#3: Investment

It suffices to point out for this first exposition of the model that reciprocity is an essential requirement of the relations among any and all sub-things which we will understand as composing an ensemble. However, the concept of reciprocity only represents the formal essence of another concept that has become at once a ubiquitious but diversely-employed and contested concept across the human sciences. What is here defined as reciprocity is the essential relationship that modern economics knows as investment. If an investor invests in some new enterprise, the lender and borrower do not compose a durable ensemble of things unless the borrower earns enough money to at least pay the lender back. If the borrower doesn’t pay the lender back then there remains only a borrower and an insolvent, disappearing lender. 

The connection to economics is only worth mentioning so early in the exposition because it will be highly significant later that one of the most simple relations between things is captured with such theoretical sophistication in modern economic theory. As Marx points out, for the sake of efficiency modern capitalism hardly hides its processes. Because it lays bare the motion of society so frankly, its laws become a wealth of insights into even pre-capitalist formations. Thus, none of this should be taken as implying “economic reductionism,” but rather quite the opposite. The modern economic conception of investment is only a very partial, ideological rendition of the basic—and much more parsimonious—pre-“economic” insight into a formal requirement of things in general, economic or otherwise. Namely, that for two things to endure as a system with only one supply of energy, any transfer of energy from one thing to the other must find a return route. Later in this work, it will become clear that capitalism is simply one historically specific but highly evolved and integrated organization of hierarchical institutions the essential characteristic of which is that it makes possible infinite deferrals of true reciprocity via ceaseless forms of leveraged investments.

Thus far, we have presupposed nothing concerning why, how, or when things plug into one another. The goal has been only to establish a parsimonious framework for theorizing the existence of things in a language that is at once deeply intuitive and draws credence from being at the intersection of several fields of knowledge. But why should we expect things to have plugged into one another in the ways that they have in the course of natural history? In other words, what does the framework developed here offer in the philosophically and/or scientifically rigorous study of the world?

We are now in a position to show that the framework developed here, almost childish in its return to the most basic premises because it synthesizes such basic lessons from diverse disciplines—enables a surprisingly simple yet potent set of deductions for explaining rather than just describing the nature of things.

At any point in time, what we call the world is only the sum of all things. A diagrammatic image of the world would depict so many things within variable ensembles. By pursuing implications already contained in our exposition so far, it is possible to understand how and why, historically, things have plugged into each other in certain ways. If physics, geometry, and electrical analysis are all so many partial angles on the essential nature of things, the modern theory of evolution is only one more.

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Murphy, Justin. 2012. "#3: Investment," https://jmrphy.net/blog/2012/06/10/24781335024/ (December 14, 2018).