The English word ‘economics’ can interchangeably be used with ‘economy’. Both these words can ultimately be traced back to the Greek ‘oikonomia’.1 This is a compound word, consisting of ‘oikos’ and ‘nemo’.2 Now with ‘oikos’ meaning ‘house’ or ‘dwelling-place’,3 and with ‘nemo’ meaning ‘deal out’ or ‘dispense’4 can ‘economy’ be understood as a dispense in a dwelling place. This dwelling place may be a family house, a locality, a country or the entire globe, but where dispenses take place the term ‘economy’ applies. With regards to the given examples shall the applicable terms ‘global economy’, ‘national economy’ and ‘local economy’ not sound unfamiliar.
Economy is a dispense in a dwelling-place. Let us go deeper into this assertion, first by elucidating the word ‘dwelling-place’. This is a compound word consisting of ‘dwelling’ and ‘place’. Now the English word ‘place’ comes from the Greek ‘plateia’,5 meaning ‘wide’ or ‘broad’.6 So basically can a place be understood as an extension or a space,7 (and in particular one of a definite situation).8 The English word ‘dwell’, from which ‘dwelling’ is derived, belongs to a family of Indo-European vocalizations, both old and recent, that refer basically to a straying and a delaying.9, 10, 11, 12 To dwell means primarily to go astray, therefore to delay to go further, and therefore also to stay. So a dwelling-place can be understood as a space (of definite situation) where a dweller stays because he goes astray. Now one goes astray basically when one follows appearances instead of reality.13 And these appearances are taken to be things. The absolute reality however is no thing, so it is only in following things that one goes astray and dwells.14 From this it can be deduced that if a place contains dwellers, it contains things as well. And since it is the presence of dwellers that makes a place a dwelling-place it can be concluded that dwelling-places contain both dwellers and things.
To come to the conclusion that dwelling-places contain both dwellers and things is of importance when a closer look is taken at the dispense in an economy. In a dispense three givens are in play, namely the dispensed, the dispensent(s) and the dispenser(s). In this threefold regards the dispensed the whole of things within a certain dwelling-place. The dispensents and the dispensers regard both the dwellers of that dwelling-place, each in a different role. The dispensers deal out the dispensed, and the dispensents take in the dispensed. A baker, to give a concrete example, is a dweller in the dwelling-place of his locality. He is a dispenser where the dealing out of bread is concerned, but is a dispensent where he takes in the grains grown in his locality (with the grains and the bread both being dispensed things).
Here it should be noted that a movement of things is part of a dispense. For in a dispense do things move from a dispenser to a dispensent, from one dweller to another. Now movement can be of an internal and of an external kind. The internal movement of a given concerns movement of parts within the periphery of the considered given, and external movement of a given concerns movement within the periphery of the context of which the regarded given is part. When we take the earth in the context of the solar system as an example, we may see the movements of the earth’s tectonic plates as an internal movement, and its orbit around the sun as an external movement. The movement of a dispense in an economy is thus an internal movement. For in an economy it are the dispensed things, being parts of that economy, that are moving.
Now everything moving always moves in a particular direction. Everything moving is directed. There are basically two ways in which movement can be directed. These are conscious and unconscious directing. In conscious directing a conscious entity stands at the base of a movement. This entity may be both the moved and the mover. A person throwing a pebble in a pond is a conscious mover, moving the pebble in a consciously directed direction. But a person diving himself in the pond moves himself consciously in a particular direction, and is as such not just a conscious mover but also a conscious moved. In unconscious directing characteristics or particulars determine the particular direction of a movement. These particulars may concern both those of the moved as those of the environment of the movement. The direction of a large boulder rolling down a hillside may be determined both by the particular shape of the boulder as by the particular shape of the hillside.
The above examples show besides the distinction between conscious and unconscious directing also a distinction between internal and external directing (not to be confused with the earlier mentioned internal and external movement). For this distinction between internal and external directing can be noted in movement as well. The movement of the thrown pebble is externally directed while the movement of the person itself is internally directed, (while in the example of the rolling boulder both are combined). Here it must be made clear that although economy regards an internal movement, this movement can nevertheless be directed by an external given. The whirling of snowflakes within a snow globe for instance is externally directed by a person shaking the snow globe. (Indeed not the exact course of the snowflakes is directed, but the general course between the top and the bottom of the snow globe is).
Let us clarify all of the above distinctions by summarizing the logical possibilities for economical movement. With this we take in account that the movement of a dispense in an economy is an internal movement, so external movements are left out.
So to which of the above categories does contemporary economy belong? Contemporary economy is globally dominantly characterized by capitalism and (neo-)liberalism.15 In an earlier contemplation was capitalism defined as ‘a system which favours the existence of persons who have accumulated capital which is available for investing in, and hiring laborers for financial or industrial enterprises’.16 So basically our capitalistic economy is a system. Now a system can be considered to be an organized group of givens.17 In an economical system these givens regard of course the dispensers, the dispensents and the dispensed. And in capitalism these givens are organized in such a way that it is possible for dwellers to accumulate capital. With the initial question of this paragraph in mind it may be asked which is the given that organizes contemporary economy as such. And the answer can be found in noting this economy to be (neo-)liberal. Liberalism at its base aims at the maximum of freedom for the individual from external powers.18 A (neo-)liberal economy then leaves the organization of dispenses to the dwellers within that regarded economy. And a (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy then favours the existence persons who accumulate capital through externally unordered arrangements. (‘Unordered’ can here be taken in both meanings of ‘not arranged’ and ‘not commanded’).19 This then is also what gives contemporary economy the name of ‘free market economy’.20 Taking the above in account it will be clear that contemporary economy, (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy, regards internally directed internal movement.
With contemporary economy being classified as internally directed internal movement it remains still to be answered whether this internal directing is conscious or unconscious. It was earlier stated that in conscious directing a conscious entity stands at the base of a movement, and that in unconscious directing characteristics or particulars determine the particular direction of a movement. Here it may be tempting to see in (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy a conscious directing when (not unrightfully) considering the indwelling dispensers and dispensents as entities. However it should be noted that none of these indwellers is an entity directing single-minded the entire economy of which it is part. The English ‘consciousness’ comes from the Latin ‘conscīre’.21 This is a compound word consisting of ‘com’, meaning ‘together’ and ‘scīre’, meaning ‘know’. So to be conscious in a way means to know together. However the entities within contemporary economy do not know their economy with its dispenses together, they all know separately certain parts of it. The local baker of our earlier examples knows the dispense from farmer to himself and the dispense from himself to his customers, but he does not know all dispenses and the entire economy of which he is part. Contemporary economy then is not directed consciously, is not directed from a wholeness of knowledge. Contemporary (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy is an internal movement unconsciously internally directed. It is for this reason that opponents call radical capitalism ‘blind’.
In the previous paragraph it was concluded that contemporary (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy is an internal movement unconsciously internally directed. This means basically that contemporary economy is self-directed and self-determinative. In an earlier contemplation was self-determination however concluded to be problematic.22 A self-determining given, so it was contemplated, can within its own periphery modify itself and spin around its own axis, but it can never renew itself and move forward. And this then goes also for internally directed economy, such as contemporary economy. And the latter’s blindness only adds to the problem. In contemporary economy we may discern movements, but these remain unordered and uncoordinated. An external onlooker would see movements within the regarded economy, but he would note it to be static with regards to the context in which it is placed. For it is only within a context that advancement can be made. (A traveler needs a path or a route leading away from his present place to enable him to move forward). And it is this context to which every self-determiner is blind.
So what then is the direct context of self-determining contemporary economy to which it is blind? This, we shall answer, is the realm of politics.
The direct context of economy regards politics. Let us elucidate this assertion. To do this a start can be made by contemplating ‘politics’ etymologically. The English ‘politics’ comes from the Greek ‘pólis’,23 which word was used to refer to a city, a state, a community and the rights of citizenship.24 The Greek ‘polītikós’, meaning ‘relating to citizens’,25 was derived from this word,26 and found eventually its way into the English language through the Latin ‘polīticus’,27 which, somewhat similar to ‘polītikós’, was used in matters concerning civil government.28 The Greek ‘pólis’ itself is rooted in the Sanskrit ‘pūr’ or ‘pur’,29 which basically refers to a rampart settlement or city.30 Taking all these etymological considerations in account, can politics be understood as the (governmental) relating to the citizens of an enclosed settlement.
Now an enclosed settlement is also known as a ‘borough’,31 and the inhabitants of such a borough are known as ‘burgesses’.32 So politics relates to burgesses. As such are burgesses inhabitants of the political realm, similar to dwellers being inhabitants of the economic realm. Here it should be made clear that these economic dwellers regard the very same people as the political burgesses. The baker of our examples in the previous paragraph is a dispenser and a dispensent in the economic realm to which he belongs, but this very same person may be fined by the police for parking his delivery van faulty, which is a political and governmental matter. Then with the same people belonging to both an economic realm and a political realm we basically see an overlap of two realms over one and the same locality with its people.
Why then would politics be contextual to economics, and not for instance the other way around? The key to answer this question can be found in economics being dispensing among people and politics being relating to people. Being relating to people makes politics a wider realm than economics, being dispensing among people. Economics has its periphery so to speak at the sum total of a certain group of dwellers. For the economical dispenses take place solely within that group. The political periphery however is wider than the sum total of burgesses. For politics relates to these burgesses. ‘To relate’ means etymologically ‘to bring back’.33 So when politics relates something to burgesses it brings that something back to them. Something was with burgesses, that something left them, and politics brings it back to them. But when something is not within the group of burgesses anymore, and the burgesses regard the same people as the dwellers, then the political realm must stretch itself beyond the periphery of that group to bring back what formerly was within that group.
‘Contractarianism’ is the name given to the set of social contract theories found in political philosophy. In its generality it may serve to clarify politics as bringing back what used to be with its burgesses (however without unthoughtfully swallowing this theory as a whole). Contractarianism in general starts off its theory by imagining people in a pre-political (and thus pre-burgess) situation, which is considered to be a natural state.34 In such a state people are thought to lack recognition of each other’s rights. Thus they compete with each other, tread each other’s rights, and are considered to be basically wolves to each other.35 Because their safety is thus under a constant threat of each other’s aggression they all agree to give up their rights and power, and hand it over to a central government that, as the only ruling power, will safeguard and organize the safety and the rights of the agreeing people, which now have become burgesses.36, 37 So what we see basically in this political theory is that people hand over their rights to the political realm, after which this realm brings these back again. And in this way does politics then relate to burgesses.
It are the rights of the people which politics brings back to its burgesses. However with rights belong duties. The right of the baker of our examples to sell his bread brings with it the duty of all other burgesses not to hinder him in doing so. So rights and duties go together, and both are gathered under the name of ‘justice’. It is then more accurate to state that politics relates and brings back justice to its burgesses. Now ‘justice’ indeed pertains to the political realm where the execution of governmental laws are concerned.38 However ‘justice’ also refers to concepts such as righteousness, fairness, correctness and propriety, or to the concept of morality in general.39 It is this latter justice that is brought back by politics to its burgesses. In this thought does the justice of the first only serve as a medium by which the justice of the latter is brought back. Justice as executive governmental law then obviously belongs to the political ream, however justice as morality does not. With politics being the medium through which moral justice is brought back, must the latter have its place outside the political realm. Just as a to be returned parcel has neither its place at the initial sender nor at the deliverer, so does moral justice have its place neither in the natural realm (of people) nor in the political realm (of burgesses). And also does it not belong to the economic realm (which, it should be kept clear, is not quite the same as the natural realm). Not belonging fully to any of the aforementioned realms must morality then be contextual to politics, just as the latter is contextual to economics.
The English word ‘morality’ can through the Latin ‘mōrālis’ be traced back to the Latin word ‘mōs’.40 This word is generally used as a reference to behavior, conducts, customs, habits, and character,41 and more precise to the right or wrong of the aforementioned.42 As such is ‘mōrālis’ thought to be a direct Latin translation of the Greek ‘ēthikós’.43 This word was derived from the Greek ‘ēthos’,44 which had similar meanings as the Latin ‘mōs’,45 and found its way also into English usage with words like ‘ethical’ and ‘ethics’.46 ‘Ethical’ then is used synonymous with ‘moral’.47
So ethics concerns behavior, conducts, customs, habits and character, and more precise the right or wrong of these. Let us first focus on the first part of this assertion. ‘Ethics concerns behavior, conducts, customs, habits, and character’. Of these typifications of ethics lie the meanings of ‘behavior’ and ‘conducts’, and of ‘customs’ and ‘habits’, very close together.48 The explicated list of typifications then can be boiled down to ‘behavior, habits and character’. Of these three it can be said that character originates in behavior and that behavior originates in habits.49 So of these three is a habit the most primal given. However habits originate also. For more primal than habits are deeds.50 And indeed do deeds also originate. For these are in their turn rooted in thoughts.51 A thought must be there to determine and direct a deed. Repeated deeds of a same direction make a habit. A multitude of habits then is regarded as behavior. And the entirety of one’s behavior composes one’s character. However thoughts themselves originate also. Without going deep into the matter here it can be said that thoughts originate in resolves. It is from an arising resolve that thoughts come to their fleeting being. So the whole row of aforementioned concepts may be considered to be results of resolves. (‘Resolve’ here is taken as an English, though not fully adequate, alternative for the Sanskrit ‘sankalpa’, which expresses the intended thought better).52 Ethics then regards the right or wrong in results of resolves.
Ethics regards the right or wrong in results of resolves. This assertion raises the question about right and wrong. More precise does it raise the question about right. Because ethics concerns primarily what is right. This statement makes sense when remembered that right is considered as ethical,53 while wrong is considered as unethical.54 So what is ethical is right, and here the question for the latter is asked. Now this word ‘right’ is rooted in the Indo-European ‘reg’, denoting a movement in a straight line.55 So when being right and ethical, one moves in a straight line. Now a straight movement always regards a movement between two points. Ethics basically regards a movement between two points. To clarify this movement and these two points means to clarify ethics as such.
Let us start the clarification with the mentioning of movement implying the existence of a mover and a moved. Now what is moved in an ethical resolve with its results regard of course the thoughts, deeds, habits, behavior and character. And the mover then regards the one from whom the resolve stems. This assertion may raise the question whether it is not the character itself which regards the mover. For do resolves not stem from one’s character? The answer is that the moving aspect of a character, which is indeed present, regards not resolves but inclinations. (‘Inclination’ is again a not fully adequate English alternative for the Sanskrit ‘vāsanā’, which is also here more suitable to convey the intended thought).56 Therefore can the character not be seen as the mover. A character’s inclinations work opposite to the earlier mentioned direction from resolve to character. Arising from the character (or more precise; from the psychophysical unit) they influence behavior, habits, deeds and thoughts. However they do not influence resolves. A character or a psychophysical unit may be able to overpower resolves, so to speak, but it will never be able to influence them. For a resolve can only be made consciously, while inclinations cannot reach beyond unconscious realms. As such does an inclination indeed influence a mind which lacks stimuli from resolves. And since it is from thoughts that a character or a psychophysical unit eventually is built, do streams of circular and unconscious movement arise. They move from character to thought, and from there back to character. These circular movements are obviously different from the straight movement by which the right and ethical was described. Unconscious inclinations from character are then to be understood as unethical.
Straight however is the movement initiated by a conscious mover through a resolve, thus finding its way into the character or the psychophysical unit. This movement does not go round and round, as do movements caused by unconscious inclinations. For anything stemming from the psychophysical unit would regard an inclination, and inclinations do not influence resolves, let be a mover himself. But who or what then is this mover, moving a psychophysical unit in a conscious, resolved, straight, right and ethical way?
‘Who or what is the mover, moving a psychophysical unit in a conscious, resolved, straight, right and ethical way?’ With this question we left the previous paragraph. What we already found out about this given in the previous paragraph is that it is transcendent to the psychophysical unit. We saw that the stream from character to thought and back cannot reach the mover. Now such a transcendence of personality and body was in an earlier contemplation indicated with the term ‘soul’.57 This term is here also applicable when considered in the light of its more common use. For commonly the word ‘soul’ is used to indicate an entity distinct from the body or as the spiritual part of man in contrast to the purely physical.58 These descriptions correspond with the explications regarding the mover in the previous paragraph. The human soul then is the unmoved mover which through a resolve brings morality into thoughts, deeds, habits, behavior and character.
Now this soul is a subject of research in metaphysics. Metaphysics is considered as that branch of speculative inquiry which treats of the first principles of things.59 The word ‘metaphysics’ comes from the Greek ‘meta ta physika’, meaning ‘after the things of nature’.60 Primarily this term was used by early scholars of Aristotle (such as Andronicus of Rhodes in the first century before Christ) to name a bundle of Aristotle’s texts, which today are still known as ‘metaphysics’. (Aristotle himself referred to the subject not as ‘metaphysics’ but as ‘first philosophy’, ‘theology’ or ‘wisdom’).61 These texts were called ‘metaphysics’ because they were categorized as coming after those texts which dealt with physics.62 It was only in later times then that ‘metaphysics’ came to refer directly to subjects such as those treated by Aristotle in his ‘metaphysics’. ‘Meta’ got the connotation of ‘transcending’ and ‘metaphysics’ then was understood as ‘transcending physics’ or ‘transcending the things of nature’.63
Microcosm and Macrocosm
As said is the soul a subject of research in metaphysics. For the soul, as we have seen, transcends the human psychophysical unit. The soul in metaphysics then is considered as the transcendence of the physical microcosm. However metaphysics does also consider a transcendence of the macrocosm.64 Often this transcendence of the macrocosm is inferred to by the name ‘God’. Such an inference makes metaphysics also theology. Theological metaphysics has God and his relation to the human soul as its prime subjects. It considers the microcosmic and macrocosmic transcendences basically as two separate beings. But when the conception of the transcendences as beings is abstracted into simple transcendent givens, then theological metaphysics is stripped from its theology and pure metaphysics remains. This abstraction of transcendences from beings into givens also brings along the possibility of non-dualistic metaphysical conceptions. Microcosmic and macrocosmic transcendences are then conceived as one single transcendence, and the difference between god en soul fades away.65
Let us recapitulate what has been contemplated in the previous paragraphs. We started out contemplating economics (or economy). Economy was considered as a dispense in a dwelling-place, a dwelling-place consisting of dispensents, dispensers and dispenseds. The movement of dispenses in contemporary (neo-)liberal capitalistic economy was considered to be an internal movement unconsciously internally directed. This blind self-determination however was thought to be a problem. For economics should let itself be led by politics. Politics was considered as the (governmental) relating to the citizens of an enclosed settlement. With ‘relating’ denoting a bringing back, it were the rights of the burgesses that were thought to be brought back to them by politics. These rights then were gathered along with duties under the term ‘justice’, which has a political, but more primarily a moral and ethical connotation. Politics should let itself be led by ethics. ‘Ethics’ was thematized as regarding the righteousness of character, behavior, deeds and thoughts. Character, behavior, deeds and thoughts were considered as unethical when originating from unconscious inclinations of the psychophysical unit and ethical when rooted in conscious resolves. These resolves however were thought to originate from the soul, which was considered to belong to the realm of metaphysics. Metaphysics was considered in its meaning of ‘transcending physics’. This transcendence could be microcosmic and macrocosmic. Metaphysics then was thought to concern both soul and God. This duality between soul en God however could be lifted by abstracting these beings into abstract givens, making them one transcendent metaphysical given.
So what is basically normatively shown in the previous paragraphs is that economics should be directed by politics, which should be directed by ethics, which in turn should be directed by metaphysics.
The above normation takes metaphysics as the primary realm by which all other realms, stepping down, are determined. This is a spiritualistic vision.66 Such a vision is not dominant however in contemporary days. Contemporary time holds dominantly a materialistic vision.67 Everything is (pseudo-)reduced to matter.68 And this materialistic vision then determines at present the way how economics, politics, ethics and metaphysics are arranged. At present is not metaphysics but economics, the most material realm in the line, given primacy. It are things in their dispense that are kept in prime focus. So much even is contemporary economy given primacy that it is left to determine itself through the workings of the market. There is very little political interference in contemporary economy. On the contrary. Politics is determined by economics. Political decision making is based primarily on the flows of the market. And through this realm of politics does contemporary economics even determine ethics. For in the political realm are ethics majorly bent to fit the state of the economy. And finally, to top it all, is the metaphysical realm simply crossed out, and considered as if it was non-existent.
Considering the above we see a great discrepancy, and even a polar opposition, between the description of contemporary days and the normation regarding the relations between economics, politics, ethics and metaphysics. In the description we see all determining economics, determining politics and ethics, and even crossing out metaphysics, while in the normation all is determined by the metaphysical realm. The task that lies ahead then is to shift our attention from materialism towards spiritualism. The task that lies ahead for us is to stop dwelling in dispenses of things, but to find ourselves and with that our moral compass in the metaphysical realm.