Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Truthfulness and Money

Quid faciant leges, ubi sola pecunia regnat ? - Petronius
(What good are laws, where only money rules?)


Truthfulness and Money, a philosophical piece, unconsciously at the time, took as its inspiration the aphorism by Nietzsche

"Perhaps no one has ever been sufficiently truthful about what 'truthfulness 'is'." (Beyond Good and Evil, aphorism 177)
As anyone who begins to unlearn mind control and the years of indoctrination otherwise known as schooling will find, money becomes a pressing issue. Unfortunately at the time I did not have access to or knew enough about the factual realities of money such as the rigged way it is created by banks, how credit works, boom and bust economics and so forth. The result was that I took money very seriously and was unable to liberate myself from that demon, however much I tried. This, if anything, pinpoints the shortcoming of pure philosophical speculation devoid of factual and political knowledge. That said, the piece does have the merit of highlighting a link between truthfulness and money, that is to say, the coming clean of one's source of income when purporting to make authoritative statements. 

Truthfulness and Money

What is truthfulness? How does it relate to the concept "truth"? What is the link between truthfulness and money?

In so far as our society's current mode of production is ultimately aimed at the accumulation of capital - itself springing from capital - and that for everyone in the West and, indeed, the world, money is indispensable and unavoidable, that entity must have some light to shed on truth and vice-versa.

Let us begin. According to my thinking truth is what makes meaning possible, is the source of meaning, particularly the meaning of words, concepts, language. But what purpose does meaning serve? Why meaning?

At its most simplistic level, meaning serves life, life and meaning are symbiotically intwined. For this purpose let me resort to the the concept of truth-value. That is to say a value is a truth-value in so far as it has meaning, a meaning serving the purposes of life, and, because it has to do with meaning, it owes itself to truth, that which makes meaning possible.

What, then, is truthfulness? Truthfulness, following the above, merely measures the meaningfulness of a truth-value for a life form which, in our case, is the human life form. Meaning, it is important to note, has value only for the life-form who acknowledges that meaning.

In addition, to take this thought further, because I think meaning and life belong to each other, I will say that the more meaningful a truth-value is for life in general, the more meaningful it will be for most life forms, i.e. people, who will thereby acknowledge that truth-value in thought and language. 

It is easy to guess how the rest of this train of thought develops. In the system we live under, capitalism, which could be simplistically termed the system that runs on capital to make capital, money is in fact if not in theory the most meaningful, i.e. truthful, of truth-values since it is (1) the most meaningful of values for (2) the greatest number of life forms. In (3) we will see how the truthfulness of money comes to bear on the meanings words carry.

(1) No one honest with himself will deny the fact that money carries a great deal of meaning with it, perhaps not in a metaphysical, religious sense, although even this is arguable, but in terms of its practical meaning for life (it is, in our system, a condition of life) and its possibilities (e.g. writing this blog). Money also has an advantage as compared to other truth-values, namely that it is measurable and, in a sense, relative only to itself.

Relative only to itself : by this I mean that while people may fight all day long about whether the Microsoft Xbox or the Sony Playstation is the better console system to buy, they cannot fight so convincingly about whether money is more or less valuable, i.e. meaningful for life, than being good to one's neighbour; of course, this would not prevent someone from claiming that being good to one's neighbour is more valuable, but such a person will be labelled idealist, implying that he or she is not at one with reality. Money is, to a large if not complete extent, exempt from conflicts of values.

Measurable: money is measurable since it lies in the nature of number to be measured and to measure. A "person's worth" can be measured by the amount shown on their bank balance, but also in terms of their salary (still a number), their so-called portfolio (shares, bonds etc) and so forth. The value of money is not only measurable but measures in a quantifiable way pretty much the entirety of existence. Not only goods, services and life essentials have a quantifiable monetary value (a price), but things such as life insurance are able to determine the price of your life and the legal system regularly measures in monetary terms the price of physical or psychological harm.

Thus, given money is the dominant truth-value, everything is liable to be quantified, i.e. measured, by money in terms of a price. Money is a known quantity unlike ideals and values such as compassion, love, justice which are unknown quantities; that said, the reach money has as ultimate truth-value is so great, there is very little to prevent money from quantifying even such a thing as, say, "philosophy", in terms of the wealth it produces for the economy and those who make it their business (e.g. books and lectures sold, university tuition fees, grants to philosophy academics...). And, to end this paragraph, money also measures in a so-called objective way quality, usually on the premise that the higher the price tag for a thing, the higher the quality.

On a practical level as well, the need to earn or make money, in the form of employment, business or investment means that what one ends up doing for the sake of acquiring money derives its meaning from the value of money - in this regard, corporations are at bottom money-making entities and derive their existence and meaning from the truth-value money. This does not prevent corporations accomplishing useful or even helpful things but those are a side effect of the value of money in the first place. Ditto, money, as ultimate truth-value, does not prevent people from enjoying their jobs, or believing in the human value of their work, but even they could not deny that without money in some shape or form such work would not only be very hard but impossible to do without money coming from somewhere.

When money becomes so important as a value, it turns into a criterion of meaning; for instance, I would not be surprised if someone were to ask me, quite honestly and candidly, why are you bothering with Commemoratum [the old title for ScruffyOwlet's Tree], you're not being paid to write this, are you?

(2) Money is today's great universal. American dollar bills have In God We Trust printed on them; it is hard to miss the irony of this (apart from what it tells us about the American Nation) now that money carries more real life meaning than God and in fact money is more universal than God and not just as a belief system (cf. Anti-Christ, 19: Christian God as "God of the 'great number'"). Money is number - number, by nature, is universal. Money is a universal language, the language of calculation, a language which knows no borders, no cultural idiosyncrasies, no limit - for there is no limit to number and, as super-computers prove, no limit to calculation

And, again, to reiterate what was mentioned in point (1), money is common to all those who live in a system that requires money to live.

(3) We need to step back a bit and see what points (1) and (2) signify for the concept of truth, as defined by me as that which makes meaning possible and is suggested by the possible meaning of a word. Now that we've briefly covered the question of money we can see that even this definition of truth, which is quite large yet narrow at the same time, seems unsatisfactory - it would be tempting to say that money is the truth, that which gives meaning. However, I will maintain my definition of truth and look at it this way: the close proximity of truth and money, according to my thinking, will result in words themselves carrying the meaning of money within them.

Examples abound: growth, investment, value, capital, payment, market, broke, purchase, currency, insurance, securities, wealth, free, rich, poor. All of these have an evident pecuniary/monetary meaning. For instance, contrast "he purchased a book today" with "do we not simply lack any purchase on the problem?" (Heidegger, Fundamental Concepts of Metaphysics, p.86). Or even a rich person in the pecuniary sense can be spiritually very poor. The signification of words it would seem takes root in the context (historical, social, spiritual) in which they hold currency and itself embodies values, truth-values, which may or may not betray political intention. This in turn raises the question of the political nature of language and discourse.

Conclusion - "where there is force, there number will become mistress: she has more force." - Thus Spoke Zarathustra (On The Three Evils)

Addendum - The common notion that "time is money" could do with some fleshing out. Time is money means, first, that to be, that is, to be caught in time from the moment of birth to the moment of death, money is required (indeed money is required for one's funeral). An employer literally buys his employee's time and the employee's pay is based on time, by the hour, the day, the month, the year. Thus in economics the price of a product can be measured in terms of the labour time necessary for a particular wage bracket to acquire that product or service and in turn the time it takes for a product or service to be performed (e.g. a metre cab driving from A to B) affects its cost. Free time presupposes that all basic necessities have been covered by money and that money has brought us that time. "Time is money" also suggests, from the viewploint of the employer, the desirability of high productivity, i.e. that for a given time bracket, so much labour has been performed, so much production produced and that the employee's time not spent in labour whilst on paytime is money not directly meeting output. Any analysis of the logic of capital, be it in terms of labour, investment, return on capital and consumption requires an analysis of time. 

N.B. When I refer to life-forms, I am not making a biological-physical statement as to carbon-based forms of life on earth, but to the varying forms taken by human lives on the planet, the point made being that however varied life is among different species of individual human beings, money remains for the most if not an absolute part a common denominator and something which all those varying human life forms require to survive, live and prosper, no matter the variation in their lifestyles and sensibilities.

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