we make a choice, we give up the opportunity to do something else – that is, we incur an opportunity cost. (p. 15) In economics, a synonym for resources is factors of production. Resources…are what people use to produce goods. Economists place resources into four broad categories: land, labor, capital, and entrepreneurship….(Land) is all the natural resources found in nature – such things as water, minerals, undeveloped land…, animals, forests, and so on. Labor refers to the physical and mental talents that people contribute to the production of goods and services….capital refers to produced goods that can be used as resources for further production. Entrepreneurship (is) the special talent that some people have for searching out and taking advantage of new business opportunities and for developing new products and new ways of doing things. (p.17)
(fn6) p. 42 - (Economics, Lipsey, Richard, Steiner, Peter, and Purvis, Douglas, 1987, p. 3-4) Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources to satisfy unlimited human wants. (p. 3) Resources and Commodities A society’s resources consist of natural gifts such as land, forests and minerals; human resources, both mental and physical; and manufactured aids to production such as tools, machinery, and buildings. Economists call such resources factors of production because they are used to produce those things that people desire. The things produced are called commodities….The act of making goods and services is called production, and the act of using them to satisfy wants is called consumption….Scarcity In relation to desires, existing resources are woefully inadequate; there are enough to produce only a small fraction of the goods and services that are wanted. Choice Because resources are scarce, all societies face the problem of deciding what to produce and how to divide the products among their members. Just a scarcity implies the need for choice, so choice implies the existence of cost. Opportunity Cost (p. 4) + Production possibilities (p.5)
(fn7) (Economics, Watson, George, Jr., 1986, p. 5-6) In the role of the consumer, not for resale. Consumer goods are products…that satisfy people’s economic needs and wants. A producer makes the goods or provides the services that consumers use…Resources are materials from which the goods and services are made. (p. 5) There are three kinds of resources. Human resources…Natural resources…Capital resources The Importance of Scarcity…No economy can produce the things people want if it does not have enough of the right kind of resources. An no economy has an unlimited supply of resources. In other words, there is a scarcity of resources. In Economics you will study how people use their resources to make the goods and provide the services they want….Human wants tend to be unlimited, but human, natural, and capital resources are, unfortunately, limited. (p. 6)
(fn8) p. 66 Valenza, Robert. Process Studies, XXXXXXXXXXX???????
(fn9) p. 80 McDaniel, Jay. “Zen and the Self”, Process Studies,XXX???
(fn10) p. 134. More can be learned about the Conceptual Dominance of Individualism in Economics and in Western History . (CG:IR&CR, 3-4) and (MCCG, 3-4) Individualistic Conceptual Dominance in Economics and in Western History Historically, the most widely accepted ethical teaching in the nineteenth century was utilitarianism. One should act so as to produce the greatest amount of pleasure for the largest number of people. This teaching is as fully based on individualism as is the assumption that self-interest reigns. But for utilitarianism, the individual is held to have a moral principle or intuition directing each to the well-being of others generally.
The Kantian alternative in terms of duty is equally individualistic. For Kant moral reason requires that we act according to universal rules. We should act in the way that we can will that all act. It is contrary to reason to make an exception in one's own case.
It is significant that the major political theorists based their understanding of how the state came to be on the principle of self-interest alone. Individuals were willing to pay a price in freedom for the sake of security. Hence, they entered a compact with one another and with someone selected to rule them to obey his rule as long as this rule provided security. Locke thought that somewhat more than security was required from the ruler.
The traditions of German romanticism and idealism could give rise to a different kind of political thinking. It could reify a nation or a group. Its most influential product was Karl Marx. Marx tended to reify classes. This was certainly a sharp break with individualism. But it did not break with substantialist thinking. It simply shifted the substances from individuals to nations or classes.
Now the point in all this is to note that the idea of “community” is missing from substantialist thought. This is because for substantialist thought relations are external to those who are related. They remain individuals, whether individual human beings or individual classes. This is true whether their relations are altruistic or competitive. Hobbes and Locke explain how, given that human beings have this character, they nevertheless form societies. But a society is not a community when it is based solely on the agreement to obey a ruler in exchange for security and other possible services. Similarly, a collective in which individuals participate without distinction is not a community.
As previously stated when there is no concept of a community, the idea of the “common good” is inevitably truncated. For utilitarian ethics, it is the largest total aggregate of individual pleasures. For those who reify groups, it is the well-being of the group as a group. Individuals participate in the group, but their individual well-being is not in view. (CG:IR&CR, 3-4)
How has it come to be that individualistic self-interest has prevailed and community within society has been devasted in the twentieth century? First, the religious climate has changed. Christianity as a whole has lost status in the culture. It has been sharply separated from the general educational system, and its own, separate, educational system does not reach as many people, and is less effective even for those it reaches, than was the case in the decade after World War II. This is partly because the relatively stable communities in which the churches played a significant role have given way before rapid mobility. (MCCG, 3)
It is true that the decline in the old-line churches has been accompanied by the rise of some conservative ones and of mega-churches. These certainly teach that individuals should be concerned for other individuals. It is less clear that most of them emphasize the concern Christians should have for people of other nations and other faiths, especially for those who do not welcome our values and ways of doing things. (MCCG, 3)
Second, the popular understanding of Christianity as it functions in the public arena is now more legalistic than ever. Fortunately, legalists teach that we should act with regard to consequences for others as well as ourselves. But this sort of obligation lies alongside rules of conduct that are not guided by love. (MCCG, 3)
The vacuum created by the decline of Christianity and by its legalistic distortions has been filled by an ethics drawn from the description of behavior. The most influential is the portrayal of human behavior in economic theory. Human beings are depicted as seeking to gain as much as possible while giving as little as possible in terms of money or labor. The description has obvious applicability to how we behave in the market place….Many people financially support causes in which they believe even when there is no promise of personal reward. Even in the market we do not function quite in the way that economists regard as rational. (MCCG, 3)
If this model of self-interested behavior oriented to material gain were used only in one academic discipline and successfully countered by models used in other disciplines, the consequences might not be culturally serious. However, this particular discipline has become the most prestigious and influential of the social sciences. The model of human beings developed by the economists now affects the way human beings are understood in other sciences as well, both natural and social. Government policy is affected by this one science far more than any other. (MCCG, 4)
The economic view of the human being has come increasingly to be the one into which students are socialized in universities…. We expect students to have practical goals, which means self-interested ones in economic terms. Often the best way to show love for individuals is to improve the quality of the communities in which they live. By serving the common good, more are benefited than by trying to help each one individually. By working for the common good, we can express love for those about whom we know nothing as well as for those of whom we have personal knowledge. Since all are of equal value to God, this is important. (MCCG, 4)
1. Cobb, Jr., John B. “A Buddhist-Christian Critique of Neo-Liberal Economics”, an unpublished paper delivered at the Eastern Buddhist conference at Otani University in Kyoto, May 18, 2002.
2……. “The Common Good in a Postmodern World”, an unpublished paper delivered at St. Paul’s University, Ottawa, Canada in November 2003.
3……. “The Common Good: Individual Rights and Community Responsibility”, an unpublished paper delivered at St. Paul’s University, Ottawa, Canada in November 2003.
4……. “Ecology and Economy”, an unpublished paper delivered in Shanghai June 1, 2002 and in Wuhan, China June 4, 2002.
5…… “Economics for the Common Good”, an unpublished paper delivered at a conference in Hamburg, Germany in November 1998.
6……. ”The Global Economy and its Theoretical Justification”, a unpublished lecture delivered in Shanghai, China June 1, 2002 and in Wuhan, China June 4, 2002.
7……. “Global Market or Community”, a unpublished lecture delivered at a conference held in Hamburg, Germany in November 1998.
8……. “Growth Without Progress”, an unpublished article written for Religion-Online March 3, 1998.
9……. “International and Transnational Trade”, an unpublished lecture.
10……. “Making Choices for the Common Good”, an unpublished lecture delivered at Luther Northwestern Seminary, Saint Paul, Minnesota, September 21, 2003.
11……. “Political Economy and the Economization of Politics”, a unpublished lecture delivered at the International Whitehead Conference in Claremont, CA, August 1998.
12……. “What Kind of Growth?”, an unpublished article written for Religion-Online March 3, 1998.
13 A. N. Whitehead, Process and Reality, XXXXX????????
From III.C., p. 88: non-substantial events/not self-contained /not separate individuals/relational not individualism/not totally self-interested (=> empathy)/not acquisitive of ‘things’/ limited wants and desires (for g & s’s) / “intuitive”(?) r/t rational [ = FMCness??] WITH unending wants for holistic health
[It’s almost dialectical(coincidence of opposites): thesis (unlimited wants) + anti-thesis(limited resources) begets a synthesis of scarcity.] = p. 60 core phil.al thesis => dichotomy between unlimited v. limited: which pivots to multiple meanings of “unlimited” like “unending”(see II.B. p. 23?) or ‘wants always reoccurring’ r/t “unlimited” @ 1 moment; vs. limited =/as finite, but pivots to “unending” commits- a logical fallacy (From II.C = p. 30)
Unlimited, Insatiable-Unending Wants-Desires plus Limited Resources Determine a World of Scarcity p.33 Abstraction p.34 Atomistic, Self-contained Individuals with External Relations p. 35 Acquisitive p. 36 Self-Interest and Utility Maximization p.37 Rational p. 39
Fn – “creatures” -> from an “organic” perspective, each event, actual occasion, or entity is composed of “organic” processes which harmonize the multiplicity feelings of that subjectivity as contrasted with a materialistic metaphysics wherein the ultimate constituents - atoms of matter - are unchanging. “lifeforms” -> are “organic” entities composed of the same “organic” processes which harmonize the multiplicity feelings of that subjectivity and which fit our definition of life’s characteristics like - responsiveness to the environment, growth and change, ability to reproduce, have a metabolism and breathe, maintain homeostasis, made of cells, and passes traits onto offspring. An individual living creature, a lifeform, is called an organism. (https://www.ck12.org/biology/Characteristics-of-Life/lesson/Characteristics-of-Life-Advanced-BIO-ADV/)
From Innately Acquisitive to Innately Inquisitive From a Whiteheadian outlook, every event has the potential to not exactly repeat the past decisions. That is, the present isn’t totally determined by inputs from the past. Because Whitehead provides us with a thorough conceptual and ontological scheme, we can legitimately counter claims from various perspectives, like mechanistic materialism, that the present is totally determined by inputs from the past. That is, rather than “substance” or “matter” as we have come to understand, Whitehead’s ontological scheme is based on an “event” ontology about the nature of reality. Whitehead proclaims clearly in his philosophy of organism, Process and Reality: “The philosophies of substance presuppose a subject which then encounters a datum, and then reacts to the datum. The philosophy of organism presupposes a datum which is met with feelings, and progressively attains the unity of a subject.” (PR 155) This quote describes the innate “process” of each event or occasion. As “the many become one…”, the occasion attains the unity of a subject. This unity can be built around many, many multiplicities of aims, not just “acquisitive” aims of consumption. In fact, a partially open set of possibilities can lead in the momentary “now” to innately “inquisitive” choices.