Monday, 23 April 2018

St George's Day

Pictured: A typically happy Englishman.

A happy St. George's Day to all my reader!

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Persian Perplexity

Not sure the Microsoft Translator has quite got the point. But if the Trump crazy has indeed fucked your milk cow Bay mondem, there is surely yet another gripping Investigation in the offing. Stormy Daniels, move aside.

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Vanishing Concrete

A simple geometrical example will illustrate this. In order to determine and compare the areas of all rectilinear figures we split them up into triangles. Then the triangle itself is reduced to an expression totally different from its visible shape: half the product of the base and the altitude.
It's that "totally different from its visible shape" that is weird: true, a 
does not look like a
but what of it? A lot of what, according to KM...
In the same way the exchange values of commodities must be reduced to a common element, of which they represent a greater or lesser quantity. This common element cannot be a geometrical, physical, chemical or other natural property of commodities [...] clearly, the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from their use-values.
Karl Marx "Capital Volume I" (1990) p127

So in abstracting the formula for the area of a triangle, I have extinguished all the triangles, made the triangleness of the triangles disappear?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Marx Out Of Ten? A TL;DR Production

The commodity is, first of all, an external object, a thing which through its qualities satisfies human needs of whatever kind. The nature of these needs, whether they arise, for example, from the stomach, or from the imagination, makes no difference.
Okey dokey.
The usefulness of a thing makes it a use-value. [It is] the physical body of the commodity itself which is the [...] use-value or useful thing.
Yeppity yep.
Exchange value appears first of all as the quantitative relation, the proportion, in which use-values of one kind exchange for use-values of another kind [...] A given commodity, a quarter of wheat for example, is exchanged for x boot-polish, y silk or z gold [...] clearly, the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from their use-values. Within the exchange relation, one use-value is worth just as much as another, provided only that it is present in the appropriate quantity [...] As use-values, commodities differ above all in quality, while as exchange-values they can only differ in quantity, and therefore do not contain an atom of use-value.
Good-o. As a kiddiwink I learned that 2 apples + 2 pears = 4, 2 hats + 2 pencils = 4, that 2 + 2 = 4 without reference to any physical objects. Within the exchange relation, as within the arithmetic relation, the material existence of a given commodity is not a consideration: 2 quarters of wheat exchanges for x boot-polish and z gold, or for 2z gold, or for x boot-polish and y silk, indifferently.
If then we disregard the use-value of commodities, only one property remains, that of being products of labour.
Well, we haven't disregarded use-value at any point, just agreed that it is not a consideration within the exchange relation. But, yes, another feature of commodities is that they are the product of human labour.
But even the product of labour has already been transformed in out hands. If we make abstraction from its use-value, we abstract also from the material constituents and forms which make it a use-value. It is no longer a table, a house, a piece of yarn or any other useful thing. All its sensuous characteristics are extinguished.
Wait, what? We have agreed to understand the exchange relation as an abstraction in which the use-value of a particular commodity is not a consideration. That "already" adds a temporal dimension: we are no longer within the exchange relation; we seem to be present at the slow-moving funeral procession
of use-value, witnessing the corpse being taken solemnly away, life and identity extinguished.
Nor is it any longer the product of the labour of the joiner, the mason or the spinner, or of any other particular kind of productive labour. With the disappearance of the useful character of the products of labour, the useful character of the kinds of labour embodied in them also disappears; this in turn entails the disappearance of the different forms of concrete labour. They can no longer be distinguished, but are all together reduced to the same kind of labour, human labour in the abstract.
Off to Boot Hill with specific human labour and use-value both, then? The simple operation of proposing that abstraction, the exchange value, seems to be having a vampiric effect. But when I accepted that 2 + 2 = 4, I did not drain the world of apples, pears, hats or pencils, nor of the distinct labour of the farmers, hatters or factory hands who grow or make them, any more than now when I accept the abstraction of the exchange value notion.

If I buy a pencil, say, I am certainly thinking of its use-value, which has not in any way disappeared or been extinguished from the commodity by virtue of its being in an exchange relation.

I am admittedly not thinking of the people who worked the pencil-making machines, nor of the people who designed or built them, nor of those who mined or smelted the ores that compose them, nor of those who made the graphite or the paint &c &c... call me inattentive.

Others did, though, pay individual attention to the myriads of people involved in making the existence of the pencil possible - trained them, hired, employed, promoted them and so on. They are only "reduced to the same kind of labour" by my human inability to pay attention to much at all at any given time.
Let us now look at the residue of the products of labour. There is nothing left of them but the same phantom-like objectivity;
the ghosts wafting around in the wake of the funeral procession... and Marx was a failed poet/playwright, could the outbreak of dramatic rhetoric in these last few paragraphs have some purpose to it?
                     they are merely congealed quantities of homogenous human labour, i.e. of human labour-power expended without regard to the form of its expenditure.
Ah yes, earlier to distract our attention from the inexplicable soul-reaving powers being taken on by the mere mental operation of 2 + 2, and now to disappear the use-value without disappearing the human labour, drawing attention away from the miraculous survival of one (albeit congealed) but not the other.
As crystals of this social substance, which is common to them all, they are values - commodity values [Warenwerte].
I have the feeling that this fraudulent (done by sleight of hand, masked by rhetoric, not established by argument) reduction of all commodities to nothing other than homogenised and congealed human labour (the warenwerte) is going to be the big thing in Volume I.
We have seen that when commodities are in the relation of exchange, their exchange-value manifests itself as something totally independent of their use-value. But if we abstract from their use-value, there remains their value [warenwerte], as it has just been defined. The common factor in the exchange relation, or in the exchange-value of the commodity, is therefore its value [warenwirte].
Karl Marx "Capital Volume I" (1990) pp125-28

Absurd, like asking after getting rid of those pesky apples, pears, hats, pencils etc and arriving at 2 + 2 = 4, "but please, Sir, what is 2 + 2 made of?"

It is an abstraction, there is no external "common factor" needed to in some way give it, or its terms, substance.

Scores on th'doors? 9/10 for entertainment, if nothing else. Sorry, that's a use-value... 9/10 for sheer bloody effort on Marx's part. No, not Karl Marx, that would be non-homogenised, ummmm...

Shall I plough on with the rest of the book? Ignoring the introductions, prefaces, appendices and so on, I have got to page 4 of 936.

If I do, I undertake not to paralyse the gentle reader with any more posting on the matter, and I am a blogger of my word,

And if you believe that, ...

Thursday, 12 April 2018


 Ficino remains of the same opinion as Plato and Galen: in the act of seeing, the "internal fire" is externalized through the eyes, mixed with the pneumatic vapor and even with the thin blood that engendered it. That theory is confirmed by Aristotle himself, who relates that menstruating women who look at themselves in the mirror leave little drops of blood on its surface. This can only mean that it is the thin blood brought to the eyes along with the pneuma.

Ioan Couliano "Eros and Magic in the Renaissance" (1987) p29

So the stuff (spirit, pneuma) of the eyebeams is generated in the heart, where blood is hottest and thinnest, and in a menstruating woman - who is up over the gunwales in blood - especially, this blood is carried along the eyebeams to anything the gaze rests on.

On first reading I found this suddenly depressing. The menstruating woman meme is not I suppose new with Aristotle, is here cited by Ficino in the late 1400s and presumably lurks around for another couple hundred years or so.

Over 2,000 years and nobody bothered to plonk a menstruating woman in front of a mirror and check the results, not even for a lark.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Surprising Footnote

Greece, 418 BC. The Argives and their allies march for Tegea, and the Spartans (aka Lacedaemonians) led by their king Agis come out in force to protect this vital city, meeting their enemy about ten miles north at Mantinea:

When the Argives and their allies saw them, they took up a strong, unapproachable position and formed ranks for battle; the Lacedaemonians advanced against them immediately. And they came within range of stones and javelins [...]

[Agis] suddenly led the army back at a rapid rate before it engaged. He went into Tegeate territory and began diverting into Mantinean territory the water that causes most of the fighting between the between the Mantinaeans and the Tegeates, since it damages whichever territory it runs into. His intention was to make the Argives and their allies descend from the hill toward the diversion of the water, whenever they found out and came to the defence, and to have the battle on level ground. And he spent the day here by the water, diverting it.

Meanwhile, the Argives and their allies were at first astounded by the sudden withdrawal from close quarters and did not know what to think; then, when the others disappeared after their withdrawal, and they themselves were keeping still and not persuing, they began blaming their generals all over again, both for letting the Lacedaemonians get away the earlier time when they were nicely trapped near Argos and now because they were running away, and no one was persuing [...]

Confounded for the moment, the generals eventually led them down from the hill and moved on into the plain, where they set up camp with the intention of attacking the enemy. The next day the Argives and their allies went into the formation they meant to fight in if they met the enemy, and the Lacedaemonians, coming back from the water [...] saw their opponents just ahead, not only positioned in advance of the hill but all in ranks already. At that moment, the Lacedaemonians were fully as startled as at any time within memory; they had little time to waste in preparing.

Thucydides The Peloponnesian War Book Five 65-66, trans S Lattimore (1998), p286
This is gripping enough without the excitement of a footnote: 

It would seem that Agis' ruse worked perfectly; yet the Spartans were caught off guard. HCT ad 66.1 provides full discussion of this problem and its possible solutions, e.g. that the Argives marched at night (Gomme) or were concealed by a wood (Andrewes). Neither of these is very convincing, nor is there any evidence for them in Thucydides; the crux of the problem is that he shows no awareness that the reader might be baffled, and this is inexplicable even in a rough draft.

Thucydides is clear that the Spartans march off out of sight of the enemy to dig the diversion. They certainly do not expect the Argives to abandon their strong position, which is why they take such a drastic measure to cajole them out. And, one assumes, it will take more than a few hours for the waters in their new course to be noticed and to start upsetting the Mantineans.

So, the Spartans are surprised, but (spoiler alert) they clobber the Argives anyway.

With so many scholars and only one Thucydides, maybe it is necessary to be baffled regularly in order to write up one's
new-found problems in learned journals: publish or die.

or were cloaked in an invisibility field by passing aliens for a laugh (Mr X)

Yes, this is an appallingly

                             Readers: Oh my, hasn't he shut up and gone away yet?

                                                        pointless post, but I have nothing much better to do at the moment.

I like the idea of the Tegeates and Mantineans bashing each other up endlessly about a water feature: nothing much better to do at the moment either.