Crypto-Current (027)

§2.65 — Teleological understanding is no less vulnerable to metaphysical error than any other systematic cognitive process, but it is also no less tractable to critical correction. What is required, naturally, is the rigorous elimination of the supernatural element. If there is no distinction, in the end, between an object and a telic object, it is because being an object is hard. It is only when almost everything is missed, that objects can be casually accepted as ‘givens’*. This is the critical insight, which reliably aligns transcendental apprehension with a certain ‘subjectivism’. Kantian ‘Copernican Revolution’ in philosophy construes objectivity as a product. It is the output, rather than the raw material, of a synthetic process. Critique apprehends objectivity as a problem, and a precarious attainment. That is why critical influence is marked by a systematic subjectivism, often implicit, but also not uncommonly emphatic – and typically bound to a local ‘Copernican Revolution’ in the field considered. The ‘subjective’, in all these various cases, does not designate a positive redoubt, but rather a mere default, established negatively, in anticipation of an objectification process. The object has to be made, and is not therefore previously available, as a foundation. Among Austrian Schools economists, objective price arises solely from the catallactic interplay of subjective preferences, while among Bayesian probabilists, objectivity in estimation is achievable only through the rational updating of subjective ‘priors’, to mention only two critical examples. The subjective stance in such cases is not a dogmatic commitment, but rather the opposite. It is a skeptical suspension, corresponding to the status of objectivity as a production. Subjectivity is work not yet done. That which has not been earned, in respect to an attribution of reality, falls automatically onto the side of subjectivity. Contra the later, inflationary, German idealists, what is seen here is not the expansion of a claim, but rather the delimitation of an entitlement.

§2.651 — The teleological object is an emergent individual with inherent principle of intelligibility (providing the basis for functional explanation). Essential to this mode of apprehension, already with Aristotle, is the understanding that there is no difference between the specific teleological idea (telos) and the rigorous foundation of a distinct science. Ever since it was discarded by the modernists as an archaism – for reasons very briefly sketched above – the indispensable notion of real individuation has sought stubbornly to recompose itself, most clearly in those cases where an infant scientific enterprise has struggled to determine its domain. In respect to the natural sciences, philosophy has inherited an inescapable responsibility, which is not easily differentiated from a ludicrous pretension. In understanding itself, as a transcendental discipline, it cannot but say that even if the sciences were to be correct on every question of fact, without exception – and this is a wise assumption for philosophy to make, despite its patent extravagance (since it encodes a teleological truth**) – they would nevertheless not know at all what they are talking about. Their modernity makes it impossible for them to know, and in regards to their historical function it does not remotely matter that they do not know. They are rarely required to be realistic about things, or in fact even to glimpse what this would mean.

§2.652 — In reality, between the transcendental and the teleological, there is finally no difference. Both are final. No principle of constancy or consistency exceeds that provided by what is coming (what has always been coming), which is time. Only that which cannot be reversed remains the same. System, or irreducible individuation, provides the bridge. Consider the telic objects of principal concern to us here, in nested order – Capitalism (or Modernity), the Internet, and Bitcoin. Each incarnates an ultimate rule that is in reality indistinguishable from a singular existence. Capital is the growth of abstract value. The Internet is distributed communication. Bitcoin is absolute succession. The apparent extreme generality of each definition dissolves upon examination, into an artifact of low-resolution. “How is X actually implemented?” With this decompression of the existential copula, the teleological content of the definition is extracted. The target of the process provides its principle of intelligibility. We can ask, each time, with only minimal hesitation: What is it trying to do? Each real individual, without exception, strives to become what it is, or it ceases to be. What is happening? What is this piece for? How does it work? – These questions are all inter-translatable. There can be no real system under interrogation without them.

§2.653 — The importance of the teleological principle to this discussion is most evident in the case of limit concepts (which Kant calls ‘regulative ideas’). Among the most prominent of these, and the one bound with greatest intimacy to the sciences of man, is homo economicus. This is a concept that the tradition of political economy has been conspicuously incompetent at defending. If it is considered to be a mere abstraction from empirical sociology or anthropology – as a kind of distilled datum – it will prove, indeed, to be indefensible. No such entity, beyond a very pitiful level of approximation, awaits discovery in the world. Were economic man only a poorly-described fact, then ‘behavioral economics’ would be entitled to the triumphalism it is already illegitimately enjoying. Homo economicus is not, however, a datum, but rather the target, or extrapolated optimal outcome, of certain definite historical processes, i.e. a telos. It is differentially actualized, in the private accomplishment of relative economic rationality, or advantage, and – more importantly – selected for at multiple levels, under conditions of capitalistic social organization. It thus models game theoretic competence, with the implicit heuristic: when describing how a game works, assume players who are able to play the game. The game will find, sift up, and train, such players if permitted to run. That is the basis of the true culture war inherent to capital formation. Implicit within capital is a template for the kind of people it wants, and which – given only time and opportunity – it will automatically produce. If humans lack the plasticity to compete in these terms, or revolt against the roles and templates automatically laid-out for them, then artificial agencies – ‘DAOs’ – will be fabricated to play the game instead. Questions directed to the accuracy of representations thus tend to distract, in this regard. A regulative ideal only describes actuality as a sub-function on a roadmap.*** Perfect competition is a regulative idea of comparable relevance, and philosophical status. If capital production were not inherently telic, its sub-components might be found merely scattered among the world of objects, as empirical curiosities. But it is (so they are not).

* “Nothing is given, everything is taken,” Nietzsche writes.

** Insofar as the natural sciences are wrong about anything, they tend not to be.

*** There is finally far more insight in the leftist objection – “We don’t want to go this way” – than in the theoretical ‘correction’ to the regulative ideals of classical political economy proposed by behavioral economics. Homo economicus is a criterion for the determination of socio-economic irrationality. To imagine, then, that the exposure of systematic patterns of economic irrationality could conceivably amount to a telling theoretical criticism is a symptom of profound confusion. Since anthropos has no teleological status within classical political economy, anthropology – i.e. behavioral economics – is unable to criticize anything on the level that matters. The crucial teleological point is this: If economic rationality could be derived from mere anthropological description, it would have no function as a motor of competitive advantage.

Leave a Reply