Monday, October 17, 2005

Critique of Contemporary Technology and Economy

Lecture 8 questions. And after this, paper time! I have an odd process for paper writing, which mostly occurs unconsciously. I read and take in as much relevant material as I can. I then occasionally think of the subject of the paper and consider some approaches. However, most of the processing isn't conscious until I actually start writing the paper. When I actually start typing, the thing comes out in almost a single stream, with perhaps a few short stops to regain my bearings.

As a former composition instructor, I know this is not the way the writing process is supposed to work, and I've certainly revised some essays given adequate time. A single paper assignment in a semester doesn't really provide adequate time. So I'll just stick with my own stewing method, thank-you-very-much.

What are the two reasons for preserving and cultivating our material environment?

One is practical. We need biodiversity because our ability to transform and use what is available in creation is directly connected to the availability of diverse species. We can't use what is no longer present in our environment (fossil fuels being the exception... sort of).

The other is aesthetic or contemplative. Through the beauty and wonder of biodiversity (that is, through creation), we come to understand the Creator. We can look at creation and ponder why the Creator saw fit to do what he has done. Contemplation of the beauty of creation gives us access to God's wonder, and through that wonder we can come to a greater understanding of God's nature.

Why is economics the architectonic technology?

I had to look at the definition of architectonic before responding to this.

Philosophy. Of or relating to the scientific systematization of knowledge.

And that tells me in relation to technology, so I thought that the other part (technology) of the compound might be key to understanding. Indeed it is.

The scientific method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective.

(ASIDE: I think I'm beginning to reveal the unfortunate influence of analytical philosophy on my methods. I really like to understand the definitions of terms before I begin a proposition.

And by that I mean a philosophical proposition.

Shame on you.)

So, economics is the "scientific systematization" of "method and material used to achieve a commercial or industrial objective."

Essentially, technology is tactical. It deals with the interrelationship of resources toward a specific and often short-term end. Economics is strategic. It deals with the use of tactics toward a greater end. While tactics (technology) are geared toward solving specific problems, strategy (economics) are geared toward meeting a long-term end. Technology provides tools. Economics provides intelligence to use tools toward a long-term end.

What is the role of the fine arts in life?

Fine arts address the contemplative needs of people. While we have many practical means to address basic human needs, we have fewer means to address higher needs—the need to find a greater meaning to life than mere day-to-day existence, the need to understand our own being and the nature of the being who gives us existence. Fine arts help to take us out of our everyday existence and allow us to dwell in a realm outside of the practical, to transcend the basic needs and attend the higher intellectual needs.

Why are both socialism and capitalism inadequate economies to achieve the common good?

Socialism, depending on its form, either gravitates twoard totalitarianism (communisim) or toward utopianism (anarchism). I've sometimes thought (mostly in my prerervsion days) that some kind of anarchosynidcalism might work. However, anarchism is predicated upon the overly optimistic notion that people will be able to consent disinterestedly or at very least make bargains to ameliorate any unbeneficial arrangements. Frankly, people tend to be too selfish to act in a just fashion unless compeeled to do so by some kind of authority (the Spanish anarchism of the civil war notwithstanding. Tell the martyrs of the faithful that their interests were being respected). Such a system makes human dignity a matter of common consensus. When times become difficult, the value of human dignity degrades because there is no objective standard upon which it is based.

Communism claims the interests of "the people" but does so by degrading the value of the individual. It gives "the people" some kind of groundless being, an operative term with no substantial definition, and turns it to the benefit of the governing beauracracy. Such a government makes human dignity a nonvalue.

Capitalism gives primary dignity to humans as beings who interact with a market. Outside of their market interactions, they have little our no value. In such a system, humans have value only as entrepreneurs or as consumers. Such a system commoditizes all human skills, reducing human work to a relative value, hence, human existence to one of mere quantifiable worth.

Why is private property a human right but one subordinated to the common good?

Private property is legitimate when it is geared toward the sustenance of an individual and his or her family. People have an obligation to work, hence, an implied right to work. Given this obligation, they must have the means to work. Property is one of the means (along with human potentiality) for work. So people have a right to property so long as that property is used in a productive fashion. Physical property is finite, which means that one person's holding of property limits the property available to others. If the person holding a property does not use it to produce goods for others and does not need it for personal sustenance, he deprives others of the ability to either use the land for sustenance or to use it toward the common good. Such a right, if it were absolute, would eventually come into conflict with the basic right and obligation of man to work. Given the primacy of the latter, the former must be subordinate.
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