Chapter 3. Perspectives We Employ in Our Rethink

Chapter Summary: Six perspectives guide this rethink and make it possible: 1. Everyday life; 2. Embracing all ideas (left, right and recent); 3. Dooyeweerd's philosophical understanding of reality; 4. Christian/religious perspectives and the insights they bring; 5. Multi-aspectual Overall Good; 6. Engaging with extant ideas.

This draft is reasonably complete, I hope, but it requires shortening, making the writing clearer, replacing words that might 'trigger' unhelpful responses, reframing some stull, moving some stuff to footnotes, adding references, etc. Some of the ideas need further work.

We will rethink economics in five main ways but, before we do, we introduce the perspectives from which we view and discuss economics. Please skip this chapter to go directly to the economics if you wish, and return here to understand the perspectives that have formed our approach, which are:

Since readers might come from different perspectives, we end with a brief discussion, in 3-6, on how we engage meaningfully across perspective divides.

3-1. Importance of the Everyday: Real, Ideal and Theory

Summary: We aim to take into account both the real and the ideal, both theory and the 'everyday' experience.

Much recent thinking in economics puts forward some ideal to aim towards; most conventional economics justifies itself by "But in reality ..." Often, when an idealist position becomes accepted and gains some power it begins to weaken. This is not only (as cynics tend to accuse) due to corruption, but because it faces a reality that is more complex than they had previously allowed for. We want to remain committed to ideals and also to fully facing reality in all its complexity. [Note: 'Real-world economics']

It is everyday experience that is the main concrete expression of reality, so we make sure its voice is heard among the clamour of economics theories. But, so that we are not always tossed about like a small boat in a storm, we anchor onto a multi-aspectual understanding of both reality and ideality, offered via Dooyeweerd's philosophy below. In this section, we explain our approach to the ideal and the real, to the theoretical and the pre-theoretical, to the everyday and the specialised.

We seek to rethink both theories or practices of economics - but not in ways usually expected in academic thought. "Existing economics is a theoretical system which floats in the air and which bears little relation to shat happens in the real world" remarks Coase [1999, cited by Fullbrook 2009]. But what is the "real world"? We want to address the real insofar as we take all its diverse complexity into account, not trying to simplify it to rules and theories. Our theories should listen to full reality. We aim to provide a basis on which readers might be able to approach with some degree of wisdom and confidence, to understand it without too much bias or reductionism. We want to be able to explore all its passageways and not just some. We want to keep our eyes on the ideal, but not on some theory that seems clean and clear but fails when it encounters the real. We must understand something of the way Creation (or Reality) tends to operate well, and how this differs from harmful operating. In all its multiple aspects.

What we call the real refers to all the diversity, coherence and complexity of economics (and all life) as it occurs now, in the past and could in the future. (What actually occurred is only part of the real, because the 'laws' by which certain things are possible and others not, is also part of the real.) (x Christians, Jews, Muslims and many others would use the word Creation, which we will use below usually as a synonym for the real.)

What we call the ideal refers to the Good we aim for and this itself is complex in its reality. The incorporation of normative ideal into our thinking contrasts with much current thinking that either takes a utilitarian stance or merely tries to explain.

What we call theory is humanity's generic understanding of the way that reality operates, can operate and tends to operate. Theory includes the generic rules that we construct to guide us in practice. Throughout our discussion, "theory" will usually refer not only to the formal theories as generated by academic economics, but also informal explanations and principles.

To aim for all three together is a mode of thinking, rather than a goal, in which we recognise the importance of all, believe that there is no fundamental dichotomy between them, and yet recognise that we cannot do any of them perfectly. This mode of thinking incorporates of a mix of two modes. Theoretical thinking focuses on one aspect of reality in order to study it in detail. Pre-theoretical thinking takes all aspects together and is often called "intuition" or "wisdom". Academic, scientific and philosophical tradition has long assumed theoretical to be superior to pre-theoretical as a way to knowledge and 'truth', because it is tested, more precise and more detailed, but it fails because it overlooks most other aspects, which are also important. This is where pre-theoretical thinking has the advantage, because it intuitively understands all aspects and how they relate. So our discussion in all chapters will mix the oil of theory with the water of real-life experience.

This is why this these chapters offer a basic body of ideas on which many can draw, to contribute to both theoretical academic discourse and that of practice and everyday life.

Believing this to be possible motivates us to try. We believe this may be possible because of (a) Dooyeweerd's understanding of how pre-theoretical and theoretical thinking relate to each other, outlined section 3-4, as well as the actual experience of research and practice in economics; (b) Christian and other religious perspectives believe that there is no fundamental hiatus or conflict within Creation as the Creator intended, outlined in section 3-4.

(x Christian or other religious perspectives suggest that the ideal can become and be the real if we live in the way the Creator intended, and this can be theoretically understood, even if never fully. A Christian, or other religious, perspective allows us to distinguish between two things by which the real seems to depart from the ideal. One is the valid limitations to our understanding and activity, which result in departing from extreme theoretical ideas of ideals; we do not take this to be an actual departure. The other is human sinfulness, which goes against the way Creation works, so as to prevent good or even destroy it; see below. Christians and some other religious people also hold hope of a future New Heavens and Earth, in which there is no sin but there may be a mightier and more exciting complexity than we can imagine here and now.)

We need a philosophical approach to understand this because without it there is a danger of merely reacting to and focusing on specific problems or aspects. In doing so, they ignore others that are equally important, fail to address future problems and even develop a mindset that takes as acceptable things that are problematic (such as that much good economic activity, especially in households in so-called Less Developed Nations, is unpaid and thus omitted from calculation. A good philosophical approach, which opens us to the full range of possibilities of what is meaningful in reality, is needed.

Dooyeweerd's philosophy is one of these, arguably the best to emerge to date, in that his suite of aspects (below) is more comprehensive and more soundly philosophically grounded than others (even Maslow's hierarchy of needs) [Note: Comparison].

3-2. Embracing All Ideas

Summary: In rethinking, reframing economics we try to welcome and embrace all insights, regardless of source.

Taken as a whole, the field of economics seems divisive and antagonistic (as are most fields today), with camps set up around ideas: capitalist v socialist, left v right, heterodox v orthodox, developmental v Western, social v environmental, growth v de-growth, neo-classical, neo-Keynsian, post-autistic economics, etc. It almost seems that each new idea tries to define itself as against something that went before.

Our approach is embracive. We assume that every idea contains at least some valid insight, which is essential to a complete understanding of economics. We see something of an embracive approach in Doughnut Economics, trying to embrace both social and environmental, both growth and de-growth. However, there are more issues than these, and many more insights not included therein.

It is one thing to embrace disparate ideas; it is another to understand how they fit together, given they are all meaningful and valuable in many different ways and interact with each other. And we do not want to just embrace unquestioningly, but critically question each idea and insight, to find out in what ways it is valid and in what ways not.

To do this, we adopt a philosophical foundation that has taken more seriously than most do, the diversity of meaningfulness exhibited by all the ideas, that offered by the Dutch thinker, Herman Dooyeweerd.

3-3. Dooyeweerd's Philosophy as Philosophical Foundation

Summary: Here we outline what readers will need of Dooyeweerd's philosophy in order to understand the Rethink.

Dooyeweerd presents three major themes in philosophy: on the nature of reality itself, especially its complexity, on theoretical and pre-theoretical thinking about reality, and on presuppositions lying at the root of theoretical thought (including worldviews, ground-motives, standpoints and religion).

3-3.1 Dooyeweerd on the Nature of Reality

Summary: We view reality in terms of its meaningfulness, and this via the lens of aspects rather than things.

To Dooyeweerd, all reality is meaningful, in diverse yet coherent ways. We experience that diverse-coherent meaningfulness pre-theoretically (the attitude of thought we take in everyday life), but can separate out the "modalities of meaning" (as he called them) employing a theoretical attitude of thought. These, he called "aspects", a word that we will adopt throughout this Rethink. These aspects are also modes of being and modes of functioning. For example, this document exists and functions as a document by virtue of the lingual aspect; a dog exists and functions by virtue of the psychical and biotic aspects.

Meaningfulness always refers beyond itself to its origin and the totality of meaningfulness of reality refers ultimately to a Creator. Dooyeweerd clearly distinguished Creator from Created reality (the "Creation"). (This contrasts with what is presupposed in much philosophy, that what is, is, of and by itself.)

This will be important in understanding economics. Economic activity is multi-aspectual functioning, in which the economic aspect is primary but all other aspects are necessarily present too. So, to properly understand economics we need to take all aspects into account. Using Dooyeweerd's aspects helps clarify why and in what ways things are problematic or beneficial, reveals the roots of problems, and encourages us to see hidden problems and opportunities and future possibilities. Specifically, this will prove helpful in:

Dooyeweerd's philosophical understanding makes these functions reasonably systematic and reproducible, and also provides philosophical foundation for them, so they are sound. (These four come from Basden's [2023] chapter on using Dooyeweerd in everyday life: the real life of practising and understanding economics, in this case.)

What do we mean by "aspect"? Architects speak of the south and east aspects of a building as two ways of seeing and understanding the building; in our case, aspects are a way of seeing and understanding reality. This involves the observer but it also is something about the building itself; so aspects of reality are neither subjective nor objective but involve the observer and also the reality that is observed. Just as the south and east aspects of a building differ and cannot be explained in terms of each other, so each aspect of reality cannot be explained in terms of others; they are irreducibly distinct.

Regarding aspects of reality, Dooyeweerd did two things. He investigated the nature of aspects, which is discussed below. He also tried to distinguish and identify what aspects there are, coming up with a suite of fifteen aspects, discussed next.

3-3.2 Dooyeweerd's Suite of Fifteen Aspects

Summary: Dooyeweerd offers a suite of 15 philosophically grounded aspects, which we will use as our conceptual tool.

Dooyeweerd investigated what we and he called aspects, as possible ways in which reality can be meaningful ("modalities of meaning"). Aspects are what enable anything and everything to be meaningful, important and possible. Dooyeweerd discussed fifteen of them in philosophical depth in Part II of Volume II of [Dooyeweerd 1955]. In summary, they are as follows, with links to where the aspects are discussed in more detail.

The meaningfulness that is each aspect cannot be explained in terms of others; they are irreducibly distinct.

A little reflection reveals that every single aspect is relevant in economics, such as: quantitative value, distribution of production (spatial), movement of goods (kinematic), medium for currency (physical), dependency of the economy on biodiversity and health (biotic), emotions and interaction of individuals to stimuli (psychical), distinctions of value and of e.g. suppliers (analytical), economic planning (formative), signification of value and also communications (lingual), exchange and agreement on value of currency (social), waste or care (economic), harmony of 'the economy' (aesthetic), legality and equality (juridical), generosity and trust (ethical), and belief in, presupposition of, the workings of markets (pistic), etc.

Every one of those aspects contribute to the diverse meaningfulness of everyday experience and the 'real life' that is economics. We function in all of them simultaneously, usually intuitively and unaware of them, take them for granted as we function economically. It is all aspects working together that gives economic life its complex diversity and it is Dooyeweerd's aspects that, we propose, can help us understand that. That is why we employ Dooyeweerd's aspects throughout this Rethink as our main conceptual tool.

Not all philosophy can cope with such complexity; most try to reduce it (often to logic), though systems thinking has taken the complexity seriously. In particular, the economic aspect can never be reduced to other aspects, nor other aspects reduced to the economic. Reducing all life to economics has been one of the major errors that politicians and even some economists have been guilty of, this is discussed in Chapter 4 as Reductionism.

Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects has proven to be a very useful and practical tool for understanding things, and separating out the complexity of reality that is due to diversity of meanings. It has been shown [Basden 2020] to be able to cope with most of the complexity we find and using aspects can untangle it and help us understand it more deeply. In this Rethink, we will find that reference to Dooyeweerd's (discussion of) aspects helps us, as Basden [2023, ===] discusses:

As an example, Table 3-3.1 suggests which aspects make some sectors of the economy meaningful and important.

Table 3-3.2. Some sectors of the economy by aspect

Some sectors of the economy by aspect 1152,1350IG "Work:WWW/cts/economics/./rw/pix/f3-sectors.gif" -w3.84 -h4.5 -ra -c

Dooyeweerd warned, however, that no such suite of aspects is ever final or complete [Dooyeweerd, 1955, II, 556] but merely a best guess at the diversity of meaningfulness, and is always open to challenge and refinement. However, as Basden [2020, 209-212] argues, Dooyeweerd's suite it probably the best available, more comprehensive and better grounded than most, even Maslow's [1943] hierarchy of needs. Aspects can never be 100% precisely defined (Dooyeweerd offers philosophical reasons for this) so we always work with in interpretation of them. So we adopt Dooyeweerd's suite, and the interpretations given above, throughout this document. Readers are free to substitute their own interpretations, and even suites, if they wish.

To Dooyeweerd, the aspects together constitute a "law-side" of reality, which governs how reality can exist and function (as what he called a "fact-side"). The law-side is general, applying across all kinds of situation and through all times, while the fact-side refers to what actually exists and happens, to specific situations, and each thing and happening is unique, for example the sale of a pen on a particular date by one person to another are all of the fact-side, and it is the law-side (aspects) that make the sale, the pen, the date and both people possible. Each may be understood by reference to the aspects. To understand this, we discuss this the characteristics of aspects and what what they enable of reality. Then we discuss how all this helps us in thinking about economics (or anything else).

3-3.3 Characteristics of Aspects

Summary: To employ Dooyeweerd's aspects we need to recognise their irreducibility, coherence, and various other characteristics.

Throughout the following Chapters, references will be made to aspects and readers should refer back here to properly understand what is being said, and to the previous section, to remind ourselves about the kernel meaningfulness of each aspect. Topics or concepts likely to be referred to are in bold text.

Dooyeweerd's philosophy is founded upon an idea of meaningfulness, that all is meaningful. Meaningfulness, rather than either being or even process, is fundamental [Note: Meaning and Being]. This has important implications for economics, in that it dethrones and decenters money, businesses and transactions, replacing them with values, humans and responsibility.

In more detail, aspects have the following characteristics; this list is offered as reference to help readers understand while reading all the text elsewhere:

3-3.4 What Aspects Enable in Reality

Summary: Philosophical concepts like things, properties, functioning, good and evil, etc. are grounded in, and usefully understood in terms of, aspects.

Because of those characteristics, aspects may be seen as the very foundation of reality as it exists and occurs, and we experience it. Some emerge from aspectual meaningfulness, which enables or makes possible:

Some emerge from aspectual law, which enables or makes possible:

Some of these need more discussion, as follows:

3-3.4.1 On Functioning and repercussions

Summary: Functioning in any aspect has repercussions and is good or evil.

Functioning in any aspect yields repercussions in (at least) that aspect. Good functioning in an aspect tends to yield Good, while evil functioning tends to yield Harm. We may express this approximately by the following formulae if we wish:

Fx --> Gx
Dx --> Hx
OGA = Sum( Gx ) - Sum ( Hx ).

where Fx is good functioning in aspect x and Dx is corresponding dysfunction, Gx is good repercussions, Hx is harmful repercussions, and OGA is the Multi-aspectual Good that actually occurs. (Here "dysfunction" and "harm" are approximately synonyms for evil, with one often describing functioning, the other, the repercussions. Table 3 shows examples of the good and harmful functioning and repercussions meaningful in each aspect (click on table to view full size).

Table 3. Good and harmful functioning and repercussions in each aspect (examples)
(Click on table for full size)
Examples of good and harmful functioning and repercussions for each aspect 1328,1800, from fpr:t04-nvyIG "pix/t3-ghfr.gif" -w4.43 -h6 -c -ra

The functioning in any aspect is affected by other aspects, earlier and later. On earlier aspects there is foundational dependence, in that it enabled and constrained by the quality of functioning in earlier aspects.

Example: Economic functioning depends on the social functioning of agreeing to exchange goods and, if money is involved, the broader social agreement about what a unit of currency is worth. Without agreement, economic functioning becomes more difficult.

There is also retrocipative impact by functioning in later aspects.

Example: Social agreeing becomes more harmonious where there is a pervading attitude of generosity and trust (good ethical functioning) and less so when there is distrust and competitiveness - which, as above, affects economic functioning.

Example: Economic functioning impacts biodiversity (biotic).

So each functioning thing or situation involves all aspects, at least in principle. We call this, " multi-aspectual functioning". For example,

I was walking up the mountain Carn Gorm in Scotland. I wear boots that have soles to grip the rocky ground, and are waterproof; that is functioning in the physical aspect. I had a good breakfast and carry food, for nutrition - biotic functioning. I feel cold and damp in the mist, and cannot see much: psychical functioning. I try to discern which route to take - analytical functioning - and plan our route - formative functioning. I read the map and compass, and discuss with my companions - lingual functioning - and we agree on a route - social functioning. I conserve energy - economic functioning. Also, that I walked up rather than paying for a ski-lift saves money - another economic functioning. I am enjoying the ascent, despite cold - aesthetic functioning. I try to respect the fragile vegetation around us by not crushing it underfoot - juridical functioning. We help each other even at cost to ourselves - ethical functioning. We believe that mountain walking is good, and that Carn Gorm is a meaningful mountain to ascend (a Munro) (and, as Christians, we are thanking God for the wonder of the natural world) - pistic functioning. Moreover, almost too obvious to mention, we function in the quantitative aspect as being three of us, in the spatial by being here and surrounded by rock, gravel and mountain vegetation, and in the kinematic aspect by moving upwards.

All those functionings occur simultaneously, interconnected with each other, depending on each other, and constitute our human activity. Notice the economic aspect among them, in which we function even when it is not called "the economy". It is the multiple aspects, multiple ways in which our activity is meaningful, that gives real-life activity its complexity, so that type of diverse complexity may be understood by acknowledging all the aspects in play.

A situation may be both good and bad simultaneously, good in one aspect and bad in another simultaneously (or even good and bad mixed together in one aspect). For example a cruel person (juridical, ethical dysfunction) can still write good music or poetry (aesthetic).

This means that to change our functioning in any aspect we can do so either (a) directly or (b) by changing functioning in earlier aspects or (c) in later aspects. Changing functioning in earlier aspects (changing the structure of text (formative functioning) to change its meaning) will have some effect but not fully and often only marginally; it requires change in lingual functioning to effect major change in meaning. However change in social or faith context can radically change its meaning.

To change economic functioning, we can (a) (obviously) try economics measures like taxes or incentives. (b) Behavioral economics and advertising employ changes in earlier aspects, including the psychical and lingual. (c) We will argue in Chapter 6 that we need to change attitude and mindset (ethical, pistic aspects) because many of today's problems in the economy and world are rooted in these.

Repercussions of our functioning occur in all aspects whether we are aware of the above or not. Determinacy: In the earliest aspects, the repercussion is determined by the functioning, but in later aspects non-determinacy increases. Non-determinacy is also called "freedom" especially in the later aspects. In the physical aspect, there is non-determinacy at the quantum level, but determinacy at the macro level. It may be seen as good fortune that the earliest aspects, on which all else depend, have determinative laws!

Timescale: The full repercussions of functioning in later aspects take longer to materialise (even though that of individuals might be immediate), for example full repercussions of pistic functioning emerge over decades, as suggested in Table 3-3.6.1.

Table 3-3.6.1. Example repercussions and notional timescales of each aspect

Example repercussions and notional timescales of each aspect 1024,1050, curr pfuis:gif/3-4-AsplRepercs.gifIG "pfuis:.gif/3-3-AsplRepercs.gif" -w3.41 -h3.5 -c -ra

Aspectual targets: The functioning in each aspect usually targets other aspects. Example: speaking about numbers, shapes, words, friendship, goods or religions targets the quantitative, spatial, lingual, social, economic and pistic aspects respectively.

3-3.4.2 On Being

Summary: Being (things) are always relative to aspectual meaningfulness.

The being of a thing (whether a mountain, a memory or money) is not to be explained philosophically by some kind of essence, nor even by its situatedness in the world, but by its profile of meaningfulness (Dooyeweerd: "Individuality structure"). As Dooyeweerd said,

"A bird's nest is not a 'thing in itself', which has a specific meaning in the bird's life. It has as such no existence apart from this meaning." [NC,III, 108]

Similarly, in Chapter 8, we understand money not primarily as a 'thing in itself', not as a commodity that is owned, but as something that enables the obtaining of resources to enable functioning.

Each type of thing is governed or defined by a structure of individuality (Clouser calls it a "type law"), which governs how each aspect is meaningful and plays a necessary part in being that type. Example: A pen is primarily lingual, but involves some movement (kinematic) of ink, which is of a particular colour (psychical), of an appropriate chemical composition (physical)), and is designed and made (formative), and is usually owned (juridical), and should work well as a pen (juridical). Money is analysed in such a way in Chapter 8. A type's structure of individuality is what enables, governs or guides the being and functioning of individuals of that type, and their coming-into-being, development and ceasing-to-be. Each aspect fulfils a different role, some of which Dooyeweerd discussed. The qualifying aspect is a thing's primary meaningfulness and 'destiny' (lingual for the pen), the founding aspect governs its coming-into-being, there are also leading and internal leading aspects, and so on; Dooyeweerd's theory of this seems unfinished, for example can there be dual qualifying aspects? In our discussions we usually just refer to a primary aspect or "aspect(s) in which it is primarily meaningful", to avoid such philosophical niceties.

3-3.4.3 On value, valuing and evaluation

Summary: Values differ according to aspect.

Each aspect makes a distinct kind of Good possible. The biotic aspect makes life possible, and also self-maintaining organisms, the lingual aspect makes note-making, reporting and communicating possible, both written and spoken, the social aspect makes working together possible, the economic aspect, carefulness, and the pistic aspect, commitment, motivation and courage, and so on. Every one of these is valuable in the whole working of Creation.

So each aspect bestows a different kind of value. (x Christians might see that as Common Grace.)

If, as Chapter 5 discusses, value is central to economics, then Dooyeweerd's aspects can be helpful in implementing Carney's [2021] call for all minds of values to be recognised in economics. Each situation or thing can now be understood as of multiple value, such as a landscape with biotic, social, aesthetic and economic value, and Dooyeweerd's aspects can be useful in revealing the different values [Gunton et al. 2017] and hence in evaluation, as discussed in Chapter 5.

3-3.5 Attitude and its Two Aspects

Summary: Two aspects, the ethical and pistic, will be found especially important in understanding the realities of economics.

In The two components of attitude discussed earlier align very closely with Dooyeweerd's two last aspects, the pistic and ethical aspects. They have their importance overlooked, because they work at a deeper level, especially in economic activity. They also constitute what we in some places, including the Bible, is called the 'heart', and they work at all levels, from individuals to nations.

Functioning in the ethical aspect of self-giving love, we adopt either a self-centred, selfish, self-protecting attitude, or a self-giving, generous attitude open to the risk of being taken advantage of. Genuine trust, which is so important for a healthy economy, depends on this. So is generosity. This casts doubt over the validity and efficacy of competitiveness [Note: Competition], and also the presupposition of the validity of the rational economic actor driven by self-interest. It is the ethical dysfunction that makes the affluent bend the economic rules so they enjoy cheaper energy at the expense of the planet and the poor, and competition is a tool for this.

The pistic aspect of attitude is what we most deeply believe, such that we are committed to it, that which is of ultimate meaningfulness to us. It is that by which we justify Harm we do - or alternatively that which most deeply motivates the kind of Good we do. It is our 'god', our 'idol', for which we sacrifice much that is good. Pistic is the deepest assumptions we make, taking things for granted, our presuppositions. Being the terminal aspect, how we function in the pistic aspect affects how we function in all others. What a nation believes about itself, and aspires to, affects whether it is self-giving or self-interested.

3-3.6 How This Helps Us Understand and Think About Economics

Summary: Here we itemise how all the above helps us think about economics.

The characteristics of aspects listed above shape our motivations and expectations in our thinking about and acting in economics, much of which is discussed in Chapter 4 more deeply.

What aspects imply about the nature of reality, as explained above, can help us in what we do and how we do it, in thinking and acting in economics; these will become apparent throughout the following chapters, especially Chapters 5 to 9.

3-3.7 Aspectual Analysis

===== to be written. We ask "In which aspect(s) is this meaningful? And in what ways? And is this good or dysfunctional?" Example: charity to the poor is primarily ethical and economic, but has also a social and juridical aspect, all good. But this changes with context, where we must ask about the meanings of a whole utterance. For example "Charity begins at home" is usually intended to ensure that someone who is giving away stuff does not neglect their family; this is juridical and social statement, and it might be motivated by selfishness, i.e. ethical dysfunction.

In such ways, things can be classified if we wish. # We can also ensure that no aspects are overlooked or ignored # We can reveal over-emphasis of aspects.

From ze26: With such analysis, we can pinpoint the specific meaning of something, then communicate it, in a way that is reasonably reproducible and defensible, because the aspectual meanings transcend all parties.

3-3.8 Conclusion About Dooyeweerd


Aspects, aspects everywhere
But do we stop to think?
(With apologies to Coleridge)

We have seen the universality and broad applicability of the idea of aspects. This is not surprising because, to Dooyeweerd, these "modalities of meaning" are the very foundation of all that exists and happens. So it is no surprise that we will refer to them throughout our discussions. It is the wide applicability of Dooyeweerd's idea of aspects is what allows us to proposed such a wide-ranging understanding of economics. They will be used in Chapters 4-8 as follows:

However, before that, we clarify how economics theory is dealt with, discuss the validity of Christian and other religious perspectives, and offer a notion that is foundational to all the Rethink.

3-4. Christian and other Religious Perspectives

(Please note: This section is best understood by readers with Christian or other religious faith, and maybe should be hived off into a separate article. We keep it here because: (a) Other readers may find something of interest. (b) We reject the sacred-secular divide, which separates faith from other aspects of life.)

Summary: Christian and other religious perspective can offer insights that are usually overlooked in economics theory and practice, but which are important for a full understanding of economics, and especially to motivate and enable deep change rather than just discuss.

We use Christian and other religious ideas to serve and bless the discourse, not to dominate nor demand.

Our approach allows for, and recognises, the importance of religious, especially Christian, perspectives, which most economics thinking ignores. This may be expected from the RLDG whose members are mainly Christian or from other religions, and that may be one reason why religious perspectives initially entered this discourse. But why do they remain in our discourse, when it is intended to include those who see themselves as non-religious? Because religions can make several valid contributions that even so-called secular thinkers might be expected to accept as reasonable. We allow both economics and religious belief and commitment to be true to themselves, free from dominance by religious (or ideological) belief.

We recognise the differences among religions, and hence we first discuss insights from religion in general, then insights specifically offered by a Jewish (or Abrahamic) perspective, then those offered by a specifically Christian perspective.

We discuss:

Most of the following is a summary argument that calls for longer treatment elsewhere.

3-4.1 A Christian Economics?

Summary: We do not seek a Christian Economics, but rather to bring valuable insights into economics from Christianity and other religions.

This Rethink is not seeking nor advocating a Christian Economics. We do not seek any framework of theory derived entirely from Christian as opposed to non-Christian doctrines, or forced to conform to those doctrines. (Nor any branch of Christianity, such as Calvinism; several early followers of Dooyeweerd and Kuyper sought a "Calvinist Economics" [Hengstmengel 2012].) Rather, we are looking at how a Christian perspective, or other religious perspective, can enrich Economics as such, in a way that is proper to both economics and the religious perspective. In particular, we do not use Bible verses to dictate principles for economic systems, but use them only as quotations that express ideas.

We would expect economics, in its full reality to be amenable to and resonant with a Christian perspective, rather than in tension with it. Economics that seems to exclude Christian or other religious ideas is already presupposing something narrower than the full reality it has a duty to explain, and suffers thereby. We would expect economics to take Christian and religious values seriously and benefit from them, in a way that is not dominated by them. We would expect such an economics to be motivated by the inherent Good in Creation rather than than by opposition to either socialism or capitalism, as some inappropriately-named, so-called 'Christian' economies are. Whereas these derive from antagonism, ours derives from peace (shalom).

So, let us look at what kinds of contributions may be made, starting wide with all religions, then narrowing down by stages to Christian ideas.

3-4.2 Religious Perspective 1: Emphasis on Overlooked Values

Summary: Religious perspectives draw attention to values that are often overlooked, yet are important, in real economics.

Several of the RLDG discussions were devoted to the role of Christian values in economics, and whether they might make economics better. Though it was specifically Christian values that were discussed, many of them are shared with other religions (and this section could, if wished, be rewritten by those of other religions to slightly modify the lists of value mentioned here). The kinds of values mentioned here are ones that could make economic activity more healthy, especially in the long run. That is why this section is included.

The set of "Christian values" suggested by Brian Edgar, in his Evangelical Alliance blog, was deemed a useful list with which to begin discussion:

Other sets of things that are valued from a Christian perspective may be found in the Beattitudes [Matthew 5:1-13]:

and as the fruit of the Spirit of God, the result of the Holy Spirit's work in the heart of the believer [Galatians 5:22-23]:

(It was mainly Edgar's list plus kindness that entered RLDG discussions.)

This bundle of things contains many things that are of true value yet economics either ignores them, even working against some of them. Instead of love (of the self-giving kind) conventional economics of the left fosters anger and of the right fosters "self-love" and unconcern for others. Instead of meekness and gentleness, we are told we need to fight for or market ourselves. Instead of self-control, consume as much as possible (and the poor are seen as having a right to do this too). Against patience, we are urged to buy now for the sake of the Economy. Instead of peace, compete or strike. See how both right and left wing economics works against these values?

Yet, in reality, is it not true that not only the entire world but economies thrive better when guided by these values than when guided by right- and left-wing breaches of them? Throughout both Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the importance of the poor and concern for them is emphasised, which is perhaps one obvious way in which these values relate to economics, and Holland [===] has shown how this concern developed in European thought over the centuries from Christian perspectives. That is why values offered by religious perspectives are important within economics itself.

In fact, most of these are not uniquely Christian as values, or even necessarily religious, and versions or combinations may be found elsewhere, not least in Carney [2021]. The reason it is important for economics to listen to all religious perspectives is that it is the religions that have long treated them as important, pondered them and hence have a vast fund of experience and wisdom concerning them. Reference to such values can be helpful to raise questions and open up possibilities that would otherwise be overlooked, and to reveal assumptions and presuppositions.

Such values may seem rather nebulous, but the RLDG found them directly relevant to economics, often as motivators or hidden drivers of economics decisions and outcomes. Most of them are meaningful in the juridical, ethical and pistic aspects, the latter being two aspects of attitude and mindset, discussed in Chapter 4, and much referred to thereafter. Posing the question, "How can each Christian value contribute to a healthy living environment?", especially considering economic activity, made our discussions of them more concrete and forced us to confront difficult questions (e.g. when conventional conflicts arose).

Sadly, too many Jews, Christians and other religious people acquiesce to the current systems of economics, of left and right; where is their heart?

The conclusion of RLDG discussions (in ZE4, ZE5 and ZE6) was that such Christian values are not sufficient, on their own, to wholly understand or guide economics, because they emphasise only some of Dooyeweerd's aspects. Dooyeweerd's philosophical ideas were seen as more appropriate overall, with such values and the body of Christian literature on them being useful in bringing the two final aspects, ethical and pistic, those of attitude and mindset, to light, and thereby strengthen economics, in both theory and practice; see Chapter 4. As one of our participants put it, "a Dooyeweerdian approach enables us to be systematic in recognising the radical implications of the Christian approach" - and approaches from other religions too.

3-4.3 Religious Perspective 2: Providing Normative Impetus

Summary: A religious perspective adds a compelling motivation to act. Without it, the theoretical explanations and models found in a scientific field like economics remain sterile.

It is the idea of God, or a Divine, which provides ultimate motivation and meaningfulness. As discussed in Chapter 4, meaningfulness arises from an Ultimate, and motivation to take action requires some meaningful norm that is of higher Authority than the actor. The philosophical word for this is transcendence - that there is a reality that transcends human being, doing and thinking, and within which these are situated and to which they are accountable.

Having Something worthy of ultimate commitment is especially important for action that involves some sacrifice or discomfort, such as changing culture would entail. The Ultimate is a feature offered by religions and ideologies (x Religions, including Christianity, use the words "God" or "Divine" while ideologies usually do not). [Note: Religion and Ideology]

Because of widespread skepticism, exacerbated by a feeling of meaninglessness, no longer are education and information, incentives or sanctions seen as such Authority. Even "Listen to the science", as Greta Thunberg and others urged, is no longer authoritative and compelling enough to those who wish to resist a viewpoints they do not like.

To be truly compelling, motivation must come from an Authority that tells us "These things Matter, whether you like it or not." In most religions this is God; many ideologies provide this authority in some aspect of reality that is presupposed as self-dependent and on which all else depends. This is how Clouser [2005] defines "Divine", and gives as examples the Pythagoreans, who saw number as Divine, and for materialists, for whom the physical aspect is Divine. However, the authority of aspects is narrow and open to the question, "Why should I obey them? On what (yet higher) Authority?" In the end, the answer to this is "The Creator or Origin of all aspects" or, as Dooyeweerd called it, "Origin of Meaning", and it is religions or pseudo-religions that provide this.

Note that religious or ideological commitments merely motivate; they do not necessarily motivate towards Good, but can motivate towards Harm (the twentieth century offers several major examples of the latter). Whether towards Good or Harm depends on what their Divine is really like. As Holland [===] points out, Judeo-)Christianity has brought unsought-for Good (as well as harm), so it is worth considering what specific kind of motivation it can offer, which we do now. Similar discussion may be made for other religions.

Thus we believe there is a role for religious perspectives, in bringing a Rethink of economics out of the realm of theoretical speculation into the real world, to bring effective change. We will seldom, below, explicitly state this, but keep it at the back of the mind.

3-4.4 Religious Perspective 3: Holistic Viewpoint

Summary: Most religions move us towards holistic, all-inclusive viewpoints.

Except for tribal religions, most religions presuppose one Divine that transcends all, the values and norms of Which/Whom apply to all, across all cultures and times [Note: Are Religions narrow?]. Along with the Dooyeweerdian multi-aspectual view, this motivates us to understand and practise economics from as wide and holistic perspective as possible. We could say we take a global viewpoint, but that would confuse, because "global" is often taken to refer to either the trans-national level, or international finance that is of a capitalist, free-market tendency.

We do not presuppose the Western nor Islamic nor Jewish nor Eastern nor ... understandings, but seek a way of understanding that can at least explain, if not embrace the valid insights in, all. Similarly across times: we do not presuppose Adam Smith but include earlier and later viewpoints. Along with Dooyeweerdian philosophy, this perspective gives a foundation to our embracive approach, a reason why we take it.

3-4.5 Judaic Perspective 1: The Role of Humankind

Summary: Humankind is to 'shepherd' the rest of Creation with love and care and open up its potential. Heart attitude is central.

There is an immense amount of Jewish scholarship, stretching back beyond 2000 years, which could offer valuable insights for economics. For example Aumann [===] applies Talmudic thinking coupled with Game Theory to solve the Bankruptcy Problem.

The very start of the Jewish Scriptures shows the Creator of all giving humans a special role and responsibility, to "image" God, to represent God to the rest of Creation. more poetically, as God's under-shepherds of the rest of Creation [Note: Shepherds]. This offers the dignity of responsibility, to develop the potential that the various laws of Creation offer, in all its spheres. (Dooyeweerd's aspects may be seen as the kernels of such spheres.) This includes economics. Goudzwaard points out that in the Days of Creation, God pronounced all to be "very good" once humans and animals were created; humans add to Creation.

The idea that the Creator has a plan for Creation (including economics) pervaded RLDG discussions. "God's world", "God's plan" or "God's intention" was frequently referred to for how it was felt economics should operate as, for instance, in (emphasis added):

"In other words, in God's original plan, maybe we could have relied on people acting ethically and juridically, and in all these other ways, where people would be aware of these different aspects and not reducing them, or not looking at everything purely from a monetary standpoint."

It could also help us understand challenges we have to face, which come from the nature of the way Creation was designed to work, as in:

"We do have to move to NB's point, without the information for making a complete decision. That's just inevitable for trying to understand God's emerging world and our place within it."

Or we might refer to it to help us question what seems to be widely accepted in economics, as for example in this question about competition:

"The reason I asked is that I see the so-called competitor landscape - the whole idea of competitor is probably 90% evil, in terms of the way God intended Creation to work. There is a right kind of competition I think, but to have competition between nations and competition in business is not what God intended. The only good in competition is ..."

===== does the following belong elsewhere? Value is seen in conventional and even recent economics discourse as either objective or subjective. This dichotomy can be healed if we reinterpret objective value as about the fundamental Good that each aspect makes possible and subjective value as about the human mandate to open up through time this potential for Good (shalom). See Multi-aspectual Good below.

This gives humankind a mandate. Mandates imply responsibility, and in the Jewish Scriptures, we find responsibility to the poor, to future generations, to the non-human Creation, including animals, habitats, biodiversity and the Earth, and ultimately to their Creator. Responsibility to God is the fundamental, the ground that makes those other responsibilities meaningful. It also makes them compelling if God is The Ultimate Judge. The mandate for the human activity of economics is discussed in Chapter 4.

Responsibility to God is characteristic of most religions, because of Authority of a distant Divine, but the Jewish (and Christian) perspectives add the idea of responsibility to the rest of Creation because of the love of God ("God has compassion on all he made" Psalm 145), and love goes beyond authority. (In Dooyeweerd, the ethical aspect that makes love meaningful comes after the juridical aspect that makes authority meaningful.) Love comes near and engages with what is beloved, so from the Jewish (and Christian) perspective, God is involved with the people, and so responsibility is related to partnering with God, while God partners with us, in the temporal process of actualizing Multi-aspectual Good. Responsibility is understood as our dignity more than our duty.

Not all humans are willing to partner with God; it depends on the human heart, the innermost attitude and mindset, orientation or commitment, in which we are willing to "lose" ourselves to God and what God values, rather than "keeping" or protecting ourselves [Luke 9:22-24]. "Out of the heart come all the issues of life" [Proverbs ===]. Some other religions also recognise the importance of the heart, especially in the form of devotion, but in the Jewish Scriptures, it goes beyond devotion to something more substantial as obedience and trust.

In our discussions on economics, there will be many challenges, which those in the RLDG tend to see as part of God's plan or intention for how the economic aspect of reality will bring Good into Creation, and this differs markedly from the way economics is seen and practised and theorized today, by both left- and right-wings of economics. To partner with the Creator in this will require a change of heart, and obedience can feel challenging and trust, precarious.

In his book Garden City: Work, Rest and the Art of Being Human, 2015, John Mark Comer writes, "Sabbath is an expression of faith. Faith that there is a Creator and he's good." God gave the people of Israel laws that, if followed, would ensure a reasonably healthy lifestyle.

3-4.6 Jewish Perspective 2: Sin and Repentance

Summary: The Jewish perspective offers the freedom-giving idea of sin and possibility of repentance.

Whereas many secular perspectives today treat problems as arising from 'them' and that 'we' are basically alright, the Jewish perspective reverses this, finding the root of all problems and harm in ourselves. Rather than humanity divided into two groups, goodies versus baddies, all human beings sin and are wrong to some extent, even though bearing God's image.

The Jewish Scriptures tell us that humans turned away from partnership with God, wanting instead to use Creation to serve our own interests as deemed them to be. God warned that to the extent that we did so, Creation would work against us in various ways - and that is the situation we find ourselves in today like never before.

Such a view mortifies our pride but it also frees, especially freeing us from dividing the world into goodies and baddies, us versus them, two camps. It frees us from having to side with capitalist versus socialist, or with Orthodox versus Heterodox, economics but to both affirm and critique all. Let us look in more detail.

All we do is tainted with sin, including our economic activity, and it results in many kinds of Harm. (As we discuss in Chapter 7, we can understand this via Dooyeweerd's aspects.) What we do, whether good or evil, arises from the inner heart of us, our attitudes and from what we worship (treat as most meaningful and worthy of sacrifice). If we truly submit to, and centre our lives on, the True God / Creator, we will tend to do Good; if, on an idol, especially the idol of ourselves or an idol like economic growth, we will tend to do Harm. That is why, several times in the Jewish (and also Christian) Scriptures, it is clear that God "looks on the heart" rather than on "outward appearance" [I Samuel 16:7].

But since since the heart of most people is "desperately wicked" and "deceitful" [===] and "stubborn" and "stiffnecked" [===], we tend towards evil and harm. The whole of this together is what is called human sin, and it takes many forms - cruelty, arrogance, deceit, selfishness, injustice, sexual promiscuity, etc. It is human sin that divorces the real from the ideal; in the way Creation was designed the ideal could be the real, and the real the ideal.

Sin in individuals generates harm; individual heart sin spreads thoughout society as prevailing mindset and pervading attitude; societal mindset and attitude in turn infects individuals; societal sin destroys the Creation, both human and nature together [see Hosea 4:2-3]. This includes what happens in economics, both micro and macro level together, and the destruction is of the environment in particular, but also of human health, relationships, and structures, etc.

The Jewish Law offers some answer or remedy to sin of the earlier aspects, such as deceit, theft, murder, sexual sin and cruelty to animals, but heart sin cannot be remedied nor prevented by law, nor education, nor economic incentives, etc. It can only be remedied by repentance - turning around 180 degrees back towards God, in both attitude and action. Repentance is admitting honestly and deeply, "I was and am wrong", "We were wrong and need to change." It sees the problem in 'me' whether or not there might also be problems in others or structural problems too. Repentance (also called "contrite heart" [Psalm 51:17; Isaiah 57:15] and aligned with meekness [===]) means we no longer try to defend ourselves, no longer try to manipulate circumstances to protect ourselves. (We will see these in Dooyeweerdian terms later.) Culture change cannot come about, not even by reason and information, without a deep and widespread change of heart. This is because the heart (worldview, mindset, attitude) is the root of all our thinking, speaking and actions, and even ourr ways of seeing things (and hence of what we take into account and what we omit while theorizing or seeking to understand). Repentance is the real change of heart, and it needs to happen at both individual and societal levels.

Though education, information, reason, law, incentives, etc. can work partially their effect will be at best superficial and temporary if not accompanied by and motivated by repentance. That is why the heart is so important, even though hidden. Repentance is often about things we have done or attitudes we have held in the past: "We were wrong". And, if God is One Who hears and responds, as the Jewish and post-Jewish perspectives maintain, then God can even change the damaging repercussions of those past wrongs, so that they no longer occur. This is important not only in personal life but also in the life of nations and even humanity, especially in the light of our climate crisis; more on that in Chapter 9.

Applying this very briefly to economics, business, finance, etc., governments need to repent of their idolatry of economic growth, and so do companies and individuals, business needs to repent of self-seeking competition, individuals need to repent of consumerist attitudes, and at all levels we must repent of vested interests. And then policies and laws will no longer have so many loopholes, information will be more truthful, aspirations, expectations and assumptions will change, and behaviour will become more healthy, so economic activity will do less Harm and more Good. Indeed, it may be said that the whole field of economics needs to repent not just rethink or re-understand. Economics needs to admit it has led us astray and must allow itself to be reformed. Only then can the problems that concern recent thinkers be truly and sustainably tackled. And it may be that, if Jewish perspectives are correct, God will hear will and restrain some of the damaging repercussions of its past wrongs. This is probably what motivated the RLDG to seek a radical Rethink. This is what most RLDG participants believe.

Current economic theory finds it hard to understand this, probably because of its presuppositions either of self-interest or of redistribution as the ultimate goal, and its narrow reductionism to the economic aspect. So it deprives itself of that which is most powerful in all Creation, the power of the contrite attitude.

This is freeing and positive, not negative (even though many Judaisms and Christianities have made it so), for the following reason. If we proudly maintain we are basically alright, needing no repentance, we face a future of everlasting Harm, which we and the whole Earth can never sustainably escapt. But, recognising that we are sinful beings means that there is something in us deeper than the sin, and repentance opens the way to be free of sin. There is the possibility of hope, even for economics and environment. For hope, the change must be of the heart, not just the behaviouu or knowledge. The Jewish perspective offers such a hope in principle. It is this possibility of hope that lies at the roor of RLDG thought and motivates us to seek until we find a new Reframing of Economics.

What gets us to repent? Very seldom can reason do so, nor education, nor psychology, nor even economic pressure. The Jewish Scriptures reveal that the Creator is no distant deity but is involved within the Creation, and sometimes, in mercy, steps in to encourage repentance. In the period described in the Jewish Scriptures, this was often by national crises like the nation being conquered and oppressed. At the individual level, such as with David, prophets brought word from God. Mark Carney drew our attention to three crises: Credit, Covid and Climate, and since then we have had war in Ukraine (Conflict crisis) and what is called the Cost of Living Crisis. Should we see these as warnings for us to repent? Repent as culture and nations? Repent as governments? Repent as affluent individuals (affluent when considering Ecological Footprint)? Did not God warn the peoples of Israel and Judah many times before using the power of Assyria and Babylon to take them away [Note: Warnings]?

The Jewish Scriptures portray a Creator who is not only prompts us to repent but also responds to repentance and contrition with forgiveness and with some rectification or curing of at least some of the harm we caused. This occurs at both individual level (e.g. David) [II Samuel] and national level (e.g. Nineveh [Jonah]). It may be, therefore, that if governments, businesses and individual repent of our idolatry of money and selfishness, then not only will things go a bit better in future, but also God might prevent or divert some of the harmful repercussions of the evil we have done in the past.

At least, that is what the Jewish Scriptures point to in principle; sadly, it was only partially fulfilled relying on repentance and forgiveness alone. Something more is needed in order to fulfil it.

3-4.7 Christian Perspective 1: Salvation and Hope

Summary: A Christian perspective offers a way of salvation as a solution even to the deep problems of human heart and behaviour.

The Judaic perspective recognises repentance and forgiveness, but it seems to be only temporary; it is the responsibility of the people to try to keep themselves clean by following the Law, and provision was made for annual forgiveness. But there are prophecies in Jewish Scriptures that God's law will be written on people's hearts [e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-34], no longer a mere external code of Law to follow and that this would become widespread throughout society [===]. Christians see that as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. After Jesus Christ was killed, raised and returned to God, the Holy Spirit entered human hearts and would grow "fruit of the Spirit", their hearts, their very way of seeing things, would be transformed [Romans 12:2], so that people, without coercion would want to live as the Divine would wish, of their own inner desire, 'bent' and volition. Such people would be welcomed by all Creation [Romans 8:19], because it is destined for salvation along with humans. This view is elaborated in Three Dimensions of Salvation.

For the past 400 years at least, this has been seen in individual terms. 400 years ago, it was perhaps necessary to re-emphasise the dignity of the individual within the previous culture where the ordinary person had been of little account. But if that is all salvation means, it fails except for those lucky individuals, and does not fulfil the prophecies of society transformed. Given that individuals who wholly allow the Holy Spirit to transform them are usually a tiny minority, this has usually had only little impact on society, and, though there has been some areas of healing, most spheres of society have been little touched and retain most of their evil. So the majority of people are, as Jesus saw them, "like sheep without a shepherd" and it is no wonder that economic and other human activity continues to do harm.

3-4.8 Christian Perspective 2: Transforming Spheres of Life

Summary: A Christian perspective offers the hope of transforming spheres of life, including economics.

Moreover, since most Christians have seen transformation only in spiritual terms, they have done little to transform spheres of human life like economics. Their attitude to how those spheres are has been either acquiescent or antagonistic, but instead, RLDG participants see the spheres as expressing impaired insight. This is mainly why the RLDG takes the LACE approach, below.

However, the Creator wants to save society and the entire Creation, eventually forever after Jesus comes back and the Earth and Heavens will be renewed, but before then we are invited to a foretaste of what is to come and a practice-ground for the fuller life to come. God wants to save society and Creation 'as much as possible', partnering with us.

The change of heart and the Holy Spirit's fruit-growing affects all around people who are willing, via their relationships and they way they function. This can attract other individuals to Christ, heals the natural world, and can have some impact on the various spheres of life, including economics. (Jesus said his followers would be "witnesses" to him throughout the world - which indeed has happened - and "salt and light" in their spheres.) Even those people who do not come to Christ are impacted in some ways, or at least given freedom to act more justly, love mercy more and walk more humbly before the Creator. Sometimes their whole philosophical outlook on the various spheres of life changes; for example, === argued that the rise of science was made possible by a Christian perspective, because the rest of Creation was no longer seen as something to fear or worship, but as a fellow-creature with us, to be loved, cared for and got to know.

Example: It was Michael Faraday's Christian beliefs that opened his mind to the possibility of magnetism as a force acting at a distance rather than particles. Since nobody restricts the use, knowledge or study of magnetism to Christians, neither need we restrict the ideas in this section to Christians or religious people.

Sadly, for much of the past 1500 years most Christians have only partially allowed the Holy Spirit to change their hearts in this way or not at all. So uch so-called Christianity has been more of a problem than a solution - as many secular thinkers are keen to point out. Yet in all generations there have been Christ-centred, heart-transformed people working as salt to preserve society and Creation and light to guide.

Throughout history, there have been a few instances of transforming society or spheres, where so many people came to Christ and were filled with the Holy Spirit that evils of their society became much reduced. For example the 1904 Welsh Revival resulted in major reduction in drunkenness, crime, and wife-beating and, since men no longer wasted their wages on alcohol, and contributed more to their families, poverty was ameliorated - and this effect occurred within months, not years or decades. That shows what can happen when people repent and God acts. The change of culture that Trainer [===] and the "spiritual transformation" that Speth call for can happen, and history gives instances. And it can happen again, if we in all levels of economics repent as outlined above. That gives grounds for hope!

3-4.9 Grounds for Hope

"What is impossible for man is possible with God." Luke 18:27.

Could it occur today? Christian perspectives suggest that genuine revivals like that do occur and are effective in transforming society for a time, but they cannot be manufactured by human planning or effort. They are God's prerogative. "Who knows when the Holy Spirit is working in anyone's heart? Nobody here."

But that is no excuse for sitting back passively. God is by no means unwilling or reluctant for it to occur; God wants us human beings as active participants who take responsibility and action, not just commanded soldiers. We are invited to work. In doing so we obtain a foretaste of the future full working with God, we practise trusting and obeying, and we build on the foundation that is Christ with "gold, silver and precious stones" that will survive through the fire rather than "hay and stubble" [I Corinthians 3]. We just need to take it very seriously, sacrificing ("losing", Luke 9:24) our entire lives for it. That fulfils the Gospel of Christ.

That is the kind of hope that a Christian perspective brings, a hope that depends on God and not on human effort or mistaken presuppositions of human goodness or evil. Will we respond to that challenge, or will we allow our affluence to choke it so that we bear no fruit of that kind? It may be today as it was in the time of Jesus that "the fields are white already to harvest". Young people today are terrified of the future and have little hope, human-centred ways of working are failing, and since most young people know little about Christ they are no longer rebelling against Christianity in the way they used to. We should "plead with the lord of the harvest to send out workers."

3-4.10 Concluding Remarks about Religions/Christian Perspectives

We can see therefore that religious, Jewish and Christian perspectives offer a variety of important insights that most perspectives in both Orthodox and Heterodox economics overlook. Some of the insights inform economics theory, some economics practice. This is why we take the unusual step of interweaving these religious ideas into our thinking in economics, rather than treating them as an optional, separate bloc.

It is because of this that here we are audaciously exploring a more fundamental Rethink of economics than is customary in recent thinking. In Chapters 4-8 five main areas are discussed in which economics, and we who function economically, need to repent.

In the main, we will insert such insights in parentheses introduced by "(x ... x)", so that those who wish to ignore religious insights may skip over them.

Before proceeding with our main discussion, we introduce a notion that will run through all our discussions, Multi-aspectual Good.

3-5. Multi-aspectual Overall Good

Summary: The notion of Multi-aspectual Overall Good brings together the fragments of what many recent thinkers have drawn attention to.

"God saw all that he had made and it was very good" [Genesis 1:31]

===== section can be shortened

An examination of the economics literature, whether historical, conventional or recent, reveals that many presuppose some kind of Good, some ultimate desirable state of affairs, towards which they implicitly believe that economic activity 'should' contribute. It manifests itself in various wordings in various thinkers, such as:

In most, it is a fairly amorphous, non-specific Good that combines several things. What they presuppose or is amorphous, we try to make explicit and precise, an idea of Overall Good.

Given Dooyeweerd's idea that the norms of all aspects harmonize, we call this Multi-aspectual Overall Good (or occasionally, Overall Multi-aspectual Good). This refers to all of reality is working well together, both human and non-human alike. The mandate of economics is to contribute towards this Multi-aspectual Overall Good, and throughout all our discussions, this is explicit. (Capitals are used for Multi-aspectual Good to show it is one, not one of many.)

In the everyday, pre-theoretical stance, is an intuition of Multi-aspectual Good, sometimes expressed in the intuition that things could be better. In Dooyeweerd's philosophy, all aspects working well together is a state of Multi-aspectual Good. The Christian and Jewish perspectives at least have at their root some idea of Multi-aspectual Good, as the intention of the Creator. Hinduism has something of it, in the idea of eventual lack of returning when one's life and character have been completely exemplary. The entire Creation is "very good" (readers who dislike God-talk can replace "Creation" by "Reality"). Moreover, it may be no coincidence that what is produced by economic activity is called "goods" and "services".

So all our thinking starts from and references this idea of Multi-aspectual Good. It has also been called "flourishing", "shalom", "salaam", "eudaimonia", "prosperity", "sustainability", "joy", "wellbeing", "flourishing", possibly "xingfu", and so on. (To religious/spiritual people, Multi-aspectual Good is something that not only the Creation enjoys but also brings the Creator joy and, Christians believe, will be the situation in the New Heavens and Earth.) Sometimes we have called it "Overall Good".

To help the reader understand the breadth of what we mean by Multi-aspectual Good, consider the following (rather extreme, romanticized) picture: Multi-aspectual Good is when living things are healthy, in a dynamic, thriving ecology, with humans caring for them, coming to understand them and all human functioning, when there is creativeness and innovation that does not harm, when human communication is always clear and truthful, when people come to agreement and cooperate, when arts, sport and leisure flourish, when all is done with justice, generosity and love, and no wastefulness, and when there is no idolatry or hidden agendas, but true worship. Even such things as eating to keep alive contributes to Multi-aspectual Good, but ensuring that others have enough food contributes even more because of the generosity that may be added.

(That might fit traditional ideas of heaven. But all people have, in their hearts, some idea of this, calling it various names as above.)

Multi-aspectual Overall Good is full and diverse, not just that which is visible to economics. It is encountered in the multi-aspectual context of everyday experience (3-1) more than in the single-aspect context of theories. Though explicitly linked to Dooyeweerd's aspects, In 3-4, we have (if we wish) a theological basis for Multi-aspectual Good, its factuality, its possibility, why it is not yet achieved, and how it may be achieved in future.

(x In Christian thinking, Multi-aspectual Good may be seen ultimately as eschatalogical, the situation at the very End of Time, though more practically we may see this as some fairly-distant future (such as 2050 or 2100 or, in Hindu thought, with its circular view of time, the end of a cycle. x) Multi-aspectual Good (or Harm) is what results from all that happens. Mention of Multi-aspectual Good is always anticipating what shall be, depending on what we choose and do here and now.)

But what is included in, what constitutes Multi-aspectual Overall Good? This must never be determined be either what is fashionable, what is democratically voted for or what dictators say is good, because all three invariably miss out much and unbalance the rest. Nor should we listen to those who appeal to an ideology or religion to argue for what is Good. In our view, Multi-aspectual Overall Good must not be restricted to the benefit of humans, not even humankind in the future, but of all Creation. This is one way in which Multi-aspectual Good is broader than the term "common good", which usually refers to human benefit [Note: Common Good]. Likewise, the idea of Ecosystem Services, though useful in conventional economics, is insufficient here because it sees good only in terms of its good for humanity (as some kind of resource), not adequately dealing with benefit to the ecological world without reference to humans - as has been discussed by members of the RLDG [Gunton et al. 2017] ===== does that repeat later?. We recognise Good beyond humanity, yet with all the human aspects too.

This is why we employ Dooyeweerd's aspects to help us think about, measure and even perhaps define, Multi-aspectual Overall Good. Every aspect defines a basic kind of Good, all of which are needed for full overall Good. Even the pre-biotic aspects define kinds of Good, even though, in them, the idea of Harm or Evil is meaningless. They form a reliable foundation for all else, e.g. energy from the Sun. All spheres of human, and non-human, activity contribute, or can contribute, to Multi-aspectual Good.

Multi-aspectual Good is reduced by Harm. Harm includes things like climate change, pollution, biodiversity loss, bodily and mental illness, even pandemics, addiction, disinformation, war, injustice, war, lack of dignity - negative repercussions in any aspect in which they are meaningful. Until Chapter 7, when we discuss Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity "Multi-aspectual Good" will refer to net Good, in which Harm subtracts and detracts from it.

The idea of Multi-aspectual Good is important because it contrasts with both neoclassical, capitalist, market ideas of economics and socialist and development ideas. Both have some notion of Good, but they are limited, reduced and narrowed to single aspects, and they ignore others [Note: Labour Movement]. One side reduces Good largely to economic good, the other largely to juridical good viewed through the lens of economics. Good must take every aspect into account, and the failure of both sides to take climate and environmental responsibility seriously (and often these days refer to it only when convenient), which are of different aspects, shows them up.

However, "largely" allows us to discern a modicum of validity in each. In fact, the ideas of utility or benefit, which pervade economics, may be seen as wider Good viewed from the perspective of the economic aspect. They may be seen as offering other aspects a narrow entry point. Unfortunately, economists do not show much interest in kinds of utility or benefit, or their opposites, uselessness or harm, that are possible, with the result that these are largely ignored, concepts like utility are insufficiently defined and Harm is relegated to "externalities". Those who use economics (politicians, media pundits and public) assume whatever kind they wish, and harness economics to their own ends.

To overcome this, Multi-aspectual Good is referred to explicitly throughout this Rethink, entering our theories and equations, and we employ Dooyeweerd's aspects to 'define' different kinds of Good (biotic, social, economic, etc.) that together constitute Multi-aspectual Good.

3-6. Methodology: Engaging With Extant Ideas

Summary: In order to engage sensitively with extant ideas, whether recent or conventional, we Listen, Affirm, Critique, Enrich (LACE), and apply this to all dozen topics we include in economics.

In any Rethink of economics (or any field), extant ideas and practices need to be critiqued and refined or replaced. Comprehensive rethinks should question not only the truth of extant theories and the rightness of practices but also their meaningfulness. This is why, when we ask "What is wrong with economics?" we address all three, in the dozen topics we cover [Note: Economics]. We neither acquiesce to extant ideas or practices nor are antagonistic to them, but rather see them as impaired insight, or indicating such, that might benefit from our view (which is also impaired, but maybe in different ways).

In this section, we explain the overall methodology used in this Rethink and how it applies to all the dozen. Our approach, when engaging with extant thought of any kind, is to Listen, Affirm, Critique and Enrich (LACE), as explained in Introduction to LACE.

Listening involves trying to hear what is really meaningful to each idea, at a level deeper than the words used (and often reacted against or for). With concepts in economics, such as money, productivity, jobs, poverty, value(s), Doughnut, etc., we ask two main questions: "In which aspects is this primarily meaningful?" and "Why is this an important concept?" With theories, we ask similar questions, "Which aspects does this theory take into account (and which does it ignore)?" and "What makes this theory important?" With paradigms, such as Trickle-down economics or Degrowth, we ask "What does this paradigm presuppose as meaningful (which aspects) (and what does it overlook)?" With paradoxes in economics, such as that of Thrift, we ask "Does this paradox conflate two or more aspects? Does it resolve if we separate them or bring in other aspects?" In asking which aspects make something meaningful, we take account not only of those that are explicit, but also of those that are hidden yet important.

Affirming involves discerning what is valid in the practice, concepts, theory, paradigm, etc. To do this, we take account of the multi-aspectual human activity that generates them, especially hidden attitudes and motives. Hidden agendas, for example, might lead to unduly elevating the importance of an aspect, and so that part of the theory or practice should be deemed invalid. For example, we affirm the wish for a quantitative measure of overall Good that is behind GDP, but we disaffirm the idolatry of growth and the idolatry of GDP - and then critique and enrich that; see Rethinking GDP.

Critiquing often involves uncovering presuppositions. To do this, we find three questions helpful:

For example, at first sight, every aspect except the economic and quantitative are ignored in GDP. Governments' motive in using GDP would seem to be driven by the Nature pole of the Nature-Freedom ground-motive, i.e. wish to control. And Harmful economic activity is treated as Good in GDP.

Enriching often involves bringing in aspects that have been overlooked, but are important. For example, we redefine GDP as the sum of net value (Good - Harm) in every aspect not just the economic.

LACE is applied to each of the dozen topics listed as covered under the word "economics".

The aim of science is to contribute generic understanding of how reality operates to humanity's bodies of knowledge [Note: "Reality"]. This understanding is usually in the form of theories (see below). Each basic science focuses on one core aspect (way of seeing reality); economics science focuses on the economic aspect. Traditionally, science is treated merely as a logical or investigative activity, but this rethink, led by Dooyeweerd, and many other recent thinkers, treats it as a fully multi-aspectual human functioning, in which the analytical aspect leads. All aspects, including lingual aspect of dissemination and discussion of findings, social aspect of relationships, economic aspect of resources, ethical aspect of attitude and trust, and all others play an important part. However, the deepest part is played by our pistic functioning. As Dooyeweerd's critique of theoretical thought [Dooyeweerd 1953,II,38-67] made clear (both immanently and transcendentally), science and theoretical thought never have been, and never can be, neutral. The theoretical attitude of thought, inherent in science involves isolating our analytical functioning from other aspects and then re-engaging it (and what we exclude is a non-neutral choice), and the grounds for doing this are a presupposed "origin of meaning", which is religious in nature, i.e. an absolute, unquestioned commitment. The presupposition is usually a ground-motive, such as the Humanist ground-motive of Nature-Freedom, currently dominating Western thought. Each scientist (researcher) gathers data meaningful in that aspect (using methods appropriate to the aspect), and analyses that data in accord with the rationality of that aspect, to produce theoretical findings, which are then disseminated, critiqued and refined to become theories accepted into the bodies of knowledge. (An example of inappropriate rationality is to assume that values may be added together, whereas in fact they interact in complex ways.) See Basden [2020, Chapter 5] for fuller explanation and discussion, especially of the operation of ground-motives. This rethink is informed by the ground-motive of Creation, Fall and Redemption, which is pluralistic rather than dualistic, and recognises meaningfulness as fundamental.

The theories that a science generates and uses become accepted into humanity's bodies of knowledge, as expressions of understanding that applies generally (sometimes expressed as equations). Rules are also a kind of theory - about what it is meaningful and good to do. Most extant theories are meaningful in one aspect (occasionally more than one), ignoring all others (except perhaps as "externalities"), and thus are inherently narrow. By contrast, this rethink allow each theory to contain concepts meaningful in all relevant aspects, what Dooyeweerd called an "integral vision of the whole" [NC,I,84]. Thus, for example, SNA 2008 restricted itself largely to the economic aspect while SNA 2025 tries to rectify the problems that caused by recognising some other aspects. Likewise, we propose that GDP totals value that is meaningful in every aspect, not just monetary value. Whereas, to many academics, theoretical thought is absolute, neutral and 'higher' than pre-theoretical, Dooyeweerd treats theoretical thought as set within the context of the pre-theoretical, as a narrowing down thereof. Despite such narrowing, theoretical thinking and analysis can yield some valid insights. Theories are not treated as truths but (usually written) beliefs about how reality works in, on which it is reasonable to rely because of the quality of the scientific activity by which they were generated.

Scientific paradigms, which govern what kinds of issues are researched, accepted and taught. Kuhn [1960], who introduced the concept of paradigm, was ambiguous on what they are [Masterman 1970] but the notion has proven helpful, to see paradigms as a way of seeing reality, and thus choosing and reasoning about data, and excluding other aspects. Each paradigm is a belief about and commitment to some aspects it deems meaningful to study in research [Basden & Joneidy 2019]. Economics focuses on the economic aspect, and various paradigms bring in other aspects too, such as:

Seeing paradigms as linked to aspects gives this rethink two advantages. One is that we can probe deeply by asking which aspects motivated economists like Smith and Keynes to develop the theories they did. The other is that is allows us to distance ourselves from paradigm wars. New paradigms emerge when those in the field feel that some whole swathe of meaningfulness (aspect) is being ignored. Example: Marxist thought denies the ethical aspect of self-giving love and the aesthetic aspect of enjoyment and contentment, sometimes vehemently attacking the former as patronising and the latter as enculturation. This motivates a paradigm shift. Whereas good new paradigms embrace the old as a special case, such as Einsteinian physics did with Newtonian, in economics many paradigms reject and oppose other ones (such as capitalist versus socialist economics). Bitter conflict may be traced to the malign influence of dualistic ground-motives, as explained in Basden [2020, §5-2, 104-110]. Seeing each paradigm as drawing attention to different aspects, our rethink seeks to find and identify valid insight in each. Beyond paradigms and ground-motives, there is a third presupposition, about the very nature and origin of meaningfulness. Most thinking presupposes Being (e.g. money) or Process (e.g. trading) as fundamental, whereas Dooyeweerd presupposes meaningfulness (including value) as the more fundamental; see Basden [2020, §5-2.3, 110-3].

The teaching of economics. This is multi-aspectual human functioning led by the lingual aspect, but also depending on, and influences by, other aspects: the pistic aspect of what the teacher believes to be important (e.g. their political stance), the analytical aspect of selection of what to teach and when (as well as the aesthetic aspect of making it interesting!). Our rethink would especially question what is taught and when, introducing every aspect into course content and especially rethinking Economics 101.

The realm of practice. Dooyeweerd sees this practice as multi-aspectual functioning, usually with a pre-theoretical attitude of thought. It has repercussions meaningful in each aspect, all of which are important. This rethink tries to take explicit account of functioning and repercussions in all aspects, and judge them according to what net contribution to Multi-aspectual Overall Good the practice of economics makes.

The professional discipline of economics, and the rules that govern practice. This rethink would critique the rules - written and unwritten - that the professions of economics generate, and the motivation and attitude behind this generation. Corruption is a dysfunction in the ethical and pistic aspects.

The field of economics, which combines the above. In Chapter 4, this rethink poses the question, "What is the meaning and mandate of economics?" and highlights the isolationist and idolatrous mindset that economists, politicians and media pundits, and even the public, have towards economics, which explains why it is so difficult to heed Mark Carney's call to bring all human values into economics.

The system that is 'the economy'. The economy is a macroeconomic reification of the collection of individual economics activities, and is of concern to governments. This rethink questions not only the rules that constrain and enable it to operate in particular ways, but the global- and macro-level damage (and good) it does in reality (as do many other rethings), but especially society's prevailing attitude and mindset that drives it to this damage (or good).

The human economic activities at the microeconomic level. They constitute the economy. Every economic activity is multi-aspectual human functioning, with repercussions for good or harm in each aspect. As Chapter 6 discusses, this rethink rejects understanding of economic activities solely through the lens of the economic activity, as most current practice and theory does, treating them as multi-aspectual human functioning whose primary meaningfulness is economic. It judges economic activity from the perspective of every aspect, not just the economic (for example, climate change and obesity are as important as efficiency), and it seeks to make this explicit.

The repercussions of that activity on the wider world. Most economics (practice, theory, paradigms, etc.) focuses on positive repercussions, and ignores negative (harmful) repercussions. As Chapter 7 makes clear, this rethink explicitly recognises

How theories and paradigms influence practice and how practice influences those. In business, banking and finance, many appeal to theories to guide, or even retrospectively justify, their actions and decisions, and many presuppose deleterious ways of understanding economics. This is why this rethink critiques theory, paradigms and practice together.

Attitudes and mindsets (often called "culture", "worldview", etc.) towards economics and within the field of economics, which govern all the above at a deep, usually hidden level. It includes not only how we see economics but how we see ourselves and our relationship to the whole of Creation. This rethink understands these as mainly the ethical and pistic aspects of our activity, our attitudes and mindsets, which retrocipatively impact all our other functioning, including in all the above. They are more powerful than is usually recognised - both individual and structural (societal) levels. This rethink makes attitude and mindset explicit and also discusses how these might be changed. It allows allows us to consider explicitly what motivated economists to develop the ideas they did.

Mindset and attitude are seldom mentioned in economics discourse, except perhaps ambiguously as "culture". It is religious traditions that have paid more attention to them and developed expertise and understanding about them. This is one reason that the next perspective we adopt is a religious one.

Created:, 27 March 2023 from xnr2, xnr1 and a couple of notes. Last updated: 28 March 2023 added everyday experience, and bits from xnr2. 29 March 2023 bit fr xnr2. 31 March 2023 Purposes of the 3 perspectives. 1 April 2023 more on edx; brought in Dooyeweerd from xnr1, and began rw its intro. 7 April 2023 Multi-aspectual Good brought here from r4. 10 April 2023 hdg for tctt. 11 April 2023 not dominate. 13 April 2023 bits. 24 April 2023 began edit; edx. 26 April 2023 edits. 27 April 2023 rlg, jewish. 28 April 2023 bundle of values; xn persp; tidied Dooyeweerd. 29 April 2023 what aspects enable. 1 May 2023 various. Did all the characteristics and enabling of aspects and what it means for us, and tidied up. 3 May 2023 Theoretical thought as separate section. 5 May 2023 edx; linked 3-4 with 3-5; summaries; tidied =====, ##. 8 May 2023 "enlightened"; "draft". 13 May 2023 >IG. 20 May 2023 Gegenstand more. 26 May 2023 Rlg for meaningfulness, motivation. 29 May 2023 hdgs. 3 June 2023 shorter ch intro. 5 June 2023 hdgs. 10 June 2023 example of m-a fning. 19 June 2023 repentance for past; how to change ec fning by asp. 14 July 2023 p-atgt. 10 September 2023 sin r.t. goodies v baddies. 19 September 2023 ren t3. 21 September 2023 Enormous Jewish; Concl of Rlg. 26 September 2023 rw Aspects. 14 October 2023 new intro to Real/Ideal. 16 October 2023 quote. 9 November 2023 transcendence; rw Rlg. 10 November 2023 hdg. 11 November 2023 list of Multi-aspectual Good. 15 December 2023 rw intro to Dooyeweerd; added Embracing, renumbered sections. 16 December 2023 asp anal. 20 December 2023 RWE, rw. 3 January 2024 OG: Great Soc; Table of analogy, depcy. 4 January 2024 mspl meaningfulness. 19 January 2024 renamed Overall Good as Multi-aspectual Good; its importance. 27 January 2024 rlg persp 1,2. 2 February 2024 Rlg 3: holism. 9 February 2024 MAOG. 14 February 2024 Xingfu. 22 February 2024 heading number corrections; new summary. 20 March 2024 completely replaced 3-4, perspectives on theory [it has been saved to fp3: as "old-3-4-Ectheor-to240320.pt6] with 12 topics in economics. 21 March 2024 rw that a bit. 26 March 2024 LACE explained; MAJOR change: section 3-4 now merged with 3-7, and all renumbered. 29 March 2024 notes to n.html; MAOG rw. 1 April 2024 meaningfulness fundamental rw. 15 April 2024 MAOG rw. 22 April 2024 humans. 24 April 2024 NotXnEcon rw and smy. 20 May 2024 new intro. 24 May 2024 corr FN.