Chapter 8. Entities and Stuff in Economics

Summary: Economics puts too much emphasis on entities instead of the Good that we are called to do, resulting in fragmentation, envy and greed. Dooyeweerd helps us avoid this by making meaningfulness the foundation.

Status of chapter: + topics largely complete; + argument largely complete; - in need of critique; - Conclusion to be written; + references done; - needs shortening; - needs styling; - needs proof-read.

Money, banks, businesses, markets, budgets, debts, households, firms, corporations, nations, sectors, commodities, goods, services, products, cryptocurrencies, taxes, purchases, and so on, are all entities meaningful in economic. But what exactly are they and by what should their functioning be guided?

So far we have focused on activities and normativities (values), including the hidden ones of mindset and attitude as we sought to understand economics, but we encounter things that are expressible as nouns: entities like banks, stuff like money and processes like markets. How do we understand these, the nature of their various types (how does a government differ from a household?) and what makes for good and non-so-good things or each type (bad money, good bank)? And why? That kind of question we discuss in this chapter, again calling on Dooyeweerd's ideas. It jigsaws with his ideas of aspects, meaningfulness, normativity and functioning on which we rely in previous chapters.

8-1. Entity-Oriented Thinking and Its Problems

Summary: Entity-orientation, which is rife in most fields including economics, presupposes existence as such rather than existence-as. Though it is a fundamental philosophical problem, it has generated a dozen problems in economics.

This section needs critique. It has not been discussed anywhere else as far as we know.

What we call entity-oriented thinking is when we focus too exclusively on things and their being of a certain type (such as money, businesses, banks), to which meaningfulness and normativity are added as (often secondary) properties. In philosophy there has been a gulf between Is and Ought, epitomized in Descartes and Kant, together with Kant's presupposition of a Ding an Sich (thing in itself) that needs no explanation nor support.

This kind of thinking leads to a number of problems, including in economics. It distorts, misleads and obscures what is important and also helps to generate unnecessary paradoxes.

1. Entity-orientation leads us into the fallacy of composition, in which we treat one type of thing as too similar to another, attributing properties of one to another. Example: Assuming that government debt is like household debt. We assume that both function in the same way and that what is good for one is good for the other. We make this mistake because focusing on the entity at the expense of the ways in which it is meaningful.

2. Entity-orientation tends to misunderstand structural relationships, reducing most to part-whole rather than recognise other types, such as between a city and its orchestra or football team. This leads to category errors. Example: Several attempts to discuss the fallacy of composition treat the household as part of the nation, including that on Wikipedia.

3. Almost the reverse of the fallacy of composition, entity-orientation tends also to treat levels as too distinct. Example: Microeconomics and macroeconomics are taught as two completely separate topics, so that we cannot understand the links between them. It also diverts us from the possibility of other levels, such as meso and global. Levels are discussed later.

4. Entity-orientation exacerbates paradoxes, clouding our view so it is more likely that we shall stumble into them. Example: The Paradox of Thrift is that when households spend less and save, then overall saving reduces and/or the economy fails to grow. In that example, the problem is partly also the fallacy of composition.

5. Entity-orientation stifles curiosity about the nature of things, in all their richness and flexibility of types of things. It becomes too easily satisfied with over-simple definitions of things. Example: The role of faith or trust in the economy or in business tends to be overlooked. It makes our definitions too rigid, so as not to be able to incorporate new versions, and it generates endless, fruitless debates about whether something is a 'real' this or that. Example: Cryptocurrency fails some definitions of money and the debate over whether it is 'real' money continues. We at least need a proper basis on which to discuss possible inclusion. Clear definitions are often needed to make legal judgments (in our current legal systems). But this approach generates interminable strife over tiny points rather than promoting true justice. Is there a better way to judge whether a thin is of a particular type?

6. Entity-orientation tends to treat culture as fixed and unchangeable, robbing us of hope.

7. Entity-orientation tends to treat human beings as one-dimensional. Examples: As self-interested rational economic actor. Much economics writing or discourse (including Doughnut Economics) suffers from lacking a good understanding of the human being. Entity-orientation seems also to encourage many of us who are concerned to assign humans to two classes, Goodies and Baddies.

8. Entity-orientation restricts our ability to judge the quality (goodness, badness) of things. Example: Is it valid to treat hospitals primarily as a money-making venture, or houses as merely investments rather than homes? Are students to be treated primarily as units of funding, or even merely as "customers", and only secondarily as human beings who learn. Such judgments are important in decision-making at all levels, and also in courts of law. For example we know intuitively that, if we treat a hospital primarily as a money-maker, then its quality as a hospital is undermined. But why? Entity-orientation finds it difficult to explain. Ultimately, the judgement must be taking all aspects into account, not least because a given entity might be bad in one aspect while good in another.

9. Entity-orientation leads us to treat things as sacrosanct, such that their survival and 'growth' is treated as an absolute right, to be protected at all costs, even when they are (net) harmful and should be shrunk. Other things, whether social, environmental or, sometimes, even legal factors, may be sacrificed for them.

Examples: The survival of a business or firm is often used to excuse the environmental damage or social harm it does. Then, once it is 'safe' its growth and rivalry against its peers becomes sacrosanct.

Example: The road transport sector of the economy is protected by governments and encouraged to grow despite its increasing climate change emissions and the deaths caused.

Conventional reasons might be offered, usually about jobs and tax revenue, and sometimes on the basis of prestige, but we may ask, "What is so bad about a firm not growing faster than its rivals? Even, why exactly is it that the firm should survive at all costs?" Might not employees find jobs elsewhere - and often be better off overall - for example? Might not the tax revenue a sector provides be found elsewhere once the shift has been made, and might not there be less government expenditure on rectifying the harms done by the old sector? Asking such questions by reference to aspects reveals various reasons, such as the thrill afforded by achievement (formative aspect), but also personal selfishness and hidden agendas (ethical and pistic aspects). Monopolies, and their harmful impact on innovation etc., tend to arise from treating businesses as sacrosanct; see RLDG discussion on monopolies.

10. Likewise, entity-orientation can exacerbate greed and envy, when coupled with selfish attitudes. If we treat money as an owned commodity ("mine", "ours", not accessible to others) rather than as flow of value through all, this tends to invoke greed by us and envy in others [Note: Politics of Greed, of Envy]. As a result, many firms and criminal enterprises are always on the lookout for ways to shift money from our pockets to theirs (whether stealing or with our consent). It can also exacerbate injustice. Example: It was reported [Daily Telegraph, 10 Sep 2023] that some households that move away from fossil fuels are being charged a hefty amount for decommissioning the gas grid; surely they should be rewarded instead! Likewise with resources of all kinds: because they are limited, whatever we obtain for ourselves is denied to others. This can exacerbate poverty. A seemingly innocuous example may be Microsoft's decision to require subscriptions rather than payments for MSWord - but it traps most of humanity into pouring money into their coffers for decades to come. This often leads to increasing Harmful or Useless economic activity (Chapter 7). Entity-orientation cannot explain why such things are problematic. (x Christians will remember Jesus treated property as of secondary importance, whether in promising that our needs will be met by our Heavenly Father, who knows what we need beforehand, or commenting on the fool who built up a vast property wealth, or the destruction of real-estate property in the roof that was wrecked in order to lower a sick person down to Him. x)

11. Related to this, entity-orientation focuses on rights rather than responsibilities. Responsibilities (or "duties") are more fundamental than rights [Moyn 2016]. Simpson [1997, 29] outlines four problems of dwelling on rights, all of which affect economics: responding "simply as justice demands" so that "passions of rectitude" like resentment or respect overrule concern, compassion and love (making economics harsh); "when claims of rights collide with personal attachments or calculations of benefit, the right systematically prevails"; responsibilities and benevolence to others are ignored; and "the perception of rights also promotes one's fundamental separateness from others" (exacerbating the wrong kind of self-interest, competitiveness and blame-fixing, such as of the Jews in Europe before WW2). It provides no basis for judging whether for example "respect or compassion, rights or goods, duty or virtue, self or other should prevail in oral deliberation. ... theories of justice, utility, and community cannot successfully establish any such priority" (which is no help if we want to reduce the isolation of economics from other spheres of life). This, Simpson notes, is a philosophical problem. It is interesting that few economics thinkers, whether conventional or recent, seriously discuss responsibility.

12. With entity-orientation, stakeholders in some economic activity or system are often treated as in competition with others, with collaboration often treated as an add-on, motivated by self-interest or power. This is unfortunate as it robs markets of the trust and collaborative spirit that is essential for their good operation, and forces us back onto unproductive juridical attempts at protection. Moreover, a stakeholder that is often forgotten is what we might call ordinary people, because entity-orientation tends to highlight distinctive stakeholders. Why does this matter? For two reasons. Ordinary people suffer the repercussions of economic activity without complaining publicly. Ordinary people possess a wisdom ("the wisdom of crowds"?) that is seldom listened to or even sought or recognised for its value. Their wisdom comes from their being engaged in life in a pre-theoretical rather than a theoretical manner, experiencing all aspects together.

There may also be other problems, which are not discussed much but are made visible by Dooyeweerd's philosophy of things, and are likely to be or become of importance. 1. One is that entity-orientation does not properly understand the 'becoming' of entities or the introduction of new types. For example, should cryptocurrencies be treated as real currency? 2. It impels us to blame-fixing, trying to identity 'the' entity to blame. 3. Entity-orientation makes it too easy to attribute agency to that which does not possess agency, such as "Money talks!" We need a sound way understand such a statement.

We can see indications even in conventional economics of a move away from entity-oriented thinking. For instance, Mazzucato [Mission, 205] argues that markets should be treated as outcomes. For instance, it is significant that Kuznets chose the functioning of monetary transactions as the foundation for assessing the health of a nation's economy, GDP, rather than capital or assets. That GDP has 'worked' for so long might be evidence that that that this way of understanding takes us closer to the real operation of the economic aspect than does entity-orientation. Of course, GDP has many flaws, but they become clearly understood when we think in terms of aspectual functioning and values: (a) it conflates Harm with Good, (b) it ignores value for which no money is paid, (c) it distorts all value by reducing it all to money; these are discussed in Chapter 7 and in more detail in the page on GDP.

We need a more penetrating understanding of the nature of things, thinking in terms of meaningfulness and value, not just entity and process. This is what Dooyeweerd offers.

8-2. A New Understanding of Things

Summary: Dooyeweerd suggests we understand being and things via meaningfulness, so that existence is existence-as-X, where X is an aspect. This offers a richer understanding.

Our understanding of things focuses, not on things as such, like the economy, governments, households, money, etc., but on their meaningfulness and mandate: meaning-orientation or aspect-orientation rather than entity-orientation. In line with the sixth element of our perspective, we always understand things in terms of how their existence, relationships and activities contribute to Multi-aspectual Overall Good.

Dooyeweerd offers a philosophical grounding for this, understanding things (entities, processes and stuff, and also relationships and complex things) in a way that helps overcome some of the above problems.

8-2.1 Being and Meaning

Summary: Most Western philosophy adopts an Immanence Standpoint, in which meaningfulness and normativity are divorced from being. Dooyeweerd roots being in meaningfulness, and normativity becomes inherent.

The root of the problems is, according to Dooyeweerd, an Immanence Standpoint, dominant in ancient Greek thought and right through to the present day. This standpoint presupposes Being-as-such, Being-in-itself, in which the being of things requires no further explanation except that 'it exists'. In Greek thought even the gods were subject to Being. Kant expresses the presupposition in the claim that Being is not a predicate, and his Ding an sich (being it itself). However, he found he could never reach this hypothetical Ding an sich by thought. Descartes expressed the presupposition in his famous subject-object relationship, depicted in Figure f8-2a, in which the subject is presupposed human and the object, usually non-human, an 'it'.

Views of thingness, (a) Descartes, (b) Heidegger (c) Dooyeweerd; 1056,1350 IG "pix/f8-being.iff" -w3.52 -h4.5 -c -ra

Figure f8-2. Views of thingness, (a) Descartes, (b) Heidegger (c) Dooyeweerd

Heidegger struggled with many problems this raises, and proposed that the Being of a thing lies in its relationship with other things, as in Figure f8-2b. This has become popular over recent decades in many fields from information systems to economics and even theology, and is sometimes linked with the Xhosa idea of ubuntu: "I am because you are." This goes further than Descartes, especially in providing a basis for relationship, but does not solve all the problems. It conflates two types of relationship: the effect that other things have, and my responsibility to other things. Ubuntu includes the latter while Heidegger does not. As Dooyeweerd remarked, even Heidegger "walked in the paths of immanence philosophy" - which we can see if we ask "But what is the Being of all the beings I am related to, all together?" (which ends in infinite regress( and "What is their meaningfulness and responsibility?"

Instead, Dooyeweerd rejected the Immanance Standpoint and presupposed something beyond Being and deeper than it, and which can explain Being: Meaningfulness, as shown in Figure f8-2c. There is no Being-as-such but only Being-as-X, where X is a mode of Being, an aspect. Dooyeweerd gives the following example:

"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]

That is, nest does not exist as a pile of sticks to which bird-attribution-meaning is added, but its very existence qua nest is its biotic meaningfulness of reproduction. Likewise money "has as such no existence apart from" its meaning as a token of exchange of value, meaningfulness in the lingual, social and economic aspects; [see Note on Being and Meaning].

Likewise humans are not just free agents, agents-as-such, but rather agents-as-X, where X is any and every aspect and, in particular the juridical aspect, hence are not just free agents but agents with the dignity of responsibility in each aspect, as as we discuss in Sections 1 and 2, when we discuss stakeholders and levels of agency.

That is true for both subjects and objects. Properties of things, like colour or cost, are their ability to function in the aspect that makes the property meaningful. Actions are its actual functioning in various aspects, usually several. Abilities are potential actions in those aspects. Rights are also relative to aspects, such as right to life (biotic), to justice (juridical). Desires are a dispositions towards the other thing, again made meaningful by aspects.

8-2.2 Aspectual Structure of Things

Summary: Types of things are defined by profiles of aspects that play a necessary role in being of that type of thing. This enriches our understanding.

Each type of thing is defined by a profile of aspects, which Dooyeweerd called a structure of individuality, and Clouser [2005], a Type Law, in that each aspect plays roles in the being of the thing, its coming into being and its quality as a good or not-so-good instance of the type. It includes those aspects that are essential for a thing to be of this type. For example, a pen is a pen by virtue of the lingual aspect, but also the physical and kinematic aspects are important in that in a pen ink moves. Moreover, a pen is a manufactured device, so the formative aspect is important in its coming into being, and any failures to function a pen. Each aspect thus fulfils a different role in the being and life of the thing, and Dooyeweerd gave names to these roles like qualifying, founding and leading, and internal leading aspects, but we do not need such labels, which in any case are contentious.

The following things meaningful in economics may have the following aspectual profiles:

Money:

Currency:

Markets:

Household:

Business:

Firm:

Bank:

National level (macroeconomics) and government:

Global level:

The economy:

Economic sector:

Taxes:

(Spare template:)

Each actually functions in all aspects, but those mentioned above are the ones essential for a thing to be of that type. (The above is provisional, pending discussion.) Other aspects can indicate its quality, and its mandate or responsibility. For example, households, firms and nations will have a pervading attitude, which is their ethical functioning, but having an attitude does change whether a household is a household, etc.

Humanity, human individuals, and the whole of Creation have all aspects as relevant to them, so are not listed above.

8-2.3 Structural Relationships: Part-whole and Enkapsis

Summary: Whereas things are made of parts, part-whole is not the only type of relationship. If we reduce them to part-whole, we become confused.

Systems thinking, which shares with Dooyeweerd an holistic motivation, nevertheless exhibits a fundamental flaw in some of its forms: it over-emphasises the part-whole relationships and even tries to reduce all to this. The system is seen as composed of subsystems and is itself part of a higher system, often called the environment. This may be valid when thinking about departments within an organisation, but it is not valid when thinking about households, communities, companies, nations and the whole of humanity. The flaw arises because of entity-orientation: an entity has parts (molecules are made up of atoms, bodies, of organs, organs of cells, countries of counties of shires, and so on).

Dooyeweerd addressed this, and was enabled to do so by his meaning-orientation. He suggested there are two types of structural relationship (relationships inherent in the structure of things): part-whole and enkaptic relationships.

Part-whole relationships require both part and whole to be qualified by the same aspect. A true part has the same qualifying aspect as the whole, and loses its meaning in that aspect when severed from the whole: a lung on a bench is merely an air pump (even when supplied with blood). Both molecules and atoms are qualified by the physical aspect, bodies, organs and cells, by the biotic, and countries, counties and shires, by the spatial. But the relationship between cells and molecules is not part-whole, because they are qualified by different aspects. The relationship between nation and country is also not part-whole. Even the relationship between tree and forest is not part-whole because the tree retains its biotic qualification when not in the forest.

Enkaptic relationships are a structural relationship between things that are usually qualified by different aspects. Dooyeweerd used the example of the sculpture of Dionysus and Achilles to illustrate this. It is a category error to say that marble is part of the sculpture. There are three things in the sculpture, which are bound together: the marble (physical), the work of art (aesthetic) and the bodies of the two people (biotic). Dooyeweerd calls this an enkaptic relationship, drawing on the idea of enkapsis found in biology. Once Dooyeweerd had begun along this road, he discovered several types of enkaptic relationship (for which we cite examples Dooyeweerd used, and an example relevant to economics):

The fallacy of composition arises when an enkaptic relationship is treated as a part-whole relationship, because of the different main aspects qualifyiing the two entities. Asking what makes each kind of entity meaningful (its profile of aspects) helps us overcome it and understand which type of enkaptic relationship might be operating.

8-2.4 Relationships in Functioning: Subject and Object

Summary: Things function as subject and/or object in various aspects, often mixed. This offers a useful enrichment of the well-known subject-object relationship.

In addition to structural relationships, necessary for each type of thing, there are also relationships that occur in time as we function, notably the subject-object relationship. We need to understand this to fully understand economic activity: who does what with what.

In common usage, the English word "subject" seems to signify two things: active agent, and subject to authority or law. From the perspective of the Nature-freedom ground-motive, these seem almost opposite: active agent as free; subject to laws as unfree. Dooyeweerd, who rejected that ground-motive, brings them together: to be agent, in any meaningful sense, is to be subject to aspectual laws that make agency possible. For example, the activity of writing is made possible by subjection to the laws of the lingual aspect.

An animal can be subject in all aspects up to and including (at least) the psychical, a plant to the biotic and a a rock etc. up to the physical. Humans can be subject in all aspects, including those we share with animals, plants and rocks. Our very temporal existence and activity is constituted responding to aspectual laws; this is why Geertsema [2021] calls humanity Homo Respondens. All subjects bear responsibility in the aspects in which they act as subject: human beings in all aspects.

We treat organisations as subjects, saying "the XX company produces pitch; the government passed this law; the nation went to war; humanity is destroying the earth." Strict Dooyeweerdian philosophy would restrict being-subject to individuals, but Breems has introduced the idea of proxy subject. He initially did so for computer programs, but it applies also to organisations and institutions. Strictly, it is the humans who lead such organisations who are the subject actors, but we can validly say that the organisations they lead act as subjects. Acting as subject, they also share responsibility.

In conventional thought, the noun "object" is almost a synonym for "thing" or "entity", with a connotation of not being human, so a stone is called a physical object. To Dooyeweerd, by contrast, the stone is a physical subject, in that it is subject to, and acts as agent in, the laws of the physical aspect. An object, to Dooyeweerd, is any thing that is involved in some subject's functioning. For example, when we buy or sell a stone, it fulfils the role of economic object.

Being object or subject is not inherent in the thing but a role it plays. Anything can take the role of object in something else's subject functioning, even humans, and the role might be different in each aspect.

Examples: 1. A mineral can functioning economically as a resource that is bought or aesthetically in its beauty in being admired, but the mineral cannot buy nor admire. 2. Human beings bought and sold in slavery, or treated as "human resources" in today's businesses.

Treating people as economic objects is usually seen as evil, but it is not the objectivization that is evil, so much as the aspectual functioning itself that denies a thing its due. (Buying and selling human beings: compare slavery with payihg fees to transfer footballers or head-hunted senior managers. Likewise, treating houses as merely investments.) There is no inherent harm in that, we suggest, as long as those buying and selling do not treat humans as merely resources nor houses as primarily investments. The harm occurs when we neglect and transgress other aspects - doing injustice to people, lacking love and generosity and mercy towards them, believing them to be mere chattels, not relating to them, not communicating, not encouraging their inherent creativity, ignoring their health, and so on. In slavery the evils and dysfunction in those aspects was immense and extreme, and that is why slavery was and is rightly utterly condemned.

There are two ways of being a objects, which Basden [2020] calls prior and generated. Prior objects are those already in existence before the subject functioning begins, such as a pen in writing. Generated objects are those that come into being during and because of that functioning, for example, sentences in writing. In economic functioning, goods sold and the money used are prior economic objects, but if the money is insufficient, then a debt comes into existence; it is a generated object.

Dooyeweerd's reinterpretation of subject and object help us address several problems in economics, as discussed below.

8-2.4 Causal Relationships and Stakeholders

Summary: Stakeholders of economic systems or activity are either affecteds or affectees, and this might vary across aspects.

The idea of stakeholder - someone who has a stake in a system, enterprise or activity - is becoming increasingly important in economics. So, for example, in a mining operation, the mine owners, the mine workers, the customers, the machine manufacturers, the local authority, the local people or community, the local environment, and its flora and fauna, as well as various other parties, are all stakeholders. Stakeholder economics is increasingly replacing mere shareholder economics (who are only one type of stakeholder).

Systems thinking differentiates two types of stakeholder, affectees and affecteds. Affectees are those who affect the operation of the system, such as mine owners, workers and local authorities; affecteds are those affected by its operation but have little affect on it, such as local community, environment, flora and fauna.

At first sight, it is tempting to explain the difference between them as that of subjects and objects (in the ordinary sense, of those with and without agency or power), but this is inappropriate because it is a causal relationship, nor a subject-object one. But it is more than the usual idea of causality as seen in physics (one stone, hitting another, makes it move) because it involves responsibility in the affectee for repercussions on the affecteds. The concept of stakeholders is helpful here because it implies responsibility and values, (normativity; Good, Harmful, Useless).

Dooyeweerd's notion of subject and object linked to aspects is useful here because, being grounded in aspects, it ensures that normativity and responsibility are inherent rather than bolted on, and it offers more precision than the amorphous ideas of subject and object that conventional thinking offers.

8-2.6 Concluding Remarks about Dooyeweerd's understanding of Things

Summary: Dooyeweerd's understanding of things offers richness and overcoming the Is-Ought dichotomy.

Such an understanding of things (entities, processes, stuff), in terms of aspectual profiles, has further philosophical implications. One is that it brings normativity and responsibility (and 'ethics') right into the heart of understanding things; each kind of thing has a mandate as well as a being and activity. This nullifies the problematic Is-Ought dichotomy that has long bedevilled economics. Another is that it indicates in what ways we should respect each type of thing, and maybe its 'rights' in law. Yet another is that it shifts our view towards functioning, away from mere being, in a way that matches reality - as perhaps evidenced by GDP 'working' for decades, as mentioned earlier.

We will now discuss how the problems laid out above may be addressed.

8-3. Addressing the Problems

Summary: The dozen problems arising from entity-orientation discussed earlier may be addressed and maybe resolved by this new understanding of entities.

This section needs critique. It has not been discussed anywhere else as far as we know.

We will attempt to address the problems identified above.

1. We can avoid making the fallacy of composition (treating one type of thing as too similar to another) by recognising that different entity types are primarily meaningful in, and governed by laws of, different aspects. As shown in the earlier list, they are very different between household and government, not least because government brings in aesthetic (harmony) and juridical aspects. With its juridical leading, which is post-economic, governments make laws or decisions about the currency used within its jurisdiction, which the household has no power over and must accept. Debt, therefore, is governed by different laws and norms in governments than in households.

2. Most structural relationships between things in economics are best understood as various types of enkapsis, with very few being true part-whole relationships. The relationship between money and gold coins or paper notes is foundational enkapsis. That between households and the economy is correlative enkapsis, in that the economy is constituted of all the transactions by households and firms but they are not its parts. That between a business and its customers is symbiotic enkapsis. That between a nation or government and its national bank is territorial enkapsis. Dooyeweerd's idea of enkapsis can help clarify thinking and theory about such things.

3. We can understand the relationships among levels of the economy by recognising that all function within, and by being subject to, the same suite of aspects. So there are aspects in common, but also aspects in which their functioning differs. Understanding the aspectual functioning of each level (micro, meso, macro, global) can clarify thinking and discussion. See fuller discussion of levels below.

4. Many paradoxes in economics arise from misunderstanding multi-aspectual functioning. Therefore, an entity-orientation will tend to obscure the root of the paradox, whereas an orientation to multi-aspectual functioning will tend to clarify and resolve them. See the section on paradoxes in Chapter 6.

5. Investigation into the nature of things is enhanced and encouraged by seeing them as defined or governed by aspectual structures of individuality, in that it stimulates curiosity and discussion about the role of each aspect in the being of the thing, and of the relationships each aspect has with others, especially those it depends on, in fulfilling that role. Thus, for example, the pistic aspect of belief was included in money, but how essential is that to its being money? The difference between the household and national levels seems vast (I had expected it to be similar in all aspects but one!); do we understand aright? This lends types of thing their richness and flexibility. Dooyeweerd's idea of structures of individuality allow a measure of freedom and variability among instances of a type. An aspectual understanding of the nature of things also inherently brings in normativity, that all things are meaningful and have a mandate.

6. In this rethink, we treat culture as society's functioning mainly in the ethical and pistic aspect. Instead of being accepted as some amorphous unchanging cloud hanging over us, an aspectual view allows it to be critically examined. We have discussed (in Chapter 6 especially, but throughout) how these impact all our other functioning, in a way that is usually attributed to culture. Insofar as this is appropriate, it suggests both that culture can change and that there can be hope. But it also shows how changes can occur, and makes clear that it is challenging (we need heart change: repentance, which is by no means easy).

7. Dooyeweerd's understanding of human beings is as multi-aspectual functors with heart. All theory and practice in economics should take this into account, and treat humans neither as self-interested rational actors nor as any supposed opposite whether as romantics, as mere species, as infinitely free achievers, etc. Instead of humans into two classes of Goodies and Baddies, an aspectual view leads us to recognise that all humans may be good in some aspects and bad in others. (x "Judge not, that ye be not judged" x)

8. Aspects provide a basis for judging the quality (goodness, badness) of things, in a way that goes beyond functionalism and subjectivism - as discussed in Chapter 5. We may distinguish two kinds of quality of a thing. One relates to its being a good instance of its type. Example: Why is it that a hospital bent on money-making is, intuitively, a bad hospital? It is because the main aspect(s), which defines the mandate of the hospital (biotic, ethical), are being forcibly replaced by and subjected to the economic aspect. Hospitals do, of course, function in the economic aspect, that is only in service to its two main aspects. The other is to do with its functioning in all aspects, and how well it contributes to Multi-aspectual Overall Good. A good bank is not just one that stores one's money or lends money and one can rely on (economic, pistic aspects) but one where the branch managers are part of the community, have a friendly attitude and explain things well to customers (social, ethical, lingual aspects), for instance - which are not essential to it fulfilling its type as bank.

9. From Dooyeweerd's view, nothing is sacrosanct - neither any firm nor any sector of the economy (x though all things are sacred: of value in God's eyes! x). Treating something as sacrosanct, such that we sacrifice other things to protect it or let it grow and dominate us, is idolatry, dysfunction in the pistic aspect.

Examples: An aspectual view both opens up the possibility that a prized sector can by shrunk or that a business can cease, and offers guidance on how these can be achieved without undue suffering. It also helps us understand normative reasons why such might be necessary for contributing to Multi-aspectual Overall Good at this time in history, in that it provides a basis for properly considering Harm and Uselessness (Chapter 7).

10. Likewise, greed and envy are revealed as dysfunction in the ethical aspect, along with the pistic. So aspect orientation gives reasons for resisting these.

11. Rights view things merely from the juridical aspect and ignore the ethical; responsibilities involve both, and an aspectual orientation makes it natural to consider responsibilities. This is why rights thinking finds it difficult to allow any value to compassion, love and "responsibilities and benevolence to others" [Simpson 1997]. Such things are meaningful in the post-juridical aspects, a meaningfulness of which a view solely from the juridical aspect can have no inkling. It is the post-juridical aspects that provide a basis for establishing priorities. That responsibilities are meaningful in post-juridical aspects makes them more fundamental than rights [Moyn 2016].

12. Stakeholders are understood as roles defined by aspectual functioning as both subjects and objects, and as affecteds and affectees. A full aspectual theory of stakeholders has yet to be formulated, but the following might point the way. Examples:

Dooyeweerd's treatise on the being of things, Volume III of Dooyeweerd [1955], sets out a satisfactory understanding of other still other issues, such as the 'becoming' of entities, including their becoming new types, and a penetrating discussion of The State. Whether there are problems in economics that these might address is not yet clear.

8-5. Levels in Economics

Summary: Microeconomics, macroeconomics, global economics, etc. are levels that need integrating into a single framework. Dooyeweerd can offer such a framework: each level is a functioning in different main aspects, which also defines its main responsibility for bringing Overall Good.

This section was written before the above and may need to be rewritten to suit it.

Economics discourse refers to individuals, households, firms, governments and global situations: micro, meso, macro, global economics. Traditionally they are taught separately, since different theories seem to apply at each level. This causes problems, as many are now recognising. Dooyeweerd's idea of aspects offers a basis for composing an integrated view of them all.

8-5.1 The Problem

Summary: Traditionally, economics is divided into micro and macro levels, but other levels exist, and many want to understand how levels all relate to each other.

The traditional division of the teaching of economics into micro versus macro is breaking down. The SNA 2025 exercise also finds that global economics cannot be treated as macroeconomics of nations. Though it may be convenient to teach them separately in university courses, in real life micro, macro and global interact and interweave and cannot be separated.

Many economists now recognise that the sharp division between the economics of households and nations, discussed by Keynes, Fisher and others, is becoming untenable. For example, the ECB has an expert group looking at how to link macro to micro [ECB 2020]. In their redesign of national accounts, the United Nations Statistics Department (SNA 2025) also recognises the need to integrate household economics with macroeconomics (e.g. "The importance of recognizing inter-household flows and stocks: These may be consolidated in the accounts as they may be less relevant from a macro-economic perspective, but they are of crucial importance in compiling distributional results" [WS2 SNA Guidance Note]).

Moreover, global economics cannot be adequately understood as the macroeconomics of nations. SNA 2025, which works primarily at the macro level, has a major Task Group dedicated to Globalization and how it differs from macroeconomics. For example, how do multi-national enterprises (MNEs) fit into national (macroeconomic) accounts and how may the importance of global natural resources be properly understood? Mark Carney struggles with this in his Value(s) book.

The nation state as we know it, and its macroeconomics, is not much more than a couple of centuries old, yet economic activity at all levels has long been with us, for more than 2000 years. Therfore we believe that it should be possible to find a way to understand them all together, in a way that does justice to individuals, households, organisations, nations and the whole Earth. To do so requires a conceptual framework that allows economic theory and practice to engage fully with what is meaningful at each level, without reduction, and with due respect for each.

We have not found such a framework in conventional economics and, though recent thinkers recognise the need for integration, we cannot find an adequate framework among them. The SNA exercise seeks this by reducing to detailed quantitative economic constructs. Carney, in offering the high-level idea of ESG (environmental, social, governance) values, points to an aspectual approach. We give this a more comprehensive and philosophically sound foundation using Dooyeweerd's aspects.

8-5.2 Main principle:

Summary: At each level, different sets of aspects are important. Since they are from the same set of aspects, we can expect integration is possible without denaturing any level. And new levels might emerge.

As suggested in Chappter 6, at each level of economics, different aspects are of primary importance alongside the economic and govern the way economic activity operates at that level. That all these aspects form one coherent set, and we can understand inter-aspect dependencies, means we can bring levels together, and motivates us to do so.

If we examine what happens in economic activity at each level, we find that activity is multi-aspectual, but that different sets of aspects are specially important for that level:

When such aspectual functions, laws, properties and issues are displayed together in relationship, some significant links between levels become evident, some of which might have been hidden in previous economic theory. One is between the individual and global, in juridical, ethical and pistic attitude and responsibility for the entire Earth. Another is the spatial aspect of household land and national territory. Another, which has been recognised, is the juridical link between organisations and nations in policy.

We do not claim those are the final sets of aspects at each level; others might modify those lists. However, what it shows is two things, which gives hope of a conceptual framework within which we may embrace all levels.

8-5.3 Operationalizing an Aspectual Understanding of Levels

Summary: The above theoretical view can be operationalized.

That Dooyeweerd's suite of aspects covers both individual, social and societal meaning and functioning (also alongside mathematical and natural functioning) together, all linked by inter-aspect relationships, makes it likely to offer a superb integrative foundation to bring micro, meso, macro and global economics together.

To develop and operationalize this in economic theory and practice has yet to be worked out in detail; research, experience (including mistakes) and discussion are needed, but the following notes might point the way.

Avoid reductionism. Do not try to reduce the operation of the various aspects to the common thread of the economic, but understand - give respect to - the full meaningfulness and laws of each aspect.

Recognise aspectual similarities. One is to recognise that functioning in an aspect is similar, whatever level it is at. Both households and nations usually operate spatially in the same way. Individuals, firms, national and global bodies function in the ethical and pistic aspects (with societal or globally-dominant attitude and mindset influencing individual agency and individual agency contributing to these [Note: Giddens' Structuration]).

Avoid misleading analogies. Such as has happened in the Fallacy of Composition and treating government debt as like household debt. At each level, different aspectual laws operate and also provide the norms for operating at that level. Though in each aspect we may find analogical echoes of others, we must avoid applying the laws of the analogy aspect to it. It is no use expecting that laws that apply to one level can are appropriate to understanding, predicting or guiding operation at other levels.

Do not think in terms of levels, primarily Instead, think in terms of functioning of each proxy-subject (household, community, city, nation, etc.), and also that of the human individuals who lead them and influence what they do, such as senior management in firms or members of parliament or lobbyists and media editors, especially articulate, charismatic individuals.

We continue working on this, and readers might wish to help us. See our discussion of micro-macro in SNA 2025.

8-5.4 Example of Multi-Level Analysis: The UK Dairy Industry

Humans drink milk from cows, as it provides many nutrients. In the UK a dairy industry has grown up to supply milk, which includes special modes of delivery including the doorstep 'milkman' (male or female) and a nationwide systems of collection from farms (which used to involve milk trains but now road tankers). So the UK populace is used to consuming milk, and dairy products like cheese and butter.

The dairy companies wanted to grow in turnover so they find new markets for their milk, and were pleased when they can sell milk in bulk to food manufacturers, which kept on finding new uses for milk, butter, cheese, etc. Ice cream was an early one, a non-essential that has become huge. The dairy companies wanted to secure supply so they enter into large contracts with farmers. They want to compete, want to grow larger than the next one with greater profits from the next one, so they squeeze the farmers contracting low prices. Dairy farmers cut corners in order to reduce the costs of production, sacrificing especially in animal welfare and environmental health. Meanwhile the UK populace consumes too much milk for their health.

A backlash against dairy is growing. Should we completely turn away from dairy? If we allow some dairy, how much and what kind? The first thing to look at is how much of each dairy product is non-essential. Then look at the role of mindset and attitude, the pistic and ethical dysfunctions of "affluent, arrogant and unconcerned" or "selfishness, greed and apathy" that grew up, at all levels.

At the level of individual and household we have expectations - many of surfeit of non-essentials. At the level of companies, we have presuppositions and aspirations that are arrogant or selfish, especially the dire functioning that is competition. Probably it would be right to shrink the dairy industry by 80%, more in the non-essential products like ice cream. Could not "A great day out for the kids" be had by other less damaging means?

8-9 Chapter Conclusion

# ===== tbw. # in Chapter 8, conclusion of chapter 8, say "This is not the final, or even complete. However, we believe it may well be more complete than most others." and what needs to be done.


Created: 11 January 2023 from xnr2, then edited. Last updated: 12 January 2023 intro edited; more headings. 25 January 2023 Presupps of money as abstract; ontol, human. 27 January 2023 budget battles; money as vote. 28 January 2023 t-down pejorative. 30 January 2023 "stealing the wealth"; inflation.; holocaust; brought in NO's comments. 31 January 2023 intro to entities, meaningfulness, type laws, etc; dealt with NO's comments. 3 February 2023 asps of uniform currency; levels named; no sacrosanct; responsibility, ordinary people; agreed prices. 8 February 2023 ontological strain. 15 February 2023 rw. 2 March 2023 summary. 7 March 2023 principles. 11 March 2023 intro. 13 March 2023 new intro to money. 16 March 2023 theft; Bullionism; Fallacy of Composition. 24 March 2023 idolatry expands; ordinary ppl. 27 March 2023 rw intro. 31 March 2023 a bit. 5 April 2023 Moved Trickle-down to r7-ghu. 20 April 2023 dairy industry. 15 May 2023 money new way. 19 May 2023 bit from r5. 26 May 2023 money as vote. 5 June 2023 new ch smy. 8 June 2023 new approach, smy, intro. 10 June 2023 stuff from r6. 19 June 2023 inflation to r5. 19 June 2023 things from r6. 21 August 2023 gov taxes incr harm. 31 October 2023 funing r.t. levels. 13 November 2023 money box. 15 November 2023 f8-money, how we see it. 18 November 2023 slanting arrows. 23 November 2023 farm as bz. 8 December 2023 new intro, and re. levels. 30 January 2024 why level-diffce valid? 31 January 2024 austerity. 7 February 2024 govt-household unequal. 28 March 2024 investment. 2 April 2024 complete rearrangement. Decided that this chapter must be to do with entities, as originally envisaged, but treated in a different way: problems or entity-orientation, then Dooyeweerd, then resolving the problems. 4 April 2024 Levels, taken from xn.rethink. 8 April 2024 moved pieces around according to the new headings. List of aspectual profiles. 9 April 2024 completed moving stuff. 12 April 2024 editing. 13 April 2024 editing, incl enkapsis. 17 April 2024 rw 8-1 to 12 points, each with examples. 18 April 2024 8-1 intro. 19 April 2024 8-3; rid old stuff; section summaries. 20 April 2024 Moved stuff to r5. 22 April 2024 stuff moved to r6, r3; removed ===; made contents. 10 May 2024 sacrosanct by asp. 14 May 2024 greed/envy, poverty, injustice. 16 May 2024 corrns.