What key determinants are responsible for a graduate’s starting wages?

The following is a report I compiled with two friends to determine which factors had the greatest impact on a college graduate’s starting wages. Though the calculations are sound, the report has not been edited for grammatical errors or clarity. Our data was based on publications from 2010.

Continue reading “What key determinants are responsible for a graduate’s starting wages?”

American Inequality

A Case for Economic Equity and Long-Term Growth (Draft)

Abstract

Macroeconomic policy issues, as well as the theoretical assumptions underpinning their conclusions, must be considered within a political Liberalism framework that ensures and upholds the democratic values of freedom and equality inherent to the constitution. The complexity of economic development requires a holistic empirical approach that accounts for the historical, political, sociological, and business factors contributing to the makeup of society when crafting and recommending economic policy.

For this paper we will assume that economic growth is the aim for society. Inequality is a product of increased bargaining power resulting from increasingly powerful institutions in the business, financial, and governmental sectors (Kumhof 2011; Barnhizer 2004; Argyres 1999). Research has repeatedly confirmed growing inequality globally and domestically (Hisnanick 2011). Inequality, manifested as widening income and wealth disparity, contributes to domestic and global account imbalances, consumer debt, and economic stagflation, i.e. inflation and unemployment (Kumhof 2012; Rajan 2012). In addition, inequality is linked to key social variables such as political stability, civil unrest, democratization, education attainment, health and longevity, and crime rates (Thorbecke 2002). Greater economic equality always results in greater long run economic prosperity for the whole. (Wilkinson 2009)

The thesis explored in this paper is that bargaining power inequalities causally contribute to economic and socioeconomic inequality due to path dependency, organizational inertia, and habit formation. Bargaining power inequalities increase proportionally with capital accumulation, concentration, and centralization. This paper will show that the restoration of equal bargaining power will rectify financial and labor market imperfections and spur economic growth. In addition, this paper argues that US economic growth over the past several decades has been vastly overestimated due to increases in financialization.

Executive Summary

In order to determine the best policy for rectifying inequality and spurring economic growth, this essay provides an overview of current economic and socioeconomic conditions within the US and abroad, identifies problems within those conditions, and details the contributing historical economic policies that shaped them. It then examines the systemic causal mechanisms contributing to current US economic conditions, present potential policy solutions that seek to address these underlying causal mechanisms, and lastly interpret and rank their theoretical effectiveness. This paper addresses the following areas:

Continue reading “American Inequality”

Skepticism and Progress

Does Pyrrhonian skepticism provide a viable approach for a progressive life? Skepticism is often reproached for its noncommittal attitude towards life, being charged with apraxia, the lack of asserted action or purpose, as well as a deficiency of imagination due to their continual appeal to the unadorned appearances. So we ask, what good is skepticism? Better yet, why practice skepticism? Surely there are compelling justifications why the skeptic school should be preferred over any other, otherwise there be no incentive to study and practice the discipline over any other. To explore these questions I will use ‘progress’ in the philosophical as well as the historical sense. Stated clearly, I will investigate whether the skeptical approach is capable of solving problems, or providing answers to questions, and whether these solutions provide a means of becoming increasingly better in the various life projects humanity undertakes.

I will begin by delineating the core tenants of skepticism, specifically exploring the aim and ends of quietude, before discussing the dilemmas and consequence of these tenants, such as the charge of apraxia brought against skepticism. I will then argue that the skeptical approach ultimately tames progress by providing a regulatory methodology that corrects for stipulative errors of judgment, but does not directly contribute to progress due to its inherent inability to assert any original facticities of value. To conclude, I will take the position that the skeptical approach (though not explicitly stated by the skeptics themselves) is vital in the development of a critical consciousness, that its methodology and tropes provide an analytical framework and methods of deconstruction and reduction that render dogmatic facts, semantics and values as subjective instruments, rather than true facts. Continue reading “Skepticism and Progress”

Justification for the Death Penalty

Is the death penalty an acceptable punishment? Is it moral? Is it prudential? I will take a pragmatic position, arguing that the death penalty is an instrumental and symbolic act for maintaining order and harmony. Morality, that which appeals to a higher good, is typically codified by societal conventions and expectations. Arguing whether the death penalty is moral would require appealing to what is traditionally acceptable, or asking whether it benefits society in some way. In this case the question of the death penalty is a pragmatic one.

A society based on liberalism is characterized by the mutual collaboration of free and equal individuals working towards certain ends, with the most general end being the growth and flourishing of all of its constituent citizens. This is a feature of life more generally. Laws are created to preserve order and to ensure that this collaboration occurs justly, where liberty and equality are preserved for all. Why do we use the death penalty? This form of punishment is reserved for those who undermine the harmonious order, order that is instantiated to ensure the well-being of society, and is used for punishing the most heinous of crimes, most typically those committed by individuals who murder.

I argue that the death penalty is justifiable on moral and prudential grounds, that the authority established in the formation of the government, in which all citizens tacitly consent to, has ultimate power to exercise its interpretation of the law in order to justify punishments. Speaking broadly, this authority is derived not from its power to exercise rule, but because of the constitutional document which established it and the tacit consent of its citizens to exist under the rule of this document.

Continue reading “Justification for the Death Penalty”

Evidence Review: Cost Effective Policies for Improving Health and Longevity in America: Education and Maternal-Fetal Nutrition 
Barker-Hypothesis Policies

Introduction
Cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and other obesity related health complications are among the top killers of American adults today. As these illnesses have grown increasingly more prevalent over the years they have taken the lead as the greatest contributors to rising health care costs. The aim of this paper is to identify how these diseases develop and address ways for preventing the onset of  chronic illness in order to improve health and longevity as a means of potentially curbing the rising cost of U.S. health care. Citing strong evidence, I posit that the single-most significant factor for improving national health is the proper maternal nutrition during the critical intrauterine, neonatal, and postnatal periods of child development. Additionally, I hypothesize that while maternal education programs may result in positive changes to a mother’s diet during her pregnancy period, it is the cost, availability and ease of access to quality nutritional foods which are tied to a country’s cultural lifestyles, and individuals’ socioeconomic class that primarily influences the success of this education policy.

Continue reading “Evidence Review: Cost Effective Policies for Improving Health and Longevity in America: Education and Maternal-Fetal Nutrition 
Barker-Hypothesis Policies”

The Philosophy of Parmenides

          The fragments of Parmenides provide the earliest formulations of the laws of thought[1] that Aristotle later most famously formalized. (p. 58, 2.B2) His philosophy runs in direct contrast to that of Heraclitus who sought to create a philosophy that could accommodate the flux of the universe with the simultaneous paradoxes arising from change. Most likely influenced by the Pythagoreans and their conceptions of the capacity to reason, Parmenides sought to rely on understanding (capacity to reason) as a means of discerning the truth of what-is. This essay will begin by summarizing Parmenides’ account of what-is and what-is-not before exploring the question of why we cannot investigate what-is-not. It will conclude by discussing whether it is possible to learn about what doesn’t exist and delve into the potential implications of such a possibility. Continue reading “The Philosophy of Parmenides”

Existential Freedom: Simon de Beauvoir

Beauvoir presents an existential account of freedom by continuing with Sartre’s thinking of man as free, but emphasizing the ambiguity man faces by simultaneously existing in freedom and facticity, as a free being in a concrete world (7).  Man escapes from his natural condition, she says, through the freedom of rationality and the pure internality. Men have “striven to reduce mind to matter, or to reabsorb matter into mind, or to merge them within a single substance.” (7) What arises is the inherent paradox of man.

Beauvoir does not want to escape the ambiguity, like so many philosophers and thinkers have done in the past, but to accept the ambiguity and live within it, that is, “accept the task of realizing it” (13). She calls the tendency to deny, or negate, or escape the ambiguity of existence cowardice, saying that this method doesn’t pay. (8)

The existential conversion, Beauvoir says, “does not suppress my instincts, desires, plans, and passions, it merely prevents any possibility of failure by refusing to set up absolutes the ends toward which my transcendence thrusts itself, and by considering them in their connection with the freedom which projects them.” (14) This passage addresses the incarnation of subjective ends through subjective freedom. In this way she says that the world is a place willed by man which “expresses his genuine reality” (17). She emphasizes the “plurality of concrete, particular men projecting themselves toward their ends on the basis of situations whose particularity is as radical and as irreducible as subjectivity itself” (18).  This raises the question of how unique and separate men can live in ethical harmony. Her answer is that “an ethics of ambiguity will be one which will reduce to deny a priori that separate existents can, at the same time,  be bound to each other, that their individual freedoms can forge laws valid for all” (18).

To be free, then, requires the conscious spontaneous choice of projects undertaken moment by moment. These projects must be positively assumed, says Beauvoir, and the weight of the concrete consequences of these choices of the will must be accepted as a result of our fundamental freedom (24, 32). Meaning “surges up only by the disclosure which a free subject effects in his project.” (20) Thus, the principles of ethical action will be discovered as inextricable from choices and freedom (23). In the same way, the will to be moral and the will to be free are one in the same. (24) But a tension arises nonetheless from the disclosure of being. While the justification of life requires the realization of particular concrete ends, it also requires itself universally (24).  As a result, the relationship of a being with others is integral the Beauvoir’s existential thought.

Beauvoir emphasizes the failure of man as a central component to freedom, citing philosophers who wrestle with this failure as absurdity or anguish, the otherwise overall lack of answers. Beauvoir states that “nothing is decided in advance, and it is because man has something to lose and because he can lose that he can also win.” (34) In this way life is marked by activity and ambiguity enmeshed in the situated affairs of other men, all of which objectify the others.

Beauvoir describes the complex situation that free man finds himself in by illustrating the condition as men born into the world like children. A child comes into the world that is determined for them. They act according to the rules and structures pre-established. So long as a man continues acting according to this world, and never for himself, he is kept in a state of servitude and servile. (37) There is no exercise of freedom and the world is seen as a serious place. (38) Eventually the infantile world gives way to adolescence as questions are asked and discovery of subjectivity arises. (39) Not so with slaves. Even women, Beauvoir says, at least have a choice as to whether to choose or consent to the world imposed on them (38). The child is unique in that, whereas man draws upon the character of his past to make choices, the child has no character to draw from and must set it up “little by little” (40).

Beauvoir sets up several categories describing how humans seek to escape their responsibility and freedom by delineating the nature of the “sub-man”, the “serious man”, as well as the “nihilist” and the “adventurer”. The sub-man is a manifestation of bad faith and apathy by constraining activity through the denial of their freedom (44).  The sub-man is barely man at all, living in constant boredom and sloth. This sub-man is often manipulated by the serious man as an object. The serious man is an attitude that seeks freedom of objective standards and values which in turn denies freedom (47). The serious man does not act authentically because the action is not willed from freedom, its goals are not established with freedom as a goal, but rather as instruments revered in various ways as useful or right or good for some end (48-9). As soon as these objective external ends are removed from the serious man, his life loses all meaning (51).

The nihilist is a failed serious man, essentially “conscious of being unable to be anything, man then decided to be nothing” (52). The assertion of nothingness is not a result of freedom, but a result of denial found as a disappointed seriousness which “turns back upon itself”.  The nihilist is right in thinking that the world possesses no justification, but forgets that it is up to him to justify the world and instantiate himself (57).

The last is the adventurer who rejects the attitudes of the serious man and the nihilist (60). He accepts his freedom and projects, but he forgets the role of the others and thus exists in pure egoism and selfishness (61). He is therefore apt to treat others are mere instruments and sacrifice others for the attainment of personal power. In this way the adventurer is the ultimate tyrant, seeking independence and submitting to no other master but his own ends, no other master than the supreme master he makes himself (62). In this way the adventurer maintains a subjective positivity that is not extended toward others. Thus he exists in a false independence that falsely believes one can act for oneself without acting for all. (63)

Works Cited

de Beauvoir, Simone. The Ethics of Ambiguity. New York: Citadel Press, 1948.

Existential Freedom: Jean-Paul Sartre

Sartre wrote Existentialism and the Human Emotions in response to the critics who viewed the corollary of his existential philosophy to be solipsism or quietism. Whether existentialists are religious or secular, Sartre states that it is impossible for man to transcend human subjectivity. Thus, subjectivity is the necessary starting point, for “Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” (15)

Sartre says that man is conscious of imagining himself as being in the future and consequently is what he has planned himself to be.  Man is a plan which is aware of itself, where nothing exists prior to this plan. (16) This runs contrary to the Cartesian paradigm stemming from “I think, therefore I am” where essence precedes existence, where concepts are the genesis of operating processes (13). In this view man is dictated by and in bondage to a priori ideas and concepts as a way of existing. However, man’s existence precedes preexisting determinations. In this way existence precedes his very essence, rendering man totally free.

Freedom is the predetermined nature that establishes a commonality of human nature. Existence is a universal human predicament, a condition that precedes consciousness, a situation man finds himself in. (14) Man’s commodity is his necessity to determine, his freedom in choosing to be. With this freedom, Sartre says, comes a responsibility for determining what he is. Every act contributes to the creation of man’s image so that every choice establishes an essence of man. (17) Man is always responsible for his choice to choose what he is to be and how he is to live: he is always in the making, continually projecting himself into the world and materializing his freedom through action, through deciding. (50)

Sartre emphasizes the responsibility man has to this freedom. A dishonest man is one who believes in passion and other deterministic excuses. Man is responsible for his passions. There is no conception prior to what man has expressed through his actions. (23) Man fashions himself through his actions, by expressing himself through a series of undertakings, through an ensemble of choices, in which he is the sum of the organization and relationships contained therein. (33) This image of man forms a constitution that is continually manifested through his total involvement on the basis of the repeated acts he forms. (34) In this way, man is a destiny unto himself in which his actions enable him to live. (35)

This freedom extends not only to the individual, but to others. Because there is no a priori conception of man, what he is and should and can be, every choice and action contributes to what we believe the image of man ought to be. (17) By allowing for the understanding of self and others, intersubjectivity establishes a universality among men that is a comprehensible human condition. Sartre says his choices to pass beyond or recede from limits or deny or adapt, represent a configuration of man in a set of circumstances. (33) This configuration is perpetually made through choosing or building an understanding of other’s configuration. (39) Thus, since the creation and invention of man’s image occurs our freedom comes with a responsibility to all mankind.

Sartre says that the fundamental project of human reality is the desire to be God since God “represents the permanent limit in terms of which man makes known to himself what he is”. (63) Freedom is the choice to create itself its own possibilities. Consequently, freedom is a lack of being. By being something concrete, one is not free. Therefore, the annihilation of being is freedom. (65) Man’s project, Sartre says, is to manifest freedom through a lack of being by making itself the desire of being, that is, making “the project-for-itself of being in-itself-for-itself”. (66)

Works Cited

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Existentialism and Human Emotions. New York: Citadel Press, 1987.

Existential Freedom: Albert Camus

Camus wrote the Myth of Sisyphus as an essay on the relationship between individual thought and suicide as a solution to the absurd (6). Camus used the Greek myth of Sisyphus as a metaphor for life and the seeming absurdity of living. Understanding Camus conception of absurdity is necessary for grasping the role of freedom in human existence.

According to Camus, absurdity can be found to occur anywhere, on street corners or in revolving doors. (12) It strikes in moments throughout a man’s life when the uniformity and routine of existence—the habituations of thought and regularities of action—are broken and man seeks to reconnect and repair them again (12). Camus says that “before encountering the absurd, every man lives with aims, a concern for the future or for justification (with regard to whom or what is not the question).” (57)

Absurdity arises when the inference of reason reveals itself to be wholly dependent on cognitive activity alone, the sole work of consciousness. In this event inference ceases to follow from the nauseating compulsion of objective necessities and the world readjusts itself as a relative, subjective condition of man. Camus says that “A man’s failures imply judgment, not of circumstances, but of himself.” (69) Inference positions itself as alien to the world from which we attribute it (21). When man posits the question ‘why?’ and weariness sets it, he reveals the lack of inference in his mechanical routines, and elucidates an impulse of consciousness. (13) This consciousness either dissipates as man falls back into his life’s motifs, or he realizes, through an awakening, that inference is a device imparted to the mind, rather than a process inherent to the world. Camus says man comes to terms with this awakening by embracing suicide or recovery. (13)

Camus holds that life is indeed meaningless, full of contradictions and confusion, and has no inherent values other than those that we create. He entreats, however, asking “In the face of such contradictions and obscurities must we conclude that there is no relationship between the opinion one has about life and the act one commits to leave it?” (7,8) Certainly not. Rather accepting the futility of our world as an excuse for suicide, and rather than accepting the leap of faith that religion calls for, Camus proposes that we consciously accept the futility moment by moment by revolting with freedom and passion (64). In this way living is keeping the absurd alive, retaining the possibility of happiness and meaning in moments in between, whereas suicide would negate the very absurdity and possibility that established it. (6, 54) According to Camus, revolt as “the constant confrontation between man and his own obscurity” is one of the few acceptable philosophical positions. It means we must “challenge the world at every second” (54). This revolt is defiance, an exercise of freedom, which intensifies life’s value maximally in a way that no other ideological thinking can guarantee (55).

Camus paints three extreme portraits of absurd lifestyles given the form of the lover, the actors, and the conqueror (90). While there is nothing exclusive about these lifestyles they provide a caricature of the absurdity as a joy of living creatively. Inasmuch as life is absurd, life is creation (94). “To think is first of all to create a world” Camus says. Through creation man manifests ends and aims and realities so that just as an artist “commits himself and becomes himself in his work”, a creative being commits himself and becomes himself in the tasks he lovingly chooses for himself (97). Intelligence must refuse to reason the concrete, concluding that “expression begins where thought ends” (99).  According to Camus, gratuitousness is a hallmark of the absurd life and a life with hope: with no revolt or divorce from illusions, there is no gratuitousness. What is necessary then is this constant passionate detachment (102).

Works Cited

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus. New York: Vintage International, 1991.

Existential Freedom: Viktor Frankl

Viktor Frankl’s conception of the freedom of human existence spawned from his trials and observations in WWII concentration camps. Throughout his duration in camps he identified certain attitudes and behaviors that his fellow inmates exhibited when faced with death and meaninglessness. These experiences would later form his logotherapy approach. For Frankl, man’s search for meaning is the primary driving force in life. (99) The search for meaning is uniquely fulfilled by the subjective interests and responsibilities of each individual. Frankl’s logotherapy revolves around the “will to meaning” as the driving force propelling man to achieve fulfillment.  Psychiatric problems arise out of an ‘existential frustration’ when the will to meaning is obstructed. According to Frankl, values and defense mechanisms are constructs fabricated by man as a result of his desire for a meaning. (100)

This search for meaning is fulfilled in three sources. These sources of meaning are love, work and suffering. Frankl describes love as the saving ‘why’ that facilitates the ‘how’ contained in work. The final source of meaning is contained in suffering. Frankl quotes Nietzsche and says that “He who has a why can bear most any how.” He cites two reasons for why suffering is good, namely that it creates inner freedom or spiritual freedom, and that man can choose to see suffering as a task in which he can suffer proudly. Again he quotes Nietzsche saying “There is only one thing that I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” In this way suffering becomes an achievement which ‘transforms a personal tragedy into a triumph.”

Frankl stresses the importance of attitude toward life. Taking responsibility for life meant seeing life as tasks to complete with right action and right conduct (77).  Man always has choice in his action. He is responsible for his life. This responsibility is an essential response to the will for meaning. Man desires a fulfilling life; he desires meaning and worthwhile achievement. It is important to note that Frankl isn’t concerned with what man wants out of life. He is concerned with what life wants out of man. The demands of life present tasks. Man undertakes these tasks by exercising the freedom of inner life and choosing his attitude and how he aims to respond to these tasks.

Works Cited

Frankl, Viktor. Man’s Search for Meaning. Boston: Beacon, 2006.

City Specialization: The Growth of Nashville’s Health Care Industry

Economic Report on Nashville’s Health Care Industry

I. Introduction
What is this report about?
This report will summarize the growing importance of the health care industry at large as well as within the Davidson County- Nashville area. We will begin by providing an overview of the health care industry by examining broad cultural trends and detailing recent US political and economic events that have contributed to health care industry growth. We will then focus in on the health care industry specific to Nashville, discussing its current scope and trends, and highlighting its particular importance to the city. Continue reading “City Specialization: The Growth of Nashville’s Health Care Industry”

Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Hume’s Empiricism, Skepticism, and Naturalism

The whole premise of Hume’s An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding was to delineate the limits of human understanding and put a rest to metaphysical speculation by grounding philosophical reasoning in experience rather than pure reason. From the outset Hume’s preferred method of inquiry is scientific, based on observation and experimentation, rather than purely abstract reasoning. He posits that any fruitful beliefs about the world must be rooted in experience rather than wholly reflective theorizing.

I will begin by briefly summarizing Hume’s primary claims regarding his empiricism, skepticism, and naturalism and illustrate his emphasis on each of these in an effort to show that his philosophy is consistent and equally supports all three. I will ultimately conclude that his account of naturalism is the least developed of the three. This paper will then examine the methods and their accuracy that he employs in developing each of these. Continue reading “Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding: Hume’s Empiricism, Skepticism, and Naturalism”

Thoughts on Rorty’s Neo-pragmatism

Rorty lays out a compelling case for his rendition of pragmatism. Ultimately his claim produces the same effect as the sentence “This sentence has no significance.” By throwing out the ideas of essential truths and knowledge as simply products of social convention, he adopts a pseudo-relativistic view of the world where truth and knowledge are contingent upon the starting points afforded to us by our language. However, he maintains that conversational inquiry has a purpose and maintains a utility, despite where its conclusions may lead. As the aforementioned sentence demonstrates, despite its futile conclusion or message, we are engaged in an activity that allows us to converge in understanding. In the event if we decide to evade the contingency of our starting points and continue the pursuit of higher essences, we do so not as a means of establishing something essential, but to satisfy some “Metaphysical Comfort”.  Continue reading “Thoughts on Rorty’s Neo-pragmatism”

Draft: Science as a Pragmatic Social Utility: Implications on Freedom

All things are subject to interpretation; whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
-Friedrich Nietzsche

Continue reading “Draft: Science as a Pragmatic Social Utility: Implications on Freedom”

Evidentialism

The Principle of Evidentialism states that a Subject is justified in believing p if the belief is proportioned according to evidence at a given time. That is, S is epistemically justified in believing a proposition at time t if and only if the belief is supported by S’s evidence at time t.

Suppose I maintain the belief that I will pass all my philosophy classes. The evidence I have for this belief is that I have received all passing grades through the semester, that there are no new assignments, there is no class curve, and it is now the last day of classes. I am justified in believing that I will pass because all the evidence supports this belief; namely that all my grades are undeniably above passing and there are no more opportunities to earn credit toward my grade.

This belief is justified because the proposition “I believe that I will pass all my philosophy classes” is supported evidence “it has been confirmed that all the grades I received in all these classes are undeniably passing” at the time the proposition was stated, i.e. at the last day of classes. It is important that all evidence is properly accounted for, including knowledge of a class curve and the relation of these grades to other students. Also vitally important is that the proposition is stated according to the evidence at time t. If it was stated earlier there would be insufficient evidence to uphold that belief because not all possible grades were completed.

Pragmatism and a priori Knowledge

Can a pragmatist accept a priori knowledge? Consider the following statements of a priori knowledge:

1) 4 beer cans and 3 beer cans equals 7 beer cans in total.
2) A can contains the properties metallic and cylindrical.

The mind has inescapable a priori knowledge that operates as an interpretative function for ordering and categorizing experience. A pragmatist can instrumentally stipulate any definition. If we take thought as a priori, i.e.capable of intuitions independent of experience,  one can stipulate necessary conventions for assimilating experience. In this way the self generates a priori thoughts that function as an interpretive structure brought to experience, but this a priori knowledge is uniquely exclusive to the self. Revisions to current a priori knowledge have no affect on past interpretations as they have already been interpreted as experience. All a priori stipulations provide a ‘perceptual gestalt’ or ‘interpretive lens’ composed of axioms that categorize experience into concepts to suit personal ends. The implications of a stipulation may even yield new insights about experience, as when two stipulated definitions render incompatible (contradictory or inconsistent) experience.

The two examples given illustrate concepts with definitions stipulated a priori that categorize experiences a posteriori. In this way the definition of a can brings classification to experience, so that experiencing the properties metallic and cylindrical classify an experience as a can.

While experience may provide material to stipulate categorical definitions, such as certain predications, it is not necessary for stipulating. Stipulations arise from the mind and are brought to experience as a priori categorical structures.

 

 

Evolutionary Economics: Organic Analysis of Economic Growth

Abstract: This essay explores whether it is possible or desirable for present-day economic theory to incorporate biological or evolutionary insights of the type suggested by Alfred Marshall but not fully embraced by him.

If the study of economics is to function as a progressive system that guides and explains the behaviors of men as free and creative agents, it is necessary to examine the study in an open and dynamic way that emphasizes the growth of knowledge and qualitative factors as the prevailing force of change and progress.  Early on Marshall (2009) discovered the inherent error with rational mechanistic economic systems when he said “economics, like biology, deals with matter, of which the inner nature and constitution, as well as the outer form, are constantly changing” (p. 637). Whether Marshall knew it or not, the problem between statical and biological theories is fundamentally a philosophical one. This essay will explore this problem, delineate its philosophical roots, and build a case in favor of evolutionary economics.

The central thesis of this essay argues that neoclassical economic models operate in the outdated modernist paradigm that utilize rational closed systems which are, as a result, authoritarian and unsustainable with respects to free market innovation and evolution. The argument presented here is that economic models need to shift away from quantitative measures emphasizing ideal equilibrium states and towards a post-modern conception that accounts for freedom and change. In this way economics will reflect nature accurately, i.e. men are individual and free agents acting interdependently within an evolving economic landscape. This will provide holistic and sustainable model for interpreting progress by individuating agents according to inevitable qualitative changes within an economic system.

Continue reading “Evolutionary Economics: Organic Analysis of Economic Growth”

Alfred Marshall and the Growth of Wealth: A Short Microeconomic Analysis of Wealth Accumulation

Alfred Marshall was a pioneer in economics, even by today’s standards. In 1890 he published Principles of Economics which, compiled from years of study and contemplation, proved to be his magnum opus on economic thought. The work was so fastidiously compiled that it served as a standard in which all economic thought over the next century would respectfully consider. This essay will delve into the concept and history of the growth in wealth. A brief outline of Marshall’s descriptive analysis of wealth accumulation will provide a basic framework that can be used for comparing Marshall’s thoughts to that of other economists.

Continue reading “Alfred Marshall and the Growth of Wealth: A Short Microeconomic Analysis of Wealth Accumulation”

Insanity

What is insanity? The most familiar definition that comes to mind is from Einstein who said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It is peculiar to think of insanity this way, particularly because it flies in the face of normalcy. Many believe that the socially responsible and acceptable thing to do is to adhere to certain norms and customs and traditions, and that these will allow you to adequately function in society. What normalcy doesn’t guarantee, however, is individuality, or originality. To be an individual, one must do things differently and expect different results. But what of a society that values doing things differently only to achieve the same results, such as participating in all the counter-cultural rituals to gain acceptance as an ‘individual’ ? Can it be said that such a person has achieved individuality?

‎”Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.” -F.Nietzsche

Insanity. What I find insane is society. Civilization. Tradition. Custom. Ritual. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the utility of consistency. I understand the pragmatic element of predictability, from a linguistic standpoint as well as a logical and epistemological standpoint. After all, learning curves are greatly reduced by assimilating the knowledge past down by forbearer, no? And we can’t very well go about creating our own neologistic language and expect to be effective interpersonally, now can we?  But where do we draw the line between maintaining and gaining? Passing on and passing over? Subsisting and thriving? Progress requires change. Change requires adaptation. If we sell out to maintain the status quo, if we fail to commit to the efflorescent incarnations of possibility in favor of the denouement of equilibrium, we must embrace our death; for we have already died.

Society is insane. Look at the way they scuttle around in the rat race, trying to secure these temporal provisions; see how they frantically instill meaning and comfort into fabricated facticities. Observe the perduring populous that embodies repetition; always allied to the alacritous attachment of doing the same thing, over and over again, and always expecting different results. If you keep doing what you’re doing, you’ll keep getting what you’re getting. In the end everyone’s demise is the same. Society is a self-fulfilling prophecy; a reflexive perpetuation proselytizing more of the same. The social consciousness does not readily expand but rather, it promptly strengthens itself onto itself.

So what is insanity? A break from conventional norms, I suppose. So sanity, once again, is doing the same thing over and over again. The endorsement of cultural customs, e.g. materialism, hedonism, consumerism, aceticism, celebrityism, sciencism, etc. I suppose the great majority of people think they aren’t insane because they don’t expect different results. Predictability is offered as a sycophant of security.

That is the real tragedy. When people not only do the same thing over and over again, but they do not expect different results. They have been sedated or conditioned or desensitized to rudimentary routines and rituals. 9 to 5. Primary, secondary, tertiary schooling, followed by a stint of rebellious youth, cue the career, make room for marriage, corral some kids, restfully retire, and then comes the inevitable surprise of death.

Sanity: “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results.” This rationalist program will inevitably suffer the same stifling fate as freedom. Time waits for no man. If you are not progressing, you are regressing. Life is meant to flourish. Growth and evolution should be the cynosure of contemplation, the mark of progress. But not by any quantitative measure imposed by external authority. It should be an inward journey. Growth is not static.

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said to-day. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”  -R.W. Emerson

Insanity is characterized by senseless or abnormal behavior by societal standards. But how amazing it is to look at societal standards! Especially through the perspective lens of time! How standards change!

So the question of insanity remains. Are you insane for following your desires? Even if your desires lead to your demise? Even if they cast you into chains? Even if they toss you into pain and hardship? Would you be willing to escape sanity and embrace the lucres of authentic freedom? At what price?

Men are never really willing to die except for the sake of freedom: therefore they do not believe in dying completely.
-A. Camus

 

Schumpeter and Creative Destruction: The Process of Market Innovation in Capitalist Societies

Schumpeter and Creative Destruction:
The Process of Market Innovation in Capitalist Societies

Joseph Schumpeter was a 20th century Austrian economist who taught at Harvard for several years upon coming to the US. While much of his work was overshadowed by his contemporary Keynes, he made important contributions to macroeconomic theory by developing dynamic models of market change. His work described the nature of market innovation within capitalist societies and emphasized the role of less quantitative measures such as sociology as a major factor for economic development. Much of his inspiration was drawn from the economists Marx and Weber who favored dynamic sociological backgrounds, as well as Walrus from whom he borrowed the concept of the entrepreneur. Despite his emphasis on social factors, however, Schumpeter was one of the leading econometric economists of his day.

In 1942 Schumpeter published Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. In this work lies the theory of creative destruction, one of his most notable contributions. Originally a term coined by Marx, Schumpeter employed the “creative destruction” to mean the “process of industrial mutation that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one”. He wrote that the concerns of capitalism were less about how existing structures were administered and maintained and more about how these structures are destroyed and created. Entrepreneurs, he says, are the sole facilitators of innovation and invention that bring about these structural and market changes in economic systems.

Schumpeter placed much focus on equilibrium and the role of entrepreneurs to facilitate change within an economy. According to Schumpeter, an economy in equilibrium produces products for future consumers who are consuming their present products, and consumers consume products of past producers in a circular flow based on past experience. The expectations and cycles are essentially contained with no new production functions allowing for changes. The entrepreneur operates outside the system and introduces changes to the production function that allow for the creation of new wealth and destruction of the old- hence the term, creative destruction.

In Schumpeter’s analysis, entrepreneurs are the sole agents of change and responsible for the destruction and construction of new markets and wealth within a society. It is the sheer acts of will and leadership, rather than intellect, which characterize the entrepreneur and secure economic progress through successful innovation.

According to Schumpeter, capitalist societies did not operate in a the static circular flow, or equilibrium, proposed by Weber where the production function is invariant and preexisting factors of production are combined according to the technology at hand mechanically. Market activity is much more dynamic and changing. It is the Entrepreneurs who operate as a nonentity outside of this equilibrium and force new combinations of factors that disturb the circular flow as a means of innovative development. Rather than changing the quantity of factors to change the quantity of products produced, this disturbance creates market disequilibrium as their innovative contributions change the form of the production function. This change in production function form introduces new and higher quality commodities which destroys old wealth and creates new wealth.

Reliablilism

Reliabilism is a form of epistemic externalism that generally states that a belief is justified when it results from a reliable belief forming process that is either doxastically dependent or doxastically independent. That is, S knows that p iff p is true, SBp is true, and S has a reliable process for arriving at p.  In this way, SJp (att) iff (1) it is not in other epistemic evaluative terms, (2) explains how SJp is justified is a function of SBp’s genesis. This principle emphasizes the virtue of the belief forming mechanism and the veridical historicity of the belief over the truth value in order to account for the possibility of a false belief.

Suppose that I claim knowledge of my age, 24. I believe that my age of 24 is true. The process I possess to justify my age is to check my birth certificate. As a notarized document of the government, I believe the process of checking my birth date to its data yields reliable knowledge. I justify this belief forming process from the fact that everyone verifies their age in this way and it is most accurate and consistent. Additionally, I believe the government would not falsify this data as a notarized document. This is an exemplary example of reliabilism because my knowledge is based on the virtue of the belief forming process, naming checking the birth certificate, that is historically reliable and still allows for the possibility of falsity if say, my birth certificate was lost, or doctored, and I forgot my real birth date.

Science as Logic of Discovery: Examining Kuhn’s Critique of Popper

This essay will examine and critique Thomas Kuhn’s thesis in his article titled Logic of Discovery or Psychology of Research. To accomplish this I will summarize Kuhn’s thesis, identify key critical arguments made against Karl Popper, analyze these arguments, and critically evaluate the argument with supporting examples. Each of Kuhn’s arguments will be stated clearly and analyzed so that the evidence in favor for or against Kuhn’s claims becomes clear and distinct. I will then present an argument in favor of Kuhn’s criticism on Popper.

Continue reading “Science as Logic of Discovery: Examining Kuhn’s Critique of Popper”

Thoughts on the Philosophy of Science

Recently I’ve read a variety of essays on the topic of philosophy and the natural sciences. Some of the philosophers I’ve read include Kuhn, Popper, Thagard, Lakatos, Ruse, and Lauden, to name a few. Some of the topics include the demarcation of science and non-science, and the criteria for pseudoscience. Subtopics include astrology, biorhythms, and creationism.
I just read an essay written by Michael Ruse titled Why Creation Science is Not Science. I wanted to expunge on some thoughts…

Michael Ruse carefully defends his position that creation-science is indeed, not a science. He centralizes his arguments against creationism around key philosophical principles that act foundationally to support his notion of real science. At the crux of his argument is empiricism, the basic tenant of science, whereby sense experience and observation of consistency and order ultimately yield understanding which scientists distill as laws through rigorous standards of criteria.

Continue reading “Thoughts on the Philosophy of Science”

Financial Euphoria & Its Speculative Ruin

The recent financial and economic crisis is yet again the result of the same speculative orgy that happened not twenty years prior in the 1987 market crash. When the dust settled, the same inimical features culpably appear as reason for the disaster. As happened so many times in history, there was intense speculation that was fueled by misplaced faith in the lenders and rich. The association with intelligence and money contributed to a speculative boom that lead individuals to risks and over extend their confidence and credit. In addition, financiers at large investment banking companies were hailed for their seemingly innovative, yet unoriginal, practices of leveraging debt through financial instruments taking the forms of derivatives, securities and ARM’s (adjustable rate mortgages).

In the 90’s the US government passed a series of policies allowing home buyers to more easily secure mortgages through government backed debt. As more and more people began buying homes, housing values began to increase all over the countries. In attractive states such as Florida and Nevada, housing prices near tripled their original value. Lending companies began to underwrite mortgages well under standards to meet the demand and soon began pushing sub-prime loans onto home buyers. Many unworthy home buyers maintained poor credit, or bought multiple homes with hopes of flipping the home on speculation that its value will continue appreciating.

The speculative housing mania fostered the creation of massive MDS (mortgage backed securities) and subsequently CDO’s (collateralized debt obligations) which allowed shadow banking systems and credit markets to flourish while operating with little or no oversight. These and other “financial innovations”, nothing more repackaged debt being attractively marketed to meet investor demands, resulted in growing specious debt being incorrectly valued and over leveraged.

To hedge against risk, investors unloaded securities through CDS’s (credit default swaps) to mitigate against potential loss. These CDS’s allowed for more speculation as investors could basis trade on CDS spreads. As more and more loans defaulted, packaged MDS and CDO’s became riddled with unknown risk value and were dubbed toxic. These derivatives soon became worthless as panic stricken investors began selling bonds.

The banks bought these mortgage backed securities with the thought that, being backed by actual homes, they were fairly risk free. They predicted that the home values would sustain and that they could simply turn around and sell the properties at these high prices to compensate for any defaulted debt. In 2006 the crisis was set in motion when the housing bubble began to deflate as economic pressures forced home buyers to walk out on loans, leaving a wake of severely overvalued and ‘toxic’ securities in its path.

Major financial institutions, deemed credible and near prophetic with their steady gains, capitalized on the public’s gullibility for getting rich quick, as well as their short term memory of the financial crash just twenty years prior. These lending and banking institutions were thought to be “too big to fail” and garnered the pollyanna support of investors all over the world. As the housing market evaluations increased so too did the financial and banking markets in exponential disproportion.

In addition, individuals hailed as innovative financial frontiersman possessed the reputations that granted the support of willful and ignorant investors of all over. Such financiers included once NASDAQ chairman Bernard Madoff who masterminded a reminiscent Ponzi scheme that would rob investors of more than $60 billion. Hedge funds and the wealthy elite all over the world became victims of his vacuous enterprise.

As in all major financial disasters to date, the subsequent crash caused a sudden and permanent drop in US wealth as more than a quarter of wealth evaporated from their coffers. A decrease in consumption lead to an increase in unemployment above fourteen percent and the annualized rate of decline in US GDP reached closed to fifteen percent.

As the past has revealed, the aftermath of the crash caused a blind hunt to find and persecute the blameworthy. Everyone from the banks to the investors to the fed chairman and even the president of the US has been subject to scrutiny and called out for not predicting and preventing such an event. While regulation policies and reform measures followed, there was almost predictably no talk to the wide spread delusion and mania persistent throughout society which allowed for such a disaster to take place. Little blame was placed on the mass insanity of those who gullibly entrusted their money to “intelligent investors” of the financial community. Nor was their criticism of the baseless free-enterprise attitudes that the market is a perfect and neutral force absolved from external influences and inherent errors.

Those held responsible, mostly investment bankers and hedge fun managers, found their integrity and confidence completely ruined. As seen in the past, some fled in light of the impending crash, cashing out and leaving with their pockets full before they were apprehended as the cause. Many others, broken and shamed, thought suicide was the more appropriate measure for reconciling their guilt.

In the end euphoric speculation was the crux of the financial disaster as the masses became entranced with the seemingly boundless increases in the market. Vacuous financial innovations that leveraged risky debt were fabricated to promote and continue the growth. Those jumping on the bandwagon only fueled and reinforced the delusion. Caught up in the euphoric mood, many sage and perspicacious people overlooked the risks and the inevitable end that was to come.

Pollock’s principle of objective epistemic justification

Pollock’s principle of objective epistemic justification, whereby objective epistemic justification entails justified true belief, states that:

S is objectively justified in believing P if and only if:
1. S is (subjectively) justified in believing P; and
2. there is a set of X truths such that, given any more inclusive set Y of truths, necessarily, if the truths in Y were added to S’s beliefs (and their negations removed in those cases in which S disbelieves them) and S believed P for the same reason then he would still be (subjectively) justified in believing P.

In an example similar to Pollock’s Tom Grabit case, it becomes evident that the structure of epistemic justification and the complexity of epistemic norms is the crux for objective epistemic justification:

Suppose I see a sign indicating that the home of particular neighbor Mr. Beech is for sale on my street. I am sure that I am familiar with this neighbor who is an economics professor at the local college and know he lives there. The following day I arrive at work and report that Mr. Beech’s home is for sale, on the account that I have met him and seen a for sale sign on my street. However, unbeknownst to me, my wife insists that Mr. Beech is not moving anywhere, on account that she spoke with him the day before and he made no indication of doing so.

However, my wife did not know that Mr. Beech was ashamedly the victim on a Ponzi scheme and lost all him money, and that he desperately wanted to move to save face and needed to sell his house to recoup money. In light of this evidence, it becomes apparent that I did know that Mr. Beech was moving.

This example supports Pollock’s principle of objective epistemic justification because S instantiated argument A that objectively justified P so that A prevailed undefeated in relation to the inclusive set of truths presented. In the example, S is objectively justified in believing P as a result of knowledge that was undefeated by true defeaters.

Does Language Exist?

To say that there is no such thing as language would be to say there is no such thing as a theory of meaning. This equivocation becomes confusing when trying to establish semantic or foundational theories of meaning that rely on the use of propositional attitudes or cultural identities.

Davidson makes very compelling arguments for why the ordinary notion of language- “the ability to converge on a passing theory from time to time”- should be abandoned. While I am apt to agree with his conclusion, he fails to fully account for the role that socialization plays, what Wittgenstein refers to as enculturation and Bourdieu refers to as censoring, in shaping a learners beliefs and reducing indeterminacy to contextually determinate linguistic practices.

While Davidson rejects the building block theory, the seeming core of Wittgenstein’s language game theory, they both agree that human action is the starting point for any linguistic theory discussion. For Davidson, words are meaningless unless they occur within a sentence, just as sentences are meaningless unless they occur within a context of some purpose or aim: the semantic content is rendered radically indeterminate without a context. As a corollary, one sees that sentences are meaningless unless they communicate a set of propositional attitudes that harmonize with the interlocutor’s beliefs about the action or aim, beliefs tightly bound to purpose or aims unique to the community of the interlocutor. The purpose or aims directly reflect the social and environmental demands that the community works to resolve through cooperative human activity, as Wittgenstein illustrates with the enculturation of language games. Each ‘language’ contains the propositional attitudes associated with this human activity. The defining characteristic of a language then is the evolving social and environmental demands manifesting as a shared intentionality which take form as common propositional attitudes or beliefs that become embedded into the language and words.

Language[1] then can be defined as a manner of speech which functions as a device of exchange ‘to make common’. It can be concluded that Davidson’s passing theory, similar to Wittgenstein’s language game theory, is simply the origin of language formation as a result of converging on an aim or purpose through a shared intentionality which gives rise to propositional attitudes. Mastering the art of interpretation requires the ability to converge on a common aim or purpose by successfully cognizing the demands or shared intentions of the interlocutor.

Does language exist? So long as common demands exist among interlocutor, then a convergence of purpose or aims, as facilitated through Davidson’s principle of charity, can be achieved as shared intentionality. The result is a commonality among the interlocutors that provides ground for future cooperative exchanges. The repeatability of practices gives way to customary norms and standard conventions that provides communicative exchanges with a contextual determinacy that aid in facilitating the translation of intentionality and successfully addressing shared purpose or aims.

Many philosophers have presented objections directly against Davidson’s claim against the existence of language. One difference argues a fundamental difference between translation and understanding that stresses the divide between the hearer’s stance and the detached perspective of the observer. Social objections include Putnam’s linguistic division of labor between experts for articulating semantic domains, questions of national and cultural identity that possess certain linguistic struggles and linguistic rights, the social costs emphasized by Bourdieu for departing from linguistic norms, and the reality of unintended meanings occurring within social contexts.

On a linguistic level, language, dialect and idiolect reflect the nuanced conventions of a community specific to the human activity contained in each of their unique purposes and aims. The development of a distinct language is the manifestation of enculturated conventions on a macrocosmic scale according to the social and environmental demands, while a dialect mirrors a more narrow deviation from this enculturation corresponding to more regional variations in demands, and idiolect even narrower still.

To assert the importance of one linguistic level over another would effectively overlook the function of language as a medium for facilitating the cooperation of human activity toward shared purposes and aims. Each level elucidates a degree of enculturation that distinctly comprises the purposes and aims of a family, community, and/or nation. A system of linguistic practices always develops as a result of the convergence of shared intentions between two or more persons addressing a common purpose or aim interactionally. However, as the demands change, so to do the purposes and aims as individuals arrive at new shared intentions. As a result, conversational exchanges become chained together as preexisting linguistic practices are inherited through the traditional conventions and customary norms embedded and passed on through the language as residue of antiquated conventions and outdated practices of the past

The consequence for individuals born into a preexisting language systems are the subtle ideological influences within in the language that contain inconspicuous propositional attitudes that shape an individual’s ideology and identity. While individuals can develop new linguistic practices by identifying demands and form shared intentions, they are constrained, insofar as they have been enculturated by institutional practices and habituated by ideologies inherited from the language. In this way language solidarity is achieved that supports a homogeneity among a populous which affords a more singular consensus and more unified propositional attitudes. The result is an integrated linguistic community that allows for greater ease in communicating purposes among people with demands that would be typically varied within a widespread population. As Bourdieu argues, this integration of a linguistic community is a condition for the establishment of relations of linguistic domination.

However, so long as an individual fails to recognize the inherited practices and ideologies of their language, and fails to embrace their ability to identify personal demands and purposes, they are bound to the conceptual scheme inherent to the language, for better or worse, and blind to see beyond its capacity for addressing possibilities and coining new meaning outside the language.

I can only conclude then that the idiolect, the variety of language created and instantiated by an individual, is the most important linguistic level of communication. Only at the idiolect level does an individual possess a role in the creation of a language that is relevant and meaningful according to their personal purpose and aims.

Davidson’s analysis of language is conducted on a metaphysical level by investigating the origin of language formation from an idyllic perspective void from any influence of enculturation. His work did a great deal to elucidate how language can arise between individuals, but failed to make a significant contribution to the discussion of how socialization affects the development of language. For Davidson, insofar as language was neither systematic, containing definable properties and rules, nor shared, as an agreed method, language was non-existent. In his essay A Nice Derangement of Epitaphs he argued that any prior theory of language was weak and insufficient describing the interpretation of meaning and that passing theory could not be reduced to methods. He concluded that if language was “the ability to converge on a passing theory from time to time” as a result of wit, luck or wisdom and not because of any regularity, we have simply “erased the boundary between knowing a language and knowing our way around the world generally.” Language is an intersubjective pragmatic process that develops between two individuals.

Bourdieu focused on this intersubjective relationship and delineated the way in which symbols such as language shape ideologies and creates class stratifications within a society.  According to Bourdieu, language possesses a symbolic power that maintains value as linguistic capital which is exchanged within linguistic markets as well as among overlapping linguistic markets that are politically and socially defined by lifestyles. An individual’s language makes him apart of a normative group, whoever or whatever that represents; it is not a communal tool available and equal to all. The consolidation of linguistic communities into official language is a means of domination by reinforcing the authority of it’s authors. This consolidation is achieved through instituting social apparatuses such as formal education and the creation of dictionaries as a means of creating a standard tongue within the nation. These institutions infiltrate the ideological apparatuses and reinforce prescribed ideologies through conditioning the habitus, an embodied way of responding to symbols or language, which dispossesses an individuals of their natural language and facilitates the loss of identity through instructed censorship that eventually develops into internalized self-censorship. This unification creates homogenous economic and cultural values which allows for the greater ease of governing.

Much like Bourdieu, Anzaldua discusses the function of language in identity formation and discusses the dispossession that occurs during censorship. In her books Borderlands, Anzaldua describes living on the fringes between two languages and hybridization that occur between the two languages. Much like Bourdieu’s notion of a linguistic market and their ideology, the Chicana hybrid between overlapping linguistic communities that developed out of necessity for a distinct identity. This identity serves as a reflection of the unique community situated at the borders and obscured by two dominating languages. Davidson would agree that the formation of the Chicana language is a special kind of creativity borne out of the unique shared intentions of the people. Anzaldua argues “I am my language” and that language is inseparable from identity and that to citizen someone for being poor in language is to criticize their value as a human being.

The tensions and struggles between languages is really a struggle for power. As language is born out of the shared intentions of a people, it begs the question of what these intentions seek to accomplish and who they serve. Language is a reflection of a communities identity, a way of life embedded with beliefs and ideologies. A break in language can lead to a devastating divide in the ideology of a people and the destabilization of a nation and government.

When Nietzsche proclaimed “God is Dead,” he essentially prophesized the break from religion that emphasized the supreme authority of a singular text and the ideology it possessed. The break from religions authority on language destabilized the notions of a singular truth and an ultimate meaning which led to the proliferation of existential freedom that challenged antiquated norms and created new perspectives for examining what it means to be.


[1] ‘Language’ is derived from the L. lingua meaning ‘tongue’.‘Communication’ is derived from the L. communicare meaning ‘to share, divide out; impart, inform, joine, unite, participate in” from communis meaning “to make common”.

Social Mobility: Language, Influence, Power

You said it, my good knight! There ought to be laws to
protect the body of acquired knowledge.
Take one of our good pupils, for example: modest
and diligent, from his earliest grammar classes he’s
kept a little notebook full of phrases.
After hanging on the lips of his teachers for twenty
years, he’s managed to build up an intellectual stock in
trade; doesn’t it belong to him as if it were a house, or
money?
Paul Claudel, Le soulier de satin, Day III, Scene ii

 

Communication. I can’t stop thinking about communication. It’s everywhere. You can’t help it. You are conditioned to adopt certain norms and customs. The interpellation that causes identity formation through subjectification and submission to authority. Bear with me while I get this all out. It might get a little cerebral.

Pierre Bourdieu described the habitus of language. Habits form our character, our ideological world view, our identity as a subject. Using language makes you apart of a normative group whoever and whatever that might represent.

We are creatures of habits. The habituation of ideologies shapes our view of the world. Through habituation we come to embody certain symbols that mark out our ideology as a result of the environmental influences we were born and conditioned into. These habits elucidate the societal structures we find ourselves belonging to. Each societal structure contains distinct linguistic capital that defines a linguistic market or social group.  The linguistic capital we use has symbolic power or symbolic imposition. The greater linguistic capital a person possesses, the more mobile that person is within and between different linguistic markets. The accretion of habits that form linguistic capital are instrumental for the formation of identity.

The language and gestures that forms a person’s linguistic capital contains explicit or implicit symbolic power that are used to define the world.  The symbolic power of language takes the form of subliminal and non-verbal insinuations. Posture, eye contact, intonation, definitions, conventional phrases, and mannerisms all play a role in the insinuation of symbolic power.

The formation of a person’s identity arises from censorship. Ideological influences in society- family, religion, school- all facilitate this censorship. Eventually the external influences of censorship become internalized and act as self-censorship.

When we were young our parents molded our ideology by pruning our habits through assent or dissent. The process that habituates the internalization of censorship and forms the ideology that becomes our identity looks something like this:

As a child we may use the word ‘fat’ to describe someone who’s overweight, or ‘bitch’ to describe someone who’s mean. To show their disapproval of the ideology our parents initially rebuke us with a reproachful look and say “Michael, do not use that language.” In this was they are actively censoring the language that doesn’t fit into their conceptions of accepted ideology.  The next time we use that word our parents may need only say “Michael, language.” The next time only “Michael.” The next time only the reproachful look. The next time only their presence is needed to censor our language. Soon enough, as we become habituated and internalize this censorship as self-censorship,  nothing is needed to prompt our censorship.  A persons subjectivity is shaped first through language which gives rise to a subject or self.

This process habituates a complicit reaction to the symbolic domination taking place. The force of our language, the symbolic power within linguistic capital, imposes itself onto the world and others. It forms a persons identity through their subjectification. This subjectification is a result of the symbolic imposition characterizing the symbolic power of a linguistic capital.

The linguistic capital that composes a linguistic market is deemed a legitimate language. The formation of the legitimate language characterizing a linguistic market involves the consolidation of a language. This consolidation is the accumulation of distinct linguistic markers or signs that compromise the markets linguistic capital. The coalescing or consolidation of language into linguistic capital gives rise to a community. This community formation is the linguistic market in which the symbolic power and force of the linguistic capital is exchanged. In this way the community contributes to the process of forming particular individuals. This is the perpetuation of tradition, customs, trends, as a result of the communities ideological influence on the individual through censorship.

Censorship, in another name, is none other than the idea of ‘instruction’ or ‘discipline’. This occurs anytime an ideology is being imposed on an individual, be it a child, student, employee, citizen, and the like.

This emphasizes the subject-object relationship within ideologies.

It is interesting to look at the implication of this paradigm.

When someone uses a language, or employs linguistic capital, that falls outside our ideology or linguistic market, there is a misunderstanding or miscommunication, a conflict of ideologies.

The notion of ‘control’ characterizes the stability of our ‘identity’.  Our identity defines us, and we control our identity by endorsing ideologies that manifest through symbols (gestures, language, accessories that fill our life: clothes, house, and other tokens or bibelots). When someone interacts with us through a explicit, direct, conscious interpellation that conflicts with the ideology that forms our identity, there is a loss of control. This lack of control leaves one vulnerable.  These vulnerabilities are felt according to the past histories of an individual subject.

All this being said, I want to emphasize the importance of understanding this paradigm. It is life. You are shaped by your environment: family, society, education, peers. There is no way around it. You are born into a world with a space waiting for you. The moment there is knowledge that you wil be born you parents begin creating this space filled with expectations for the kind of person they wish you to be: boy or girl, smart, hardworking, handsome, polite. The extent that their ideology allows them to  understand exactly what these words or expectations mean is dictated by the linguistic capital within the linguistic market they are apart. Or, simply stated, the language they use is determined by the societal structure they willfully or unwillfully find themselves in. They censor you, discipline and instruct, according to the parameters of the symbolic force within the ideology of their language.

Leverage language. Leverage the symbolic power of linguistic capital, the semantic force of language. Leverage your identity in this way. Leverage your social mobility by being much more understanding of different ideologies and learning to adopt contrary or conflicting world views.

Do not let others impose their ideology on you. Seek to create an awareness of the influencing ideologies that shaped your current conception of self. Consider its limitations, its failures. Form a pure conception of self. While it is near impossible to escape the influences totally, you can be aware of an ideologies symbolic power and force that imposes itself on the world.

Do not be concerned with the ‘Things’ of the world. Be concerned with the ‘beliefs’ or ‘methods of interpellation’ that categorize and define the world. If you are concerned with the ‘things’ or the markers and symbols within the linguistic capital comprising your ideology, and not the underlying interpellation or beliefs, you run the risk of operating outside your ideology. This jeopardizes the control over your identity and leaves you vulnerable. This lack of control, or vulnerability, leaves one resistant to agree or engage.

When engaging with people, look at their beliefs and talk, not in terms of the right or wrongness of their language and terms and definitions, but in terms of the ideology that has formed their conceptions of that language. Look at why they use the language they use and where the symbolic force of their language lies. Adopt their language and talk as if you operated from their ideology.

It is not about being right or wrong, it is about understanding. Leaders leverage a diverse array and large quantity of linguistic capital. This allows for incredible adaptivity, influence, and social mobility within social structures and groups- linguistic markets. They are the weak ties that bind solitary communities together.

Language is capital. It is as good as gold. Actually, it is much more valuable than gold. If you possess the right language, you can do and be anything.

Language and Influence

I’ve found that affinity is the ruling thumb for relations. If one has an affinity for something, or someone, he is much more apt to practice the principle of charity, or the principle of rational accommodation. These principles, simply stated, constrain us towards maximal agreement of the truth or rationality of our interlocutors sayings. When we have an affinity towards our interlocutor, we extend them the same ratiocination we attribute to ourselves. Many times, depending on the content and context, we are willing to extend complete maximal agreement and suspend our rationality altogether in favor of the interlocuters reasoning. While we do not lose our ability to reason altogether, we allow our past experiences to lose the legitimate foothold they once had on our reasoning. This exchange of reasoning leads one to substitute a quasi-faith, backed by new justifications, as the topical foundation of thought.

This affinity hinges on a number of personal and societal attributions, specifically: perceived authority, perceived utility, and reciprocal value.

When we behold the words of a perceived authority figure, their words have much greater weight, and the principle of charity is extended far more maximally towards their truth and rationality. Some examples of spoken titles that confer this authority in the mind include: Professor, Mister, Doctor, Sir, Father (Priest), Mother (Nun), President, His Majesty, etc. Similarly, written titles serve in the same capacity: Phd, MD, JD, MHS, CEO, Pres, etc.  Notice that each title specifies, directly or indirectly, their area of authority. Some being more narrow, while others more encompassing. Their area of authority prompts our willingness to extend the principle of charity, and accept their reasoning as rational and true.

In many situations societal conventions fail to provide recognizable markers that identify and designate widespread belief in this authority. In these cases reputations do the work to legitimize a person’s authority.

The utility of adopting an others reasoning, or propositional attitudes, is borne out of the necessity for self preservation. One assimilates conventions, standards, and semantics according to the utility they serve one’s ends or aims. Unless these aims and ends create wholly new demands for others, they are usually left dictated by the community

The perceived reciprocal value relates to utility, but in a much more internal capacity. Human relations serve not only to aid in the maintenance of an extrinsic state, but a person’s intrinsic state. This internal state regulates all other activity in our life and deals with matters of self-esteem and emotional well being. Reciprocal value is a shared mutuality that supplements the core of relations, such as good will and trustworthiness. Reciprocity’s facilitation of trust acts as a principle support for the formation of community. This community is necessary for the feeling of place.

On Haunted By The Future

A Summary on Excerpts from David Wood’s "On Being Haunted By The Future"

The future beckons, and we answer. Thus is the call of men, lost in their baseless endearments, disoriented from the values in which they came, they are left wary of their ways and long for a return to the future. So onward they march, on the heels of time. In On Being Haunted By The Future, Professor Wood begins by deriving an illustration from Derrida that explains the future as a deferred experience containing the apprehension of messianic faith. This messianicity holds a “universal structure of experience” that provides justification and responsibility to the protention of experience. Protention, or perception of the next moment, functions as an incomplete and temporal phenomenon that lends itself to this “universal structure of experience” that confronts the future as a yearning apprehension.

Continue reading “On Haunted By The Future”

Husserl’s Spatiality

In his essay Foundational Investigations of the Phenomenological Origin of the Spatiality of Nature, Edmund Husserl explores the conception of motion in relation to bodies. While an exhaustive summary and examination could be undertaken on the essay as a whole, I would like to begin with examining an excerpt that characterizes the essay’s foundational theme that establishes the origin of the spatiality of nature. After all, as Husserl stressed, it is the implicit formations of such parts that give rise to the unity in which we perceive the whole.

“We must not forget the pregiveness and constitution belonging to the apodictic Ego or to me, to us, as the source of all actual and possible sense of being, of all possible broadening which can be further constructed in the already constituted world developing historically.

Continue reading “Husserl’s Spatiality”