Friday, December 28, 2012

Knowledge vs. Understanding

Max Weber, Mises, and Hayek all believed that the social sciences were sciences of understanding (verstehen), not sciences of knowledge. This fits my recategorization of the social sciences into the wisdom tradition (wisdom is understanding, not knowledge).

In this light, consider this from Frederick Turner's brilliant new book Epic:

Scientific method, excellent in many respects, is in some ways inferior to the storytelling system, as its reductive, deductive, and analytical procedure virtually dictates that a single cause with a single effect can be identified as the answer. (152)

Does this not sum up all the problems with mainstream economics? Anyone who proposes a single cause with a single effect as the answer to anything in economics ought to be laughed right out of the room. Any yet, how many economists do just that?

Rather, the social sciences should be closer to storytelling and philosophy, with their emergentist, inductive, and synthetic procedures, as these are what create verstehen. The scientific method does not. All it creates is knowledge. And knowledge is not understanding. Indeed, the knowledge we do have in the social sciences create such a wide variety of "understandings" that it's pretty clear that very little is being understood at all.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Theater of Tensions

My latest academic publication, The Theater of Tensions, can now be found at Studies in Emergent Order. It's a study of how theaters, as organizations, negotiate the various values of the spontaneous orders theaters necessarily overlap.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Applying Economic Insights to other Social Processes

Allan Waldstad applies economic reasoning to understanding the process of science. The great thing about Austrian economics is that it treats the economy as a social science, meaning what it says about the economy is equally applicable to other social processes -- like science, or even literary production. Quite frankly, I think it can help one to see how silly certain ideas in economics are if we apply them to other processes. Consider wealth redistribution. The same processes that result in the patterns of wealth distribution also result in the emergence of identical patterns of reputation in science and in the arts. Is it fair that Don DeLillo has a better literary reputation than I do? Shouldn't we redistribute some of his reputation my way, since I am reputationally impoverished compared to him? Or would that just destroy reputation? Now, if what I said about reputation sounds downright stupid, you now know how you sound to me if you advocate wealth redistribution.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Pure Wisdom and Practical Wisdom Mediated by the Moral Order

What connects the pure wisdom orders (philosophy, religion, and the arts) to the practical wisdom orders (the social sciences, governance, and philanthropy) is the moral order. In many ways, the orders of pure wisdom (like the orders of pure knowledge -- mathematics, the physical sciences, and their technologies) are specialist orders. One has to achieve a certain level of expertise to participate in them at the highest levels. There remains freedom of entry and exit -- a necessary requirement for any social order to be a spontaneous order -- but one does have to learn some pretty complex rules of the game to participate at such a level that one becomes well known throughout posterity.

However, in truth, we each have our own philosophies, our own religious beliefs, and our own artistic views. In the arts, we have all doodled, written a few lines of bad poetry. But more, we have participated by viewing art (architecture is all around us, as are any number of examples of the visual arts outside of museums and galleries), by watching fictional shows on T.V. and at the movies, and by watching plays and reading poetry, short stories and novels (at least in high school). We all have our own philosophical and religious beliefs, which we at the very least share with our friends and family. We thus are all participating in each of these spontaneous orders. And who was Nietzsche (or any of the great, well-known philosophers) influenced by that nobody ever heard of, but who he knew growing up, and whose ideas influenced him -- perhaps even without his conscious knowledge? What great storyteller in Shakespeare's youth, whose name will never be known by anyone else, sparked his imagination? And who have each of these influenced, whose names we'll never know, who influenced yet others?

This is the structure of spontaneous orders. Our ethics are molded in the philosophical, religious, and artistic orders; our morals are developed in the moral order, and find their expression in the social science, governance, and philanthropic orders. The moral order connects the three orders of pure wisdom to the three orders of practical wisdom. Thus, it perhaps would help us to understand the moral order.

What happens when our passions run amok? Sexual desire becomes rape. Acquisition becomes theft. Enmity becomes murder. What happens when we castrate those passions completely with the sword of morality? We become unsexed, without love We become satisfied in our poverty (or romanticize it in others!). We are desensitized to every offense, to every injustice, and go along to get along. We thus need moderation (how Aristotlean! how Nietzschean . . .) -- perhaps a tangent to moralization, in spiritualization:

"The spiritualization of sensuality is called love" (Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, 53). The spiritualization of acquisition is called mutual trade. "A further triumph is our spiritualization of enmity. It consists in profoundly grasping the value of having enemies" (TI, 53).

Nietzsche argues that the moralist in fact simply wants everyone to be just like him (TI, 56). Let us admit he is right. Even those who recognize they sometimes fall short morally have an ideal,which is theirs and their alone, to which they expect everyone to rise. And thus, when I discuss morals, I too cannot escape this fact. For example, to discuss an expanding realm of morals is to assume the very morality of such an expansion. There are others who consider such an expansion to be an acceptance of immoral behavior, and thus evidence of our becoming less moral.

One is thus tempted to try to trace out a neutral position -- but each attempt to do so seems to slip away. If I discuss empathy creation, there is implied a claim that creating empathy is good. And it is I who thinks it's good -- and, perhaps, you do too -- and thinking this, I want others to believe as I believe. We wish others to see as we see, to think as we think, to feel as we feel. We do this because we have a theory of mind -- yet our access to our mind is our only source of what a mind is like. Thus, I posit your mind is like my mind. And when your mind is not like my mind, the differences are wrong -- you are wrong. And even if we develop greater empathy, we only ever move from "I do not understand you; therefore, you are wrong" to "I understand you, but you are wrong." At best we change the borders of our tribal lands, including some, excluding others -- but tribal we remain.

Poets, playwrights, fiction writers write their minds. Religious writers write their minds. Philosophers write their minds. We read them, agree and disagree, understand and fail to understand, and learn to empathize more and more the more of them we read. This is the way a liberal education is a moral education. We learn to humanize more people, to see their points of view, to understand their thoughts. We'll find allies and people we would like to be; we'll find villains and yet understand their villainy.

But we must understand that understanding is not to be mistaken for agreement or approval. To understand is not to defend -- though one must admit that understanding allows the injustice of mercy to slip in. True justice must be balanced on the scale with mercy -- it can't be behind a veil.

And thus does the sun of empathy rise, spreading more and more light, so we can see more people are actually like us -- more like us than we ever imagined, because in our exposure to more minds through literature, religion, and philosophy, we are now more like them. Thus does the moral order evolve. And those morals find their expression in our philanthropy, in how we choose to govern (or have ourselves and others governed), and in our desire to come to a higher understanding of our social orders through the social sciences. Wisdom becomes practice through the moral order, and practice in turn informs the ways we will one day be wise.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Education Bubble

An increasing number of us are realizing that there is a higher education bubble. What this means is something I intend to investigate in the near future. One thing the author of the linked piece mentions is textbook prices. Of course that's part of the bubble!

Poetry Moralizes by Weirding

If the arts are concrete forms of pure wisdom, they moralize. How do they moralize? By making you weird. Specifically, you learn to empathize. You learn to empathize not just with characters in literature, but with objects and places, plants and animals. Thus one enters into a wide variety of others, seeing the world in new perspectives. This is disrupting to the way we view things, opening up the imagination, bringing forth new moral possibilities.

The lessons learned from the processes of the spontaneous orders of pure wisdom find their realization in the world in the spontaneous orders of practical wisdom. This is how "Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world" (Percy Shelley, "A Defense of Poetry").

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Discovery vs. Processing.

The realms of pure knowledge and pure wisdom are realms of discovery -- the discovery of what is always already there. The realms of practical knowledge and practical wisdom are realms of processing -- processing the discovered knowledge and wisdom. There are of course good and bad ways to process knowledge and wisdom -- just as there are good and bad modes of discovery.

How can we learn which is which? Won't we need to know what is a good mode of discovery to discover a good mode of discovery? Or at least, stumble upon a good mode. But then, how would we know it is good? Or bad? The same problems arise with modes of processing. Are we facing infinite regress in either case? Or do we just take a leap of faith, at least for a while? Is this what happens with accepted paradigms and paradigm shifts?

 In any case, surely we can understand that discovery and processing are different sorts of things. We know the purpose of discovery: new knowledge, new wisdom. But what is the purpose of processing? What is the outcome? More process? I think so. Which is why it's a mistake to consider the economy as being able to ever have a goal. It is a process.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Catallactic Trade vs. Reciprocity

Vernon Smith observes that social exchange is a trait humans share with chimpanzees. Does this mean that I was wrong when I claimed technology preceded trade?

If we understand that social exchange for chimpanzees is in fact reciprocity that much more resembles human philanthropy and familial interchange, then no. Human trade is not among family members, but among nonfamily, including strangers. This is an expansion of troupe/tribal social exchange, but it's not trade in the same sense as catallactic trade.

Even from this perspective, it seems that concrete philanthropy/reciprocity precedes catallactic trade. And technology in the form of tools can certainly be found among chimpanzees -- and not just among chimpanzees. As with any of our distinctively human actions, the foundations of catallactic trade can be found in chimpanzees, even if the actual action in the sense in which humans engage in the action cannot.

I would argue that without some degree of specialization, no real catallactic trade will take place. And that kind of specialization is human. Vernon Smith certainly shows us the foundations for catallactic trade in chimpanzees, much like in my dissertation I demonstrated that chimpanzees have all the foundational attributes for the emergence of language -- but in the end, chimpanzees simply do not have language any more than they have catallactic trade.

HT on the Smith piece: Sarah Skwire

The Postmodern Anti-Market Mentality

Anti-market thinking takes a variety of forms. For many economists, the most obvious one is economic planning -- an idea which grabbed the imagination of economists in the first half of the 20th century in particular. Yet this is hardly the only kind of anti-market thinking, let alone the most common one in more recent years.

A large number of anti-market thinkers are the postmodernists, starting with Heidegger (who I know is not a postmodernist, but the pomos are impossible without him). Heidegger was anti-science and anti-market, but also anti-central planning (which makes sense given his opposition to science). He saw national socialism/fascism as the corrective to both the free market and central planning. Postmodernist thinkers are anti-market, but also not necessarily for central planning. Their "socialism" isn't central planning socialism -- a fact which suggests that they don't even know what it is they really support. They are just anti-science, anti-market, anti-epistemology, anti-foundationalists. I personally see the logic of being both anti-science and anti-market, even as there is an anti-market, pro-science group as well. Some of the latter are planners; some of them, though, are just afraid that pro-market people will defund science.

For many outside of economics today, socialism isn't necessarily associated with central planning. That is associated with communism. If you asked most non-economists what socialism was, most would perhaps say that it's the government owning the businesses. This is of course possible without explicit central planning. All one would need is the kind of planning one would find in any monopoly business. It would not occur to them that one would have to actually have central planning if the government did in fact own and run all the businesses, since it would make little sense for two government-run businesses to bid for something made by another government-run business. 

In the end, most people today who are anti-market simply think the government ought to regulate the economy very strictly and fund the arts and sciences and make sure people have enough money to live and are able to get whatever health care they need. They have no clear understanding of economics or economic principles, they have no clue that there was even a socialist calculation debate or what that could possibly mean, and they have no really solid ideology to even speak of. Most just have a vague primatological sense that someone ought to be in charge, that money corrupts, and that the government is the arbiter of morals. In the end, most anti-market people don't want central planning so much as they want fascism. They just want the non-ideological, kinder, gentler postmodernist version of it. When one fights the anti-market mentality today, that's what one really has to fight.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Finance and Art -- An Interdisciplinary Inquiry

Interdisciplinary work, at its best, highlights commonalities among disciplines one may not have noticed were there and sheds light on each of the disciplines used. Rachel Cohen's piece in The Believer, "Gold, Golden, Gilded, Glittering," comparing art with finance is one such.

Cohen suggests that artistic depictions of time, from permanence/eternity to increasing contingency from time's passage, parallel developments in finance, from more "permanent" and grounded to more transient and ungrounded (perhaps one could go a step further, and bring in a Hiedeggerian critique of "groundedness" as such). She notes that finance has developed to a point where there is pure finance -- or finance for the sake of finance. As I have noted in my article The Spontaneous Orders of the Arts, spontaneous orders develop a "pure center" so to speak. In the literary order, there is literature about literature. In painting, there are paintings about painting. In the economy there are businesses about business. In finance, there is finance about finance. Each are "ungrounded" and seemingly separated off from the rest of civil society. They do not interact with the other orders. This means both great potential for civil society -- but also great potential for abuse and very negative side-effects. The financial machinations involved in what led to the housing bubble bursting to create the current recession certainly qualifies as a negative side-effect.

But what can we glean from the fact that I recently classified the arts as being concrete pure wisdom and finance/money as being abstract practical knowledge? This would seem to suggest the two are literally opposites.

Given Cohen's insights regarding the relationships between finance and art, though, we can see considerable parallels. Is this inherent in the fact that "opposites attract"? Or that humans feel a need to be in balance -- if they are involved in one element of life a great deal, they will seek out the opposite to (at least occasionally) keep in balance? Or is this simply a reflection of the deep, fundamental similarities among all the spontaneous orders -- including their development over time?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Proper Divisions, Understanding, and the Spontaneous Orders

In my last post, I discussed how certain kinds of spontaneous orders could be separated. I propose these divisions because I think understanding these relations will help us to understand their relationships to each other in the larger civil society.

I have recently been working on developing the divisions Frederick Turner proposed: the market economy, the gift economy, the divine economy, and the political economy. In each, I propose inclusion of the following spontaneous orders:

The market economy – money, the catallaxy (trade), and technology for living
The gift economy – the sciences (the True), philanthropy (the Good), and the arts (the Beautiful)
The divine economy – morality, religion, and philosophy
The political economy – democracy and common law

Understanding what orders were in the gift economy and what the gift economy was has helped me to understand the nature of the orders in that economy – and what I personally needed to do to succeed in a gift economy spontaneous order. Understanding I was a participant in the gift economy helped me to understand that I would have to give work away in order to successfully transition into the market economy with my skills. Which is in fact what happened when I landed a writing consultant position with the George Bush Center.

However, the relations among the orders seemed to me incomplete, even as helpful as they were. For example, I have been working with Euel Elliott at UTD on a paper on technology, and in doing so, I discovered that there was a strong relation among the technological order, the catallaxy, and the scientific order. I have also been reading Randall Collins’ fantastic book “The Sociology of Philosophies,” in which he discusses the fact that a mathematical revolution preceded the Scientific Revolution, and both involved the development of technologies specific to mathematical and scientific discoveries – all of which led to what Collins terms “rapid discovery science,” in which there is a moving front of discovery with rapid consensus reached, which keeps discoveries happening very quickly. This suggested a relationship among these orders, as well as the fact that there are two distinct kinds of technological orders: one for mathematical/scientific discovery, and one for practical living. Of course, there are overlaps. Lenses for glasses led to lenses for first telescopes, then microscopes. Computers, invented for mathematics, are now used for practical living. Yet, the fact remains that there are distinct developments that should be apparent to pretty much anyone.

I came to realize that if one could loosely group together math, science, technology, and the economic orders into one grouping and loosely group together government, philanthropy, philosophy, religion, and the arts into another, that we 1) have C.P. Snow’s divisions, and 2) we have an explanation why so many who are anti-market are also anti-science, anti-technology, and anti-math, yet pro-art, pro-government, and pro-philosophy (equally, one can see why so many scientists are dismissive of philosophy, religion, and the arts). And then I thought about the fact that Hayek considers economics to be a “knowledge problem” that the catallaxy solves. This resulted in my thinking through these classifications and developing the matrix in my last posting. However, since then, I have developed the classification schema further.

I had divided things into the True, the Practical, the Good, and Wisdom. However, better, more accurate labels would be:

Practical Knowledge – money – catallaxy – technology for living
Pure Knowledge (facts) – math – physical science – technology for math and science
Practical Wisdom (the Good) – social sciences – government – philanthropy
Pure Wisdom (the True) – philosophy – religion – the arts

We still have a continuum of abstraction (on the left) to the concrete (on the right). I will also note that historically, we see the development of the concrete into the mixed into the more abstract. Technology is developed before trade, which is developed before money. The arts (like storytelling) likely evolved before religion, which preceded philosophy. As Collins points out in his discussion of philosophy, high levels of creativity and development are associated with increasing abstraction.

But let us return to the issue of knowledge and wisdom. I want to make it quite clear what I mean when I talk about knowledge. I particularly want to make a distinction between facts and truth. In his essay “On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense,” Nietzsche discusses the statement that a camel is a mammal, saying that this is a truth of a sort, but one of limited value. These truths of “limited value” are what I would like to call “facts.” Facts are in the realm of knowledge, and are in many ways defined by the language. It is a fact that a camel is a mammal. A mammal is defined as an animal which is warm-blooded, has hair, and feeds milk to its young. Since a camel does/has all of these things, we classify camels as mammals. It fits into this arbitrary conceptual category we have created so we can better study, understand, and talk about them. For all things we could talk about in this manner, I prefer using the word “fact” to discuss them, since these are knowledge-statements. To use another example, let us say I filled my car with gas. One would typically say it is true that I filled my car with gas. I would rather say it is a fact that I filled my car with gas. This use of the word “fact” is supported by its etymology: “fact” comes from the Latin factum, for “done,” the neuter past participle of facere, “to do.” An action of some sort is needed for something to be a fact. That action is our hierarchical categorizing of objects. “All knowledge originates from separation, delimitation, and restriction; there is no absolute knowledge of the whole” (Nietzsche, PT, 109, pg. 39). So “all explaining and knowing is nothing but categorizing” (PT, 141, pg. 47). With facts, we end up with a plurality made up of pluralities. To be reductionist or deconstructionist is to be concerned only with the facts. On the other hand, those against knowledge, who believe we cannot know anything, are those who cannot find fulfillment in knowledge alone. What they seek is wisdom. Knowledge is indeed not enough. But that is hardly reason enough to abandon knowledge any more than the connection of wisdom to religion was sufficient reason, despite the decline of religion in the West, to abandon wisdom. If we abandon knowledge, we will only find ourselves doubly absent – of knowledge and of wisdom. Instead, we need to return to wisdom, to replace what is truly missing.

In the same essay referred to above, Nietzsche says that art “speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies” (TL, 96). Nietzsche is here talking about truth as facts. Art does not need facts, it gives us everything as illusion. One can have art that is blatantly non-factual, yet still have wisdom-truth in this sense. So works of art and literature act as one of the primary sources of wisdom, as the source of truth in this sense. “The term sophos, which means ‘wise (man)’, originally referred to skill in any part, and particularly in the art of poetry” (Charles Kahn, 9). The artist is the wise man. But this wisdom may or may not even be connected to facts as such. Gabriel Garcia Marquez does not really believe someone can be so beautiful they can literally contradict the law of gravity and shoot up into the air. With magical realism we have “fact-statements” coming into conflict with “truth-statements.” One way of creating meaning is through repetition. Another way is to create an image so amazing one cannot forget it. This latter approach is the soul of magical realism and of such surrealist painters as Dali and Magritte. How can one forget the scene in One Hundred Years of Solitude where Remedios the Beauty she shot into the heavens because was so beautiful? Or when José Arcadio shot himself and

A trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a right angle at the Buendía house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under Amaranta's chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano José, and went through the pantry and came out in the kitchen, where Úrsula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread.

"Holy Mother of God!" Úrsula shouted. (129-130)

This blood is going places and doing things blood should not be able to do, but that does not matter here. What matters is the truth uncovered by this scene, and that, because it is so strange, we remember it. Meaning is tied to memory (and Memory, in Greek mythology, is the mother of the Muses). We remember things that are repeated (patterned repetition is doubly repetitious, and thus more meaningful to us), and we remember things that are as amazing as these images – the “shock of the new” the Modernists were so enamored with. It is evolutionarily important to be surprised at, shocked by, and thus remember new things, since new, unknown things could potentially be dangerous – and it is good to remember surprising things so we are not continually surprised at the new thing with each subsequent encounter with it. We give meaning to those things we remember. We see this connection too in the Greek word for truth, aletheia. Lethe is the river of forgetting, the river dead souls must drink from before rebirth. Letheia is thus forgetting. A-letheia is not- or un-forgetting. Thus truth, aletheia, is unforgetting, remembering. Art speaks the truth precisely because it, as Kundera says, uncovers aspects of existence we have forgotten. Great art speaks aletheia what we are continually letheia, even after we have experienced the work of art. Art does this through lies precisely because every uncovering of physis/logos is a covering, as “physis kryptesthai philei” (Heraclitus, K. X), “Nature loves to hide.” This is how we understand, if not on a completely logical, rational level of explanation, what Marquez means about a woman being that beautiful, or a murdered man’s blood returning home. We understand these a-rational truths, a-rational because they are true without being factual. Marquez manages to highlight and make beautiful this element, of the potential separation between truth and fact – a separation which is the soul of religious mythology.

Gyorgy Doczi says wisdom is seeing the world as one, unified. This is a legitimate definition of wisdom and of truth. The words truth and betrothed are related, through the Old English treowth, meaning “good faith,” which gives us the words “truth” and “troth.” To betroth is to marry, meaning truth can be seen as a betrothal of facts, the unifying or marrying of facts. “Men who love wisdom must be good inquirers into many things indeed” (Heraclitus, K. IX). Truth as wisdom is unifying.

Wisdom is a generalization tending towards the universal codified into a proverb. The process of cognition begins with noting, observing the particular and then working out what is general from the particular. From the general, a regulating principle, a law, emerges which can take the form of the universal. The universal, the law, and the general are then tested against the ground of particularity in practice. Practice is both the starting point and the testing ground of our conceptualization of the world. What is needed is not so much the recovery of practical philosophy as the recovery of the philosophy of practice. (Wa Thiong’o 26)

Since to practice is both to learn to do something, and to do something (as in to practice medicine), we can see that wisdom needs practice, or doing, for it to be valid. We have already seen that “fact” comes from “to do.” Wa Thiong’o is calling for a unification similar to what I am suggesting. One could see wisdom as understanding the scalar nature of the world, seeing the world as a fractal whole, and knowledge as seeing the world in its constituent parts. As we will see in more detail later, in discussing Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Will to Power, truth(s) would act as the strange attractors pulling the world-system together. By combining knowledge and wisdom, we get a more knowledgeable wisdom, or a wiser knowledge, that sees the world as scalar with emergent properties derived from its constituent parts. Since bringing together knowledge and wisdom creates variety in unity, it would show the world as beautiful. Knowledge alone is not enough; nor is wisdom alone. “Graspings: wholes and not wholes, convergent divergent, consonant dissonant, from all things one, and from one thing all” (Heraclitus, K. CXXIV). The unity of knowledge and wisdom is beauty. The interdisciplinarian is thus the scholar of beauty.

Finally, I want to make a quick note about my division of science into the physical sciences and the social sciences. The physical sciences are divided into what one could term a Great Chain of Being, with physics being the least complex entities one can study, molecules being the next in complexity, living organisms being the next in complexity, and neurobiology being the next in complexity. However, we then get a proliferation of social sciences: psychology, sociology, economics, anthropology, history, political science, etc. These all certainly fit together as being in the next level of complexity – yet there is also a great proliferation at this level (one can say the same of, say, chemistry – one can learn organic and inorganic, quantum chemistry, etc. – but all chemists will learn some of each of these, while an economics student can easily avoid all the other social sciences, suggesting the divisions somehow differ). These divisions have emerged over time, and I do not believe them to be arbitrary. They represent something real in the world.

Thus I do not believe the social sciences – which one could also call, according to the above classification, and returning to an old terminology that was perhaps more accurate, the moral sciences – should be considered to be in the same category as the physical sciences. The methodologies of each should thus be very different. One will note that the moral sciences become classified as being practical, like government and philanthropy, but also part of the wisdom tradition, along with philosophy, religion, and the arts. Thus, it would seem that methods used in the wisdom tradition – those commonly used in philosophy, for example – would be more appropriate than those methods used for factual knowledge. As noted above, there is a world of difference between truth and facts. The facts of historicism can get in the way of understanding the truth about how an economy works, for example.

Note, too, that the practical wisdom of the social sciences are used to help us understand governance, the religious order, the artistic orders, the philosophical orders, the philanthropic order, the scientific order, the mathematical order, the technological orders, and of course the economic orders. Further, the pure wisdom of philosophy, religion, and the arts give each of us our moral education, resulting in the moral evolution of the moral order, which finds its expression in the practical wisdom orders of philanthropy, governance, and the moral sciences. One sees a similar relationship between the pure and practical knowledge orders.

Finally, one should note that there are some more foundational orders that do not fit into this schema. The language order, for example. Also, the moral order seems to negotiate between pure wisdom (truth) and practical wisdom (good). But not all orders have to fit into this structure, as the structure is hardly all-inclusive. Nor should it be understood as being intended as such. Further, not all things are spontaneous orders. Sports, for example, are things we do which are not spontaneous orders. Neither are families spontaneous orders. Nor are businesses – even though they are obviously found in the market economy. One could go on and on. But this should suffice to demonstrate that just because there are many social structures that are spontaneous orders, there are many others that are not. I am here not interested in hierarchical networks, only scale-free, self-organizing networks. The value of this particular organizational structure for these particular orders is that they are in fact related to each other in these ways. Understanding their relations to each other, and how they interact (or fail to interact) helps us understand the even more complex structure of civil society. 

Friday, December 07, 2012

Reconsidering the Relations Among the Spontaneous Orders

I have recently been thinking about the relations among the different spontaneous orders. I have typically been thinking of them according to Fred Turner's divisions into economies: market, political, gift, and divine. The market economy contains the catallaxy (exchange spontaneous order) and the monetary order and technology. The gift economy contains the scientific order, the artistic orders, and the philanthropic order. The political economy would contain government, including the democratic order. The divine economy contains religion and the religious order.

However, I have come to realize that one can also divide the orders into the good/morality, the true, wisdom, and practical living. There are spontaneous orders in each. And these orders can be divided into abstract, concrete, and mixed. Consider:

                      Abstract              Mixed                          Concrete
The True:   Math                     Natural Science      Science & math tech
The Good: Social Sciences  Governance            Philanthropy
Wisdom:    Philosophy           Religion                   The Arts
Practical:   Money                   Catallaxy                 Technology for living

All spontaneous orders overlap to some degree. All influence each other. However it is interesting to note that the True and the Practical are very closely connected (computers developed for the True are now used extensively in the Practical). And the Good and Wisdom are closely related. One could even argue that the Wisdom orders affect the moral order, which then finds its expression in the orders of the Good.

Note, too, that I divided the sciences. The social sciences are in fact moral sciences, and properly belong in the Good, not the True. This is not to say that the social sciences are not concerned with learning what is true-- only that that is not their primary function. This matters for how these science are properly understood and done. It also points to the fact that they are somewhere between Wisdom and the True.

If there is any idea I would love to get a great deal of feedback on, it's this.