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ethics, greed

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ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 18th, 2019, 9:54 am

Went to Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim (in NY) a while back. It was a focus mostly on his abstract sculpture, and it was spectacular, but it is the price tag that I want to bring up: somewhere in the vicinity of hundreds of thousands to million I would guess. An other Picasso piece, a truly great one, recently sold for 179 million.

This is not about art, it's about ethics: Money is not a thing, it is an embodiment of potential, and when we think of it, we think of what it could do. Yet we treat it as if it were a mere "it", a thing, when the numbers in a sale like the above are thrown out into the world of information/news. One way to reduce money to a thing is to talk about it as a thing. This kind of talk delivers us from the ethical entirely: potentials become things, and who could argue about acquiring things? So s/he bought a painting, so what?

Language does this, softens the outrageous nature of things all around us, like the clear and simple fact that 179 million dollars could probably deliver Baltimore (if spent wisely, not stupidly) from a great deal of it structural poverty and ignorance. Or, it could go into one person's pocket, for fun.


The danger of materialism: it is easy to treat others as objects when you have created a world of object indulgence. You may actually agree with this....but are you willing to agree that you, and I, are very likely, if not the worst offenders, certainly guilty as sin?

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by LuckyR » August 19th, 2019, 2:06 am

Hereandnow wrote:
August 18th, 2019, 9:54 am
Went to Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim (in NY) a while back. It was a focus mostly on his abstract sculpture, and it was spectacular, but it is the price tag that I want to bring up: somewhere in the vicinity of hundreds of thousands to million I would guess. An other Picasso piece, a truly great one, recently sold for 179 million.

This is not about art, it's about ethics: Money is not a thing, it is an embodiment of potential, and when we think of it, we think of what it could do. Yet we treat it as if it were a mere "it", a thing, when the numbers in a sale like the above are thrown out into the world of information/news. One way to reduce money to a thing is to talk about it as a thing. This kind of talk delivers us from the ethical entirely: potentials become things, and who could argue about acquiring things? So s/he bought a painting, so what?

Language does this, softens the outrageous nature of things all around us, like the clear and simple fact that 179 million dollars could probably deliver Baltimore (if spent wisely, not stupidly) from a great deal of it structural poverty and ignorance. Or, it could go into one person's pocket, for fun.


The danger of materialism: it is easy to treat others as objects when you have created a world of object indulgence. You may actually agree with this....but are you willing to agree that you, and I, are very likely, if not the worst offenders, certainly guilty as sin?
To your way of thinking, what's the alternative to "materialism"?
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 19th, 2019, 9:03 am

LuckyR
To your way of thinking, what's the alternative to "materialism"?
Materialism is easy to criticize, giving mere acquisition of material things the front seat in describing what a person should be about. It's not about just acquiring things, for that would made the saint's cry for water materialistic, wouldn't it. No, being a materialist prioritizes acquisition above all things. Nor is it a thesis about an economic system; that would be capitalism. It is a description of a mentality that desires things first and foremost.

By my thinking, there are better "things" than mere things. Materialism sets itself apart through exclusion, as do all conceptual categories (something cannot be what it is without it not being other things), and here, the values that get short shrifted, obviously, are the non materialistic ones. What are these? Reading philosophy or literature is an example. Or, walking down a country road, which can be an aesthetic wonderland, acquires nothing.

You likely have your own examples. But defending materialism does have the burden of explaining priorities.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by LuckyR » August 20th, 2019, 1:38 am

Hereandnow wrote:
August 19th, 2019, 9:03 am
LuckyR
To your way of thinking, what's the alternative to "materialism"?
Materialism is easy to criticize, giving mere acquisition of material things the front seat in describing what a person should be about. It's not about just acquiring things, for that would made the saint's cry for water materialistic, wouldn't it. No, being a materialist prioritizes acquisition above all things. Nor is it a thesis about an economic system; that would be capitalism. It is a description of a mentality that desires things first and foremost.

By my thinking, there are better "things" than mere things. Materialism sets itself apart through exclusion, as do all conceptual categories (something cannot be what it is without it not being other things), and here, the values that get short shrifted, obviously, are the non materialistic ones. What are these? Reading philosophy or literature is an example. Or, walking down a country road, which can be an aesthetic wonderland, acquires nothing.

You likely have your own examples. But defending materialism does have the burden of explaining priorities.
That is a commonish description of materialism, yet if followed strictly, almost no one I know would actually fit the definition.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Felix » August 20th, 2019, 3:00 am

Hereandnow: being a materialist prioritizes acquisition above all things. Nor is it a thesis about an economic system; that would be capitalism.
Don't the two go together, is there such as thing as nonmaterialistic capitalism?

Re: the price of art, I read a good book on this subject many years ago, entitled The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 20th, 2019, 11:48 am

LuckyR
That is a commonish description of materialism, yet if followed strictly, almost no one I know would actually fit the definition.
Commonish? I thought it simply clear.

No one you know fits it? To me, it's a bit like the way to show just how religious a person is: look to her actual daily affairs and preoccupations, not to how strong the insisting statements made are. A person who goes to church weekly, but spends the remaining waking time doing and thinking about business arrangements, say, is not a very religious person (regardless of whether she has much of a choice in the matter). I think a person who may otherwise have an interesting thoughts, but spends the majority of time thinking about how to make money to buy things for the house, garden, car, things to wear, a new cell phone, new running shoes, and otherwise possessed by the processes of getting these things,and CARES about these things genuinely, and this caring dominates--this person is a materialist.

I believe most people are like this. We live in an age that celebrates buying, filled mental space with choices that will dominate one's day, if the industry has its way. This is the way of capitalism, is it not? the focus being on the instrumental value of things that can be bought, that a person is willing to work for and contribute to system of circulating capital.

You have perhaps read about the "commodification of society" (Guy Debord, Marcuse's One Dimensional Man, and others), the making of living and breathing a trivial thing, a servitude to the Grand Masters of materialism, the hyperwealthy, who have an overriding interest in maintaining a certain kind of person, one who works for consuming, the paradigm for society. My thinking is that materialism a reductionism to the least important parts of being human and I ground this simply in the observation that the matter of being a person is far greater than what wealthy materialists want. This is an assumption that can be questioned.

It's not that a person doesn't have friends and family that are the focus of her thoughts and feelings; it's that the acquisition and possession of things is, if you will, the "house" of these thoughts and feelings, and it is a house that grows exponentially. Take an example: Modern technology has given us some very useful things, like the cell phone, the smart tv, and so on. What was once a marginal idea is now a dominant part of life. But what comes with these is a broadening of engagement requirements of individuals. In short, and this is not debatable in my eyes, the technology has created a technological mentality, forcing the individual to BE more like the technology (a thing!) in order to deal with it. The days of rocking back and forth on the front porch are over. No time, really. I mean, just reading through, responsibly, my phone bill (being a good and competent, that is wary, alert) consumer takes half an hour---lessee, three cells, packaged with at&t and direct tv, then there was that special offer that expired and the bill will increase.But wait, what is this new charge?....--I have to track down this new charge, call direct tv,wait for 20 minutes, and so on.

This simple rant of mine adequately makes the point. We live in (or, we embody) a pervasive system that "consumes" the consumer. There is no "out" to this as the system generates more and more self importance by "complexifying" the terms of engagement.

Materialism, the true opiate of the masses. We are surely become sleeping things.

You say you don't know anyone who fits the description I gave. And you're right, as it was stated. I hope this is better.

Thoreau once said to kill time is to injure eternity.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 20th, 2019, 5:22 pm

Felix:
Don't the two go together, is there such as thing as nonmaterialistic capitalism?
There certainly is such a thing as non capitalistic materialism. Materialism is, I think, state of mind, a way a person prioritizes her affairs. But the concept of the consumer is becoming more imposing: competent buyers sacrifice, unwittingly, everything to be so. Or darn near. Capitalism is a system of exchange of goods. I am a welfare capitlalist, but not so much a consumer given that I consciously reject the tendency to be one. Consumerism and materialism seen to go hand in hand: the more of a consumer one allows oneself to be, the more given to captialist engagements if the economic world is a capitalistic one. One can be a socialist and be equally interested in capital, but the possibilities are reduced given that revenues from taxes are high and this cuts into personal buying potential. Being a communist would make it tough: personal property is not supposed to exist unless you're talking about tooth brushes and socks. Perhaps a barter system?
Those are my thoughts on this.
Re: the price of art, I read a good book on this subject many years ago, entitled The $12 Million Stuffed Shark: The Curious Economics of Contemporary Art.
Curious indeed. I liked the presentation of the artworld in I think it was Netflix called Velvet Buzzsaw. It was not a very good horror movie at all. But the conversations about art were terrific: these people live in a place where the value of art is weighed against standards of worth that are eccentric and convoluted.

But the point I am presenting is how morally perverse greed is, but we go on ignoring this because, as with everything else, we are IN it, and judgment that is genuine has to come from outside. IN a system of values like ours we completely look away from the appalling features it has, an example being spending 179 million dollars on a Picasso, essentially on oneself in a time of great need by the least advantaged in society. Of course, rationalizing it is easy: if everyone simply refused to indulge in life's offerings until everyone was delivered from poverty, culture would collapse, as it did in the USSR. A GOOD point. But it does nothing to undo the dreadful moral irony of thinking more about the superstructure of playful indulgence that mesmerizes the consumer to the point where the suffering Other simply does not exist.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by h_k_s » August 21st, 2019, 12:25 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
August 18th, 2019, 9:54 am
Went to Picasso exhibition at the Guggenheim (in NY) a while back. It was a focus mostly on his abstract sculpture, and it was spectacular, but it is the price tag that I want to bring up: somewhere in the vicinity of hundreds of thousands to million I would guess. An other Picasso piece, a truly great one, recently sold for 179 million.

This is not about art, it's about ethics: Money is not a thing, it is an embodiment of potential, and when we think of it, we think of what it could do. Yet we treat it as if it were a mere "it", a thing, when the numbers in a sale like the above are thrown out into the world of information/news. One way to reduce money to a thing is to talk about it as a thing. This kind of talk delivers us from the ethical entirely: potentials become things, and who could argue about acquiring things? So s/he bought a painting, so what?

Language does this, softens the outrageous nature of things all around us, like the clear and simple fact that 179 million dollars could probably deliver Baltimore (if spent wisely, not stupidly) from a great deal of it structural poverty and ignorance. Or, it could go into one person's pocket, for fun.


The danger of materialism: it is easy to treat others as objects when you have created a world of object indulgence. You may actually agree with this....but are you willing to agree that you, and I, are very likely, if not the worst offenders, certainly guilty as sin?
Back in the days millennia ago when the ancient Lydians under Croesus coined gold and silver to create money, it was back then a tangible thing.

Today money is simply an intangible thing issued by central banks of governments.

At the microeconomic level it allows persons and firms to buy and sell.

And at the macroeconomic level it allows governments to tax persons and firms and to procure materiel and personnel for their governmental and defense activities.

The wealthy and their art collections are a mere fly spec in the big picture of money.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by h_k_s » August 21st, 2019, 12:27 pm

I enjoy the ancient Greek and Roman statues of foregone leaders like Leonidas, Pericles, the Caesars, and Constantine, all of whom have had a great influence on our lives today still.

The Getty Museum in north Los Angeles has many of these statues and busts. It was a delight to see them.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by LuckyR » August 21st, 2019, 6:17 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
August 20th, 2019, 11:48 am
LuckyR
That is a commonish description of materialism, yet if followed strictly, almost no one I know would actually fit the definition.
Commonish? I thought it simply clear.

No one you know fits it? To me, it's a bit like the way to show just how religious a person is: look to her actual daily affairs and preoccupations, not to how strong the insisting statements made are. A person who goes to church weekly, but spends the remaining waking time doing and thinking about business arrangements, say, is not a very religious person (regardless of whether she has much of a choice in the matter). I think a person who may otherwise have an interesting thoughts, but spends the majority of time thinking about how to make money to buy things for the house, garden, car, things to wear, a new cell phone, new running shoes, and otherwise possessed by the processes of getting these things,and CARES about these things genuinely, and this caring dominates--this person is a materialist.

I believe most people are like this. We live in an age that celebrates buying, filled mental space with choices that will dominate one's day, if the industry has its way. This is the way of capitalism, is it not? the focus being on the instrumental value of things that can be bought, that a person is willing to work for and contribute to system of circulating capital.

You have perhaps read about the "commodification of society" (Guy Debord, Marcuse's One Dimensional Man, and others), the making of living and breathing a trivial thing, a servitude to the Grand Masters of materialism, the hyperwealthy, who have an overriding interest in maintaining a certain kind of person, one who works for consuming, the paradigm for society. My thinking is that materialism a reductionism to the least important parts of being human and I ground this simply in the observation that the matter of being a person is far greater than what wealthy materialists want. This is an assumption that can be questioned.

It's not that a person doesn't have friends and family that are the focus of her thoughts and feelings; it's that the acquisition and possession of things is, if you will, the "house" of these thoughts and feelings, and it is a house that grows exponentially. Take an example: Modern technology has given us some very useful things, like the cell phone, the smart tv, and so on. What was once a marginal idea is now a dominant part of life. But what comes with these is a broadening of engagement requirements of individuals. In short, and this is not debatable in my eyes, the technology has created a technological mentality, forcing the individual to BE more like the technology (a thing!) in order to deal with it. The days of rocking back and forth on the front porch are over. No time, really. I mean, just reading through, responsibly, my phone bill (being a good and competent, that is wary, alert) consumer takes half an hour---lessee, three cells, packaged with at&t and direct tv, then there was that special offer that expired and the bill will increase.But wait, what is this new charge?....--I have to track down this new charge, call direct tv,wait for 20 minutes, and so on.

This simple rant of mine adequately makes the point. We live in (or, we embody) a pervasive system that "consumes" the consumer. There is no "out" to this as the system generates more and more self importance by "complexifying" the terms of engagement.

Materialism, the true opiate of the masses. We are surely become sleeping things.

You say you don't know anyone who fits the description I gave. And you're right, as it was stated. I hope this is better.

Thoreau once said to kill time is to injure eternity.
Well, there are things that are material and there are material things.

What I mean is that I do know folks who are obsessed about attaining things but those "things" tend to be necessities, ie their acquisition most would agree is not very optional. OTOH as folks acquire more discretionary income such that the necessities of life no longer need to be concentrated on (they happen with little to no effort), the purchasing of luxuries (what I believe you are addressing with "materialism") is given nowhere near the level of desperate emotionalism as those without the basics of Modern Life.

I don't believe you are addressing the reality that fun toys are... well... fun, as your criteria for being materialistic, for the purposes of this thread.
"As usual... it depends."

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Sculptor1 » August 21st, 2019, 6:29 pm

h_k_s wrote:
August 21st, 2019, 12:27 pm
I enjoy the ancient Greek and Roman statues of foregone leaders like Leonidas, Pericles, the Caesars, and Constantine, all of whom have had a great influence on our lives today still.

The Getty Museum in north Los Angeles has many of these statues and busts. It was a delight to see them.
Their influence was woeful.

We only enjoy our modern freedoms by the rejection and the challenge of the sort of political control that these tyrants wielded.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 21st, 2019, 10:03 pm

LuckyR

Well, there are things that are material and there are material things.

What I mean is that I do know folks who are obsessed about attaining things but those "things" tend to be necessities, ie their acquisition most would agree is not very optional. OTOH as folks acquire more discretionary income such that the necessities of life no longer need to be concentrated on (they happen with little to no effort), the purchasing of luxuries (what I believe you are addressing with "materialism") is given nowhere near the level of desperate emotionalism as those without the basics of Modern Life.

I don't believe you are addressing the reality that fun toys are... well... fun, as your criteria for being materialistic, for the purposes of this thread.
You have, unfortunately, put your finger on the nerve of this issue's deeper aspect.

First, the more apparent idea is I think a very good one: that because we, as a collective, have internalized a set of values that have dreadful moral contradictions which are all but ignored because attending to them would mean a dramatic alteration to what is habitually thought and felt. I look at the soccer moms and dads of society as post modern Marie Antoinette's, after all, why does history give her such a bad rap? Because she mindlessly flourished with misery all around her. This is what we do just going to the market. The difference? What is the difference between living in courtly bliss in Versailles, morally oblivious, as a queen, and living, morally oblivious, in Columbus, Ohio as an accountant? Granted, the queen has more power to do something, but this is really not the point: both live with the confidence that they are right, and their world is morally grounded, so they give very little thought to the matter of those least advantaged as a matter of habit. It is the familiarity that does the moral thinking, or lack thereof.

I say unfortunately because of the "fun" of living in post modern culture ( I say "post" just because it is rudderless, going where the winds politics and technology will take it) is a deeper issue. There is an assumption behind social critical theory that the fun we get out of the gadgets and various useful or whimsical things and activities is part of a cultural process intended to, as Morpheus of the Matrix might put it, take a person and transform her into one of these, pointing to a battery. Recall in the movie people had fun, but they lacked the truth of all the did and thought real. In the world we live in, our standards of what is well spent time are dictated by the commodification of our value system: it is things that can be made and sold that are fun. In such a system there is something nearly altogether sidelined: the faculty of reflective thought. The capacity to second guess and more deeply validate what we think about the world.

There is little "fun" in reflective thinking, yet it holds the key to the door of a higher consciousness of who and what we are. It is the kind of thing that manufactures little, books and magazines, and is more distant from "true believers" today's culture than it was to medieval peasants. Heidegger called it the "they", a crude set body of thought endlessly looking for fun as a cow looks for greener grass and following through with the immediacy of an instinct.

There is a lot that has been written on this. It started with Kiekegaard, perhaps, but it is a critique, these days, that shows no mercy to the way we buy and sell ourselves into a new "culture", one that thinks in a single, commodity driven dimension. It has peeked, it seems, in the multi tasking, nerdish obsession with gadgets, always the new model on the horizon, the next wave of entertainment. And no one knows it for what it is because we are always, already IN it, not unlike no one knew they were living our computer programs in the Matrix.

Of course,what is it, one would ask, that is missing? It seems like there is nothing to complain about and there accounts of modern achievements that dazzle the imagination. That cannot be told. Once a conscious mind has been enlightened by literature and philosophy and art in their nuanced appeals to our better selves, the question simply falls away.

This kind of thinking has been called culturally biased. But then: the one who knows both of two alternatives is the only one qualified to judge their relative value. Those who make the existential qualitative turn toward reflection never look back.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Hereandnow » August 22nd, 2019, 11:35 am

h_k_s
Back in the days millennia ago when the ancient Lydians under Croesus coined gold and silver to create money, it was back then a tangible thing.

Today money is simply an intangible thing issued by central banks of governments.

At the microeconomic level it allows persons and firms to buy and sell.

And at the macroeconomic level it allows governments to tax persons and firms and to procure materiel and personnel for their governmental and defense activities.

The wealthy and their art collections are a mere fly spec in the big picture of money.
As to what money has become and will become, I offer this speculative thought: currency loses its physical presence and will ultimately disappear. I think this more than likely, given the trends in our culture that move toward the virtual away from the physical. What remains, that is, what is distilled out of this once physical "intimacy" of exchange, is the exchange itself, qualified by greater and greater terms of abstraction. The exchange of goods will eventually be currency free and it will be the advent of a post-currency era in which quantification is more directly determined by output and "desert," what was one's "paycheck," is conceived by a computer analysis of one's abilities and needs as well as output,since, as the medium of exchange has been elimintated and replaced by a more direct and personalized evaluation. A fairer system.

This is a post capitalist, Marxism, of sorts.

As to the fly spec's perspective: It is a dangerous tendency we have acquired to think macroscopically at all. It takes the concept of the worth of a single person and obliviates it. It is the ugliest side of capitalism. I think economics itself is a waste of time as an institution in human affairs. A pure contrivance that manufactures meaning our of the thin air of quantifying the exchange of goods.

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by Felix » August 22nd, 2019, 2:35 pm

Hereandnow said: The exchange of goods will eventually be currency free and it will be the advent of a post-currency era in which quantification is more directly determined by output and "desert," what was one's "paycheck," is conceived by a computer analysis of one's abilities and needs as well as output,since, as the medium of exchange has been eliminated and replaced by a more direct and personalized evaluation. A fairer system.
Don't now why you presume that the quantification and commodification of human abilities would be fairer, I think it would tend to take us in the opposite direction. And it practically epitomizes the sort of macroscopic thinking you derided when you said, "It is a dangerous tendency we have acquired to think macroscopically at all."
"We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are." - Anaïs Nin

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Re: ethics, greed

Post by h_k_s » August 22nd, 2019, 2:46 pm

Hereandnow wrote:
August 22nd, 2019, 11:35 am
h_k_s
Back in the days millennia ago when the ancient Lydians under Croesus coined gold and silver to create money, it was back then a tangible thing.

Today money is simply an intangible thing issued by central banks of governments.

At the microeconomic level it allows persons and firms to buy and sell.

And at the macroeconomic level it allows governments to tax persons and firms and to procure materiel and personnel for their governmental and defense activities.

The wealthy and their art collections are a mere fly spec in the big picture of money.
As to what money has become and will become, I offer this speculative thought: currency loses its physical presence and will ultimately disappear. I think this more than likely, given the trends in our culture that move toward the virtual away from the physical. What remains, that is, what is distilled out of this once physical "intimacy" of exchange, is the exchange itself, qualified by greater and greater terms of abstraction. The exchange of goods will eventually be currency free and it will be the advent of a post-currency era in which quantification is more directly determined by output and "desert," what was one's "paycheck," is conceived by a computer analysis of one's abilities and needs as well as output,since, as the medium of exchange has been elimintated and replaced by a more direct and personalized evaluation. A fairer system.

This is a post capitalist, Marxism, of sorts.

As to the fly spec's perspective: It is a dangerous tendency we have acquired to think macroscopically at all. It takes the concept of the worth of a single person and obliviates it. It is the ugliest side of capitalism. I think economics itself is a waste of time as an institution in human affairs. A pure contrivance that manufactures meaning our of the thin air of quantifying the exchange of goods.
Macroeconomics helps us to understand why nations behave as they do. True, that they are cold and distant and unfeeling.

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