Sunday, 13 July 2008

Social Credit and Existentialism

By: Socred - B.A., SCMP

The opening to the Social Crediter states that this journal is for “Political and Economic Realism”. The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate that the philosophy of Social Credit is not Realism, where truth is defined as conformity of thought with being. But that Social Credit is for “Political and Economic Existentialism”, where truth is “an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness”(Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge. 182). It is my view that Social Crediters adopted the philosophy of Realism in opposition to the philosophy of Idealism, thereby erroneously believing that they had overcome abstractionist thought. However; as Kierkegaard said, "let ideality and reality be in conflict forever and a day - as long as there is no consciousness, no interest, no consciousness that has an interest in this struggle, there is no doubt - but let them be reconciled, and doubt can continue just as actively." (Soren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments) Ideality and reality will never be reconciled in human consciousness where the possibility of doubt exists. In reality, realism does not negate abstractionist thought, but is merely another form of it.


"All progress in the world, and in some ways the world has unquestionably made progress, has been achieved by the recognition of the TRUTH, and the reason that so little progress has been made in the solution of social problems is, to my mind, because in this sphere alone truth has been ignored or denied." (Speech by Major C.H. Douglas at "The New Age" Dinner, March 18, 1933.) But what is the truth? If the truth is defined as conformity of thought with being, then the truth becomes an approximation-process that can never be completed in time. This is due to the fact that “all understanding comes after the fact”. (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 108) However; the individual is always in the process of becoming and as such is always incomplete. For the existing individual, there can be no finality. With this in mind, “then it will be evident that the idea of a persistent striving is the only view of life that does not carry with it an inevitable disillusionment. (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 110) The idea that truth is conformity of thought with being must inevitably bring disillusionment as we are forever waiting for “the truth to be revealed”. The TRUTH that Douglas refers to cannot be defined by philosophical Realism, but must be something else, since Douglas, and Social Crediters, would not want us to be disillusioned.

Douglas said that;“Systems were made for men, and not men for systems, and the interest of man which is self development, is above all systems, whether theological, political or economic.”(C.H. Douglas “Economic Democracy” pge 18). In my opinion, this statement is the essence of Social Credit philosophy and contradicts the tenets of Realism, because “the systemic Idea is the identity of subject and object, the unity of thought and being. Existence, on the other hand, is their separation. It does not by any means follow that existence is thoughtless; but it has brought about, and brings about, a separation between subject and object, thought and being. (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 112) If Social Credit is for Realism, and the idea that the truth is conformity of thought with being, or subject and object, then men must be made for systems, since the essence of the systemic Idea is conformity of thought with being. In other words, we must either accept the idea that the philosophy of Social Credit is Realism, and reject that systems were made for men, or we must reject the philosophy of Realism, and look for the truth somewhere else. "An existential system cannot be formulated. Does this mean that no such system exists? By no means; nor is this implied in our assertion. Reality itself is a system - for God; but it cannot be a system for any existing spirit. System and finality correspond to one another, but existence is precisely the opposite of finality." (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 107) Realism, and the finality of the correspondence between thought and being exists for God, but cannot exist for us spirits who exists in time, and are always in the process of becoming.

What is it to exist as a spirit? "Spirit is creative initiative." (Why I am a Social Crediter, Bryan Monahan pge. 9), and further, "spirit is inwardness, inwardness is subjectivity, subjectivity is essentially passion, and in its maximum an infinite, personal, passionate interest in one's eternal happiness." (Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 33) Therefore, spirit is not a form of objective knowledge which is essentially dispassionate, but is the ultimate form of passion for one's own eternal happiness. Man is essentially creative, and his creativity is a result of his passions. All systems seek to control man's passions, to destroy his creative nature, so that he may fit into the system. "It is, you see, a "live" problem, a spiritual problem, which is a conclusion that we Social Crediters have to some extent avoided, for the reason that, as a class, we possess that trained cast of mind that is intensely apprehensive of emotional excess." (Social Credit and the Christian Ethic Norman F. Webb) In other words, it is an "existential" problem, and a spiritual problem, which is something that the objective mind finds repulsive. This is not to say there is no value in scientific or "objective" knowledge. "No, all honor to the pursuits of science, and all honor to everyone who assists in driving the cattle away from the sacred precincts of scholarship. But the ethical is and remains the highest task for every human being. One may ask even of the devotee of science that he should acquire an ethical understanding of himself before he devotes himself to scholarship, and that he should continue to understand himself ethically while immersed in his labours; because the ethical is the very breath of the eternal, and constitutes even in solitude the reconciling fellowship with all men." (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 136) The scientist is not dispassionate about his work (one would hope!), even if he must not let his passions interfere with his observations or judgement. The doctor seeks a cure for cancer because he is passionate about saving lives! Douglas made observations in regards to economics and the monetary system because he wanted to better mankind! It is first and foremost an ethical decision which brings doctors to seek a cure for cancer, or brings Douglas to seek a better understanding of the monetary system.

The ethical decision is made by individuals through free will, and our ability to choose between good and evil. As Douglas said, "freedom is the ability to choose or refuse one thing at a time". Ethical man is constantly in the process of choosing between good and evil as he exists in time. Socialists believe that man is essentially evil, and will choose evil unless bound by the "laws" of an imposed system. This belief is also expressed in the theology of Puritanism. "Puritanism, as I said, is of the devil, clothing the very deepest and darkest passion of the human mind--the impulse to dominate over one's fellow mortals--in a moral disguise" Social Credit and the Christian Ethic Norman F. Webb) Social Crediters believe that man is essentially good, and given the freedom and subsequent responsibility to choose between good and evil, man will generally choose to do good. As Douglas said, it is " the object of Christ, to permit the emergence of self-governing, self-conscious individuals, exercising free will, and choosing good because it is good." (C.H. Douglas The Realistic Position of the Church of England) In order to maximize the good decisions that responsible individuals will make, we must allow them freedom to exercise their will, and make them responsible for the decisions that they make. Economic and political systems must first serve the individual, for the individual must never exist to serve the system. "The fundamental idea underlying Social Credit is that the community exists for the sake of the individual; that the development of industrial organization is for the sake of freeing the individual to the maximum practical extent from occupying his time in working in order to exist." (Bryan Monahan, “Why I am a Social Crediter”) It is individuals who comprise the community, and if they are making choices which are good for themselves, then generally these choices will be good for the community at large. If the existing individual is the vehicle through which good and evil comes into the world, we must seek the truth in the individual, and not in the objective correspondence between idea and being which exists only in God.

What is the truth? This question could not even be asked if it were not for the possible existence of untruth. It is human consciousness that brings the question of truth into existence because the essence of knowledge is doubt. However; doubt itself cannot lead to the truth, but only the question of the truth. Descartes' doubt led him to conclude "I think therefore I am", but this in an inversion of reality and the essence of idealism, for in reality "I am therefore I think". Truth is not to be found in doubt, but in existence itself. "For since it is a fact that the nearest the human mind and language can get to a statement of Truth is a paradox -- "For whosoever will save his life, shall lose it," and many others -- it is quite probable that the approach to a practical problem, even our very actions themselves, may require to be in a sense paradoxical in order to be sound. (Social Credit and the Christian Ethic Norman F. Webb) Because humans can never be the conformity of thought with being, any statement of Truth must appear to be a paradox, because the truth is not objectively known, but subjectively lived. "Inwardness in an existing subject culminates in passion; corresponding to passion in the subject the truth becomes a paradox; and the fact that the truth becomes a paradox is rooted precisely in its having a relationship to an existing subject." ( Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 178) The truth is that man is an ethical being who exists in time, meaning that the conformity between thought and being can never be resolved within him; however, through free will he is forced to choose between good and evil in a passionate embrace through faith that Truth is a paradox. The ultimate form of this paradox is that God, the eternal, existed in time in the persona of Jesus Christ. The doctrine of Incarnation is what presents itself as an absurdity to the Greeks and an offense to the Jews. “It is not too much to say that one of the root ideas through which Christianity comes into conflict with the conceptions of the Old Testament and the ideals of the pre-Christians era, is in respect of this dethronement of abstractionism.” (C.H. Douglas, Social Credit pge 22) The dethronement of abstractionism is not found in the conformity of thought with being, which is the essence of the systemic Idea, but in existence itself which holds that the truth is "an objective uncertainty held fast in an appropriation-process of the most passionate inwardness, the highest truth attainable for an existing individual." ( Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 182)

Realism, or the idea that truth is the conformity of thought with being, is, ironically, unrealistic because it can only be realized by God. Existentialism, which concludes that conformity of thought and being can never be realized for an existing individual, is more realistic than the philosophy of Realism. Social Credit, in order to protect itself from rationalization of the system, and to uphold the belief than systems were made for men, must reject the philosophy of realism, and accept the philosophy of existentialism, because "an existential system cannot be formulated"( Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 107). Idealism, which seeks the conformity of reality with thought, and realism, which seeks the conformity of thought with reality are in essence two sides of the same coin, and both are the essence of the systemic Ideal. I believe that existentialism, which rejects all systemic thought, and begins with the questions of what it is to exist as a human consciousness in time is in actuality the beginning point for a Social Credit philosophy, because in essence it represents the ideals of the society Social Credit seeks to create which is that systems were made for man.

10 comments:

Jal said...

Problem with non-correspondence (i.e. non 'realist')theories of truth: could they be true? Either they are true because they correspond with the facts of our usage of the word "true," or they are true with reference to some other criterion--presumably their own.

Now if I were to say "A statement is true if and only if belief in it is empowering," I am either saying that empowerment=truth, or merely "empowerment=empowerment(which I propose to call "truth" from now on)." In the first case, if the standard, correspondence theory of truth is assumed, the statement is false, because "truth" does NOT mean "empowerment"; on the second, I am merely redefining the word "truth," and the result is no more informative than if I had said "bananas" and "apples" instead of "truth" and "empowerment:" bananas would still be bananas, and apples, apples.

Kierkegaard, of course, plays with an ambiguity sometimes present in our useage of "truth:" for him, factual (correspodence) truth doesn't matter; what does is to be "in the truth"--i.e., to truly believe in something. This is the whole significance of his notion of "inwardness": radical subjectivism. He happened to "believe" in Christianity, but what would he say to a Muslim, assuming he grants the latter the same degree of inwardness? He'd have to become a liberal relativist: "this is my truth; that's yours."

But now suppose Kierkegaard died and appeared before God. God says: "Soren! what I hate above all is self-deceit and intellectual dissimulation. In life I gave you no good reason at all to believe in my existence, but rather than reasoning honestly you insisted on playing paltry word-games and squandering the intellectual gifts I gave you. Prepare for eternal damnation!" Now, my question is this: would Kierkegaard say "No matter! I was in truth all along and nothing God Himself can say will change that. I stand vindicated!" Or, would he be forced to realise his error..?

Douglas was a great economist, but his excursions into philosophy are nonsense, and have no bearing on the validity of his proposals. People will not take Socred seriously until we reclaim it from the League of Rights and other loopy "I'll believe whatever makes me feel special" cults.

Socred said...

Problem with correspondent's theories on truth is that they are forever waiting for "the truth to be revealed". Ideality is not reality, and the correspondence of thought and being is only realized for God. I know that some people like to pretend they are this being, but for us poor souls who are always in the process of becoming via existence in time, this "correspondence" never takes place.

You have misinterpreted Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard does not say that "factual correspondence" between thought and being "doesn't matter". In fact, he says ""No, all honor to the pursuits of science, and all honor to everyone who assists in driving the cattle away from the sacred precincts of scholarship. But the ethical is and remains the highest task for every human being."

The closest that human knowledge, or "correspondence", will ever come to the Truth is a paradox. What made Kierkegaard a Christian is belief in the ultimate paradox - Jesus Christ and the doctrine of Incarnation. For Kierkegaard, truth begins with the ultimate paradox that God, the eternal, existed in time in the persona of Jesus Christ.

In terms of Truth, my path to it will most definitely differ from your path, and someone else's path. That does not mean the destination is different, but the path to reach that destination varies from individual to individual. Our relationship with God (i.e. the universal Truth) is completely individual in character.

As to your question, God is the Eternal truth, and Kierkegaard recognizes that fact. For God, there is correspondence between thought and being, because God is eternal. The most an existing human being can hope for is an individual relationship with God in the form that the truth will always present itself as a paradox.

As for your last comments, what writings of Douglas are you familiar with? And what in anything that I have said, or that Douglas said, has anything to do with "whatever makes me feel special" cults? Please point it out to me? What makes the Australian League of Rights "loopy"?

Socred said...

I wanted to add one more comment.

Douglas said that his theories were much more than a scheme for monetary reform, and that his proposals were a "policy of a philosophy", which means that the Social Credit policies derive from a philosophy.

What Douglas had to say about philosophy (and remember this article is mostly about what Kierkegaard had to say about philosophy, the article was an attempt to demonstrate the similarities between the two ideas) is fundamental to Social Credit, so what he said in these regards is fundamental to Social Credit and the validity of his proposals.

Jal said...

It's one thing to say we can never have perfect knowledge and quite another to say that we can have no knowledge (i.e. correspondence of "thought with being") whatsoever. Let's stick with the fruit example: suppose there's a banana on the table. If I say "there is a banana on the table" I'll be making a true statement because the word "banana" corresponds to the thing banana. Likewise, the sentence taken as a whole describes a state of affairs out there in the world, independent of my individual consciousness. If I said "there is an apple on the table," an there wasn't, well, I'd be making a false statement because THERE ISN'T.

To accuse me of playing God would only be just if I had said that we can have absulutely certain knowledge of empirical propositions, which I didn't, and no-one does. This is a straw-man argument. Do you know of Gettier's paradoxes? I think they would interest you. What they prove is that knowledge is something other than than true, justified belief; in other words, that a theory of knowledge need not entail a theory of justification. I would say that my belief in the banana being on the table is true because it is CAUSED by the mind-independent state of affairs in question . Whether I can ever be certain that it is not caused instead by an aberrant brain-state or a conjuring trick is another question.

The moral: truth and certainty are different things, and neither can guarantee the other! It is precisely because we are finite beings that we should be prepared to humbly accept that no amount of inner certainty guarantees the truth of anything in which we might believe.

RE. your second post, I have read Economic Democracy, Warning Democracy, The Monopoly of Credit and Social Credit. Is that enough?
I know Douglas said his economics was the "policy of a philosophy," but does that mean we must either swallow his thought whole, or else reject it in its entirety? That sounds like a sectarian--indeed, fanatical--proposal, and I reject it; though I do maintain that Douglas' A+B theorem and his critiques of finance and orthodox economics, are true. I also maintain that his proposals of the just price, the national dividend, producers banks, etc., ought to be adopted. Why must I accept some obscure(-antist)epistemology as well? Please explain.

Socred said...

Kierkegaard never said that we can't have any knowledge, nor did he say that scientific and objective knowledge is useless. These are things you've read into the essay and Kierkegaard that simply are not there. I put forward the following quotes from Kierkegaard that are in the essay.

"No, all honor to the pursuits of science, and all honor to everyone who assists in driving the cattle away from the sacred precincts of scholarship. But the ethical is and remains the highest task for every human being. One may ask even of the devotee of science that he should acquire an ethical understanding of himself before he devotes himself to scholarship, and that he should continue to understand himself ethically while immersed in his labours; because the ethical is the very breath of the eternal, and constitutes even in solitude the reconciling fellowship with all men." (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 136)

" It does not by any means follow that existence is thoughtless; but it has brought about, and brings about, a separation between subject and object, thought and being. (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 112)

I could supply many more if needed. Kierkegaard does not reject scientific or "objective" knowledge, but merely places the proper limitations upon it.

I never accused you of playing God. Again, this is something your read into my reply. I merely said, "some people like to pretend they are this being". Are you one of these people? I don't even know you.

The Truth is that conformity of thought and being exists only for God. Existence as an individual spirit brings about a separation of thought and being, or subject and object. In other words, the conformity of thought and being can only exist for the eternal, because it must have finality. For us poor souls who exist in time, there is no finality, and no correspondence between thought and being.

"Immediacy is reality; language is ideality, consciousness is a contradiction. The moment I make a statement about reality, contradiction is present, for what I say is ideality." (Soren Kierkegaard, "Philosophical Fragments" pge. 168)

While I see you've read a number of books on Social Credit, you should also be aware that Douglas warned against viewing Social Credit as merely a scheme for monetary reform. While monetary reform is a key component to Social Credit, it is merely one component, and the nature of Douglas' monetary reform schemes derive from his philosophy. Communists and Nazis were also "monetary reformers" in their own way, and what separate Social Crediters from other would be "monetary reformers" is its philosophy.

“Systems were made for men, and not men for systems, and the interest of man which is self development, is above all systems, whether theological, political or economic.”(C.H. Douglas “Economic Democracy” pge 18).

By the way, do I know you? Or is this the first we've met?

Jal said...

As far as I know, we haven't met, though I have found your previous blog posts interesting and edifying. I am sorry if my comments seem pugilistic or unfair; perhaps I should be more tactful.

What I would say in justification of my reading of Kierkegaard is that, like many controversial thinkers, he can be interpreted in a strong/interesting sense, or a weak/uninteresting sense. In the strong sense he is actually proposing a kind of pragmatist theory of truth. I don't have any of his works to hand to quote from, but the "Speech in Praise of Abraham" from Fear and Trembling comes to mind. It begins "If there were no eternal consciousness in man..." and he goes on to list the depressing consequences of denying immortality. The he concludes, as though this were an argument, "Precisely for this reason it is not so." In other words, he is saying that religious truth (never mind the other kind) is accessible to inward feeling, and that the evidence of this feeling is irrefutable. What this ignores is that the inference as to the cause of this feeling (i.e. the existence of God) is just that: an inference. It may be irrefutable that he has this feeling, but is remains to be seen that his inner certainty is justified by the facts. So the Christian doctrines he attempts to prove by appeal to subjective evidence--which is really just the will to believe-- remain conjectures subject to disproof.

You tend toward the same kind of pragmatism in your essay, if I may say so, when you assert (from memory) that "Douglas and the Socred theorists would not want us to be disappointed"--as though the truth is never disappointing! This is really to identify the truth of a statement with the subjective usefulness of believing it, as William James and the pragmatists wished to do.

Granted that the subject/object divide makes the concept of knowledge problematic, I don't see how redefining truth helps matters. You have said "the closest that human knowledge will ever come to the truth ... is a paradox." Well, my problem with this statement is twofold. Firstly, I think you are confusing the concept of truth with that of fact. True beliefs\statements don't correspond with truth, but with the facts in virtue of which they are true. truth, then, is not an intrinsic but a relational property, and as such we should not be surprised if we cannot "possess" it. Secondly, what is so paradoxical about truth? I can't understand Kierkegaard's or your assertion to this effect, unless it means that we can never KNOW that we know the truth. And it's a long way from there to believing in the divinity of JC! I suspect that, Kierkegaard's sublime rhetoric aside, he is really saying that, since all truth is only approximation and uncertainty, no one has the right to tell him his religion is wrong!

Socred said...

Hi Jal:

I apologize for the tardiness of my reply. It's the season to take holidays.

I've seen nothing that you've said that could be construed as insulting, so don't worry about it. In fact, I'm honored that you've taken the time to read some of the essays I've written.

I still think there's a huge misunderstanding in regards to Kierkegaard's thought judging by your response.

Kierkegaard never attempts to "prove" the existence of God. In fact, Kierkegaard was quite critical of the "ontological proof" for God's existence.

I never said that Douglas wouldn't want us to be "disappointed", I said that Douglas would not want us to be "disillusioned". An objective search for the truth is disillusioning, because we can never attain it.

When Kierkegaard states that the truth is subjectivity, he is stating that knowing the truth is less important that HOW one lives one's life in regards to the truth.

There is quite a bit of confusion in regards to Kierkegaard's thoughts, because as you say, he tends to be less read.

I found a very good website which shows the essence of Kierkegaard's thoughts in a very concise fashion.

The website is:

http://www.uri.edu/personal/szunjic/philos/conclud.htm

Socred said...

Second comments.

You say that the truth is relational property. I agree, but what is the relationship, and what brings it about?

If you believe that truth is conformity between thought and being, then the relationship is obviously between reality and ideality. As Kierkegaard says, "Immediacy is reality; language is ideality; consciouness is contradiction. The moment I make a statement about reality, contradiction is present, for what I say is ideality." (Soren Kierkegaard, "Philosophical Fragments") The thing that brings about the relation between ideality and reality is human consciousness. Further, "and the fact that the truth becomes a paradox is rooted precisely in its having a relationship to an existing subject." ( Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript pge 178)

It is the fact that the relation between reality and ideality is brought about by human consciousness, which at its root is "interested", is what makes truth a paradox. The ultimate paradox being that God (the eternal) existed in time in the form of Jesus Christ.

For Kierkegaard all truths are paradoxical, and the ultimate Truth, is the ultimate Paradox, which is Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as an ultimate Saviour in an INFINITE spiritual universe. To try, and limit it to some Being is an absurdity not worth considering.

Socred said...

What is infinity?