Friday, October 24, 2014

Money Wisdom #301


"Simmel’s concept of money is not an empirical entity. Rather, it is a regulative ideal which corresponds to the abstract notion of a ‘perfect society’ that Simmel explores in ‘How is society possible?' "

Nigel Dodd On Simmel’s Pure Concept of Money: A Response to Ingham in European Journal of Sociology / Volume 48 / Issue 02 / August 2007 pp. 273

My Review of 'The Social Life of Money' by Nigel Dodd

This review is on Amazon right here. If it truncates your blockchain please do pop over there and give it a thumbs up. Ta.
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I’ve reviewed a lot of books on money.

But I’m not an academic. If you want an academic opinion on ‘The Social Life of Money’ there are plenty of endorsements from the most respected academics on the back cover of this book. And if the academic status of those positively reviewing a book is your criteria for judgement, the decision is an easy one. Keith Hart says its ‘the most comprehensive book on money’ he’s ever encountered.

So in this review, I wanted to find a way to evangelize about ‘The Social Life of Money’ that might appeal to those who either, don’t find the prospect of a treatise on theories and ideas about money that exciting, or perhaps, feel that there is little they could learn about money from an academic sociologist.

I offer you a five point evaluation that I hope will persuade you.

Firstly don’t expect answers. There is no final reveal. Dodd is firmer on what money is not, than what it is.

Secondly, this is a book of theory. It demands an imaginative reader. It brings together ideas on the nature of social reality with money that I’ve never read anywhere else. So at some point, regardless of your intellectual heritage, you will be challenged to imagine something new.

Thirdly, despite the well-deserved high praise for the clarity and skill with which Dodd writes, reading it demands attention. It’s not going to be easy, so be prepared.

Fourthly. This is tricky. I’ve read and reviewed Dodd’s first money book ‘The Sociology of Money’ (1994) and his journal articles on money. And of course this book. What fires me up about his work - and this is very evident in the ‘Social Life of Money’ - is his focus on questions of money and epistemology, and money and ontology. Money is a difficult subject for lots of reasons. But one crucial one is that the very tools we use to examine, measure and build a picture of our universe are born of money. So when we use them on money, we are turning them in on themselves. What we see is a reflection. Dodd understood this really early on. And so, over time he has been able to journey outside this hall of mirrors. The Social Life of Money is his best description of his view from outside. With him, we can see how knowledge and money are intertwined, and glimpse through this something deeper about its nature.

Fifth and finally. Vital to the book is the way Dodd thematically breaks it into chapters. There’s little point in me listing out those themes here. They only really make sense after you’ve read it. Don’t expect a text book - that’s not what this is. Rather what the themes do is create an organic taxonomy for money and perhaps, a new way of ordering our thoughts about it.

I can’t bring myself to say this is the best book on money yet written. That would somehow put it above Marc Shell’s ‘The Economy of Literature’, James Buchan’s ‘Frozen Desire’ as well as Keynes, Marx, etc and of course above Georg Simmel’s classic ‘The Philosophy of Money’. That wouldn’t feel right, of course. But what I can say is that if we were in a library with every book on money that had ever been written and you asked me which one you should read first, I’d say ‘The Social Life of Money’ by Nigel Dodd.

It’s that good.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

From Stick to Staff

[This post is 6.8K words. Here's a PDF if you prefer]

If you've arrived at this page looking for information about walking up Snowdon, you may just want to scroll down to the section with the big bold heading Details of the Snowdon Walk. There you will find a fairly straightforward account of a walk taken on the last weekend of September 2014. We ascended via the Rhyd Ddu path, descended two thirds of the way down the Ranger path, and then cut across the foot of the mountain, using a public footpath that runs through the old quarry, back to our start point. My online researches couldn't find an account of a route that allowed you to use different paths up and down the mountain without the need to catch a bus, or walk an extra couple of miles, at the start or end of your hike. So I hope the description of this one proves useful.

What this post is really about though, as the title indicates, is a journey of a different sort. It's about a stick becoming a Staff.

Those familiar with my blog will know that I write 'rambles' on Money. Posts are titled for example, A Ramble on Ingham's Nature of Money, or A Ramble on Derrida and Money Burning, or A Ramble on an LSE Democracy talk with David Graeber & Craig Calhoun, etc. I use the word 'ramble' metaphorically, equating it to a journey of thought through a mindscape of ideas about money.

Here though, metaphor is abandoned. The journey is real. There's rocks and streams and other mountain things. And so too is the mindscape. It's not academic abstractions on the nature of money, rather it's simply my thoughts and feelings about events in my life. They seem real enough to me. And crucially, my mindscape is the stick's primary territory.

Money has not been abandoned, though. What I'm hoping is that if my story can offer a glimpse into the becoming, of a stick to a Staff, it may also reveal something about Money and its becoming.
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So, to begin at the beginning.

When Sally and I separated last year, I got possession of a stick. Despite it's crookedness, it functions surprisingly well as a walking stick, the contours of it's top-knot making a handle that snugly fits your palm. Where it came from is something of a mystery. To me, it looks like a piece of driftwood bleached smooth. I like to think it came from Traethgwyn, near New Quay but if I'm honest I can't really remember. Sally is less convinced of its aquatic origins and thinks instead it might have come from a local dog walk, possibly the Two Woods Walk at Old Knebworth in Hertfordshire. But she isn't too sure, either. It is a stick of uncertain origins.

I'm also not sure of when the journey from stick to Staff really started.

I'd already taken it on a pilgrimage of sorts. At the end of summer 2013 the stick went with me to Wales where I retraced my grandfather's footsteps. Sometime in the late 1940's or 1950's, he'd painted a picture of the bridge at Llanina and I wanted to visit the very spot on which he'd stood to do so. That picture is at my mother's. On a wall in my home, just a few feet from where I'm sat typing now, is his painting of New Quay (see below).



Stood where my grandfather was, if you turn your head a quarter to the right so you are facing North, you can, on a clear day across the Cardigan Bay, see the coastline arc all the way round to the Llŷn Peninsula. On one fine day of my holiday, I was sat just stone's throw and sixty-odd years from my Grandfather, reading Norman O Brown's Life Against Death. My mind fizzing from Brown's theories of time, money and the sacred, I looked up from the book, across the Bay and could see clear-as-day the distant peaks of Snowdonia swelling-sore above the horizon.

Life Against Death is a very important book for me. There was something about the reading of it. I'm more open to the idea now that you not only get meaning from the words and their particular arrangement, but also, too, the conditions of reading can profoundly influence your experience of meaning. And those ways of understanding meaning can reflect upon one another, merging, transforming, and deepening meaning still further. I've made a similar point before about Glyn Davies' magisterial A History of Money which I read on Jersey during a trip to see the solar eclipse.

I'd imagine that a forensic, evidence-based examination of events would likely point to my reading of Alan Moore's biography Magic Words as a key factor in establishing my intentions in respect of the stick. Alan Moore carries a Staff (or maybe he refers to it as a stick, I'm not sure) with a handle carved like a snake's head. It symbolizes his worship of Glycon, a second-century Macedonian snake god. After reading the book, I did a post Alan Moore and Me and in it reflected on my trip to Wales. I say that I took the stick with me to ensure it was brimful of magical energy, and I speak about my idea for marking it with my little money-mantra "Money is the AND between the One and the Many". And also my plan to inlay a coin (above) from my childhood collection into the handle. But I never refer to it as a Staff.

I'm not sure it's actually possible to pin-point the start of the journey from stick to Staff.

What I'm inclined to believe though, strange as it may sound, is that an agglomeration of mindscape events, past and future, were resonant to me in the moment I looked up toward the distant Snowdon. That's when the possibility of knowing - that the stick had to go up the mountain - was mapped onto the mindscape. I'm not even saying I discovered it consciously at that moment. Just that I might have, if I'd thought about it.

There are other ways to conceive of it, of course. For example, you might prefer to believe that the Staff is eternal and that events can somehow and sometimes conspire to enable our perception of its true eternal nature. Once perceived, we seek to return some balance to the universe by manifesting something of the infinite, universal, or eternal within the appearance of the stick or by the way we in which we treat it.

However, if you think a Staff is just a fancy stick with a good story attached, logically, you're on dodgy ground. There's a phrase beloved of historians and economists alike - 'necessary but not sufficient'. It applies here. Creative carving, mystical markings, and tall tales are generally thought necessary for a stick to be considered a Staff. But they are not sufficient. What's missing has to do with the Staff's relation to mind - or, as I prefer to say, the mindscape.
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With an early start on the Saturday, perhaps unwisely, I'd agreed to do some Friday night overtime. If it all went to plan I'd be finished at midnight. It didn't go to plan. The Hills Road, which runs south from Cambridge city center, presented me with the toughest of the evening's van driving challenges. Like some poor miscreant Padawan, eventually I was forced to pull over, call my customers, apologize for my tardiness and beg their forgiveness. As a van driving Jedi, I found this most humiliating.

The first customer after the Hills Road hold-up had booked the dreaded tea-time slot when late deliveries and hungry stomachs can combine to create, as my corporate masters might say, 'a challenging delivery environment'. But the lady customer could not have been more forgiving. On the doorstep, I was apologizing yet again for my tardiness when she insisted it was she who should feel sorry for me.

"Oh, you poor man," she said gesturing to me to place the bags of shopping on her doormat. "You'll get home so late."

"Well, I wouldn't mind, but it's a bit annoying tonight, as it goes. I'm going away this weekend. Early start in the morning".

Adjusting my stance and balance, I concentrated my gaze upon the doormat. I leaned forward and placed the bags down with an exaggerated gentility, pausing for just a second, still gripping the handles, while gravity's action upon the contents of the bag reached a locally static equilibrium. I looked up. Smiled. Then, as if I had done it ten thousand times before (which I have), my right hand reached down into the large side pocket of my trousers and pulled out a triple folded receipt, flicking it open using my thumb and forefinger and presenting to her in one motion.

"All there. Nothing missing." I said.

Our brief exchange was close to its conclusion. "Wherever you're going," she said, "I hope you have a lovely time."

"Oh, thanks. It's Snowdon."

"Magic !"

When my deliveries were done I made my way back to the yard. There are around two hundred numbered bays. Any van could go in any bay, it depends on when you get back and how the Vehicle Inspectors decide to fill them up on the night. 

I was late back so it was already pretty full. The Vehicle Inspector checked me in and then said "Stick it there, mate" pointing to a solitary empty bay in a long line of neatly parked Mercedes vans. It was bay number 23.

I could be making this up. But I'm not.
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So Saturday morning came around fast.

Up at 5.23 am sharp, I showered, made a cafetiere of proper coffee which I transferred into my travel mug and put Sunday's packed lunch into one of the ruck sacks. I'd already packed the rest of what we needed into the boot of the Berlingo on the Thursday night, including the stick-soon-to-be staff. I set off for Royston. Then, two minutes later, I returned home to fetch my wallet - weird that, I never forget my wallet. At Royston, I picked up my daughter and her boyfriend, and then on to Leicester, to meet my son at the railway station. From there on to Conwy Falls Cafe for lunch.

I discovered the Conwy Falls Cafe when I was tour managing. The act I worked for at the time used to get seasick, so he'd fly to Ireland rather than come with the rest of us on the ferry from Holyhead. On one such trip I was set to return from Ireland alone. It was, if I remember correctly, a TV appearance rather than a gig so there was no crew just me, the artist who'd get seasick, and his drummer, Dan. But Dan hated flying. He would avoid it as much as he could. On this occasion he'd flown into Ireland directly from Sweden, and so jumped at the chance to cancel his flight back to the UK for the next show and return instead with me on the ferry. From the Holyhead ferry the most scenic route, and the best one if you're heading anywhere in the south of England, is down the A5. Follow it far enough and you'll end up at Marble Arch.

I don't miss much from those tour managing days. I always felt marginally guilty that I'd just stumbled into it hoping to earn a few quid whilst enjoying a lot of free time between jobs, when I could read my money books and do a bit of writing. Needless to say, it didn't work out like that. The jobs became more and more demanding and took up far too much mental space. I think its fair to say, that for many of my colleagues, working in the music business was a vocation. It's one that can easily become your whole life. Kids are missed, friends become family, marriages split up. What I think keeps drawing people to it - other than a love of music - is the reflected glory and the buzz of showtime. But, as I say, I don't miss any of that. Much. I do miss Dan the Drummer, though.

As it goes, Dan figures in the apotheosis of 'van driving journeys I have made'. The details of it are in this 'travelogue of summer 2010', but basically I drove from Dan's hometown, Åmål in Sweden - a small town made famous by a film called Fucking Åmål -  all the way to Codicote in Hertfordshire. Twenty-two hours, 1100 miles, seven countries. I find it uncanny that the awesomeness of a journey like this is so utterly unremarkable. Even during the journey, the journey disappeared into nothing. When I reached Hamburg I found myself thinking "nearly home".

If early one morning long ago the ancient Celtic-Jon, had said to the ancient Viking-Dan, "I shall be near Londinium an hour after the sun sets", Viking-Dan would have thought Celtic-Jon a liar, or else a magician able to summon a dragon and ride it there. Actually, it's quite likely that Viking-Dan would have been able to entertain both those possibilities simultaneously.

All of this, I could happily have talked about with modern-day-Dan without so much as a raised eyebrow or wry smile between us. But on the occasion of our drive from Holyhead down the A5, we weren't saying much. There was something distinctly primal dominating both our thoughts. By the time we were an hour or so into our journey from the ferry, Dan broke the silence to declare in his authentic Swedish-Chef-accent "Now, I'm a rearerly hungerarey". It was just at that very moment we happened across the Conwy Falls Cafe.
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As my young companions and I pulled into the car park in the September sunshine, my Daughter chirped up "Do you know we're quite close to my favorite place in the world? Portmeirion is only twenty miles away." Saying so at that very moment was prescient, uncannily coincidental, or both.

My grandmother used to tell me to be wary of North Wales "Oh," she'd say, "They're a bit funny up there." So, Portmeirion doesn't figure strongly in my own mythology, but it does in Sally's - forming her childhood holiday memories - so, in turn, despite my Grandmother's warnings, our children are imbued with a sense of the place and have visited it on several occasions. The white building housing the Conwy Falls Cafe (pictured above*) was designed by Clough Williams-Ellis, the very same famous Welsh architect who designed Portmeirion.

What makes it special is not only its heritage, and not even the home cooked food, friendly service, and reasonable prices, but the fact that just a short walk into the woods that border the Cafe's garden is a deep river valley with the gorgeous waterfall that gives the cafe its name.

After lunch, we took in the falls and followed the trial through the woods for a twenty minute leg-stretching walk. Then we got back in the Berlingo and pressed on to Dinas Emrys, just another thirty-five minutes drive away.
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Dinas Emrys is wrapped in mythology. It's a particularly pertinent mythology for me. I have on my upper left arm a tattoo of two dragons, one red one white, locked together in (a sort of) combat. The legend says that as a boy Merlin was brought to Dinas Emrys by King Vortigern. Vortigern was trying to build a tower that kept collapsing and his Druids had told him that sprinkling the blood of a fatherless child on the foundations would solve the problem. Merlin was the fatherless child. But once at the site Merlin told Vortigern why the tower kept collapsing. Beneath the tower, he claimed, was a pool. And within that pool were two urns, one containing a red dragon and the other a white dragon. The pool, said Merlin, was emblematic of Vortigern's world and kingdom.

"The red dragon", said Merlin to Vortigern, "is your Dragon. The white Dragon is that of the Saxons."

Vortigern's men dug down and soon discovered a pool containing two urns. As the urns were opened two dragons flew out and began to fight. Eventually the red dragon won and chased the white dragon away. Merlin's life was spared, and the Druids put to death. So it goes.

Dinas Emrys** seemed then, like a good place to take my fatherless stick.

We took a walk up the hill to see the ruins, taking in the splendid wood carvings along the way as well as pretty little streams and waterfalls. It took us an hour  - maybe an hour and a half - and served as a good warm up for the following day's exertions.

It also served to open up the stick to the transformative possibilities of being atop a mountain.
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The only dog I've owned (which seems like such a crass way to describe one's relationship with a dog) was called TD. He was a wolfhound/deerhound cross. He was a big dog, a little skinnier than a wolfhound but tall and very fast; at least he was in a straight line, cornering was something of an issue for him. I got him from a rescue center. Apparently whoever had him as a pup had failed to consider that he would grow quite so much. But I wanted a big dog. I'd been violently robbed of my Christmas market takings and wanted some back up. Although I'd tried to resist the attack, a big spray of ammonia directly into my eyes and up my nose had temporarily blinded me and made breathing tricky. The rage the robbery inspired or released - I'm not sure which it is - was unquenchable. My big dog was to be part of my armory. I both feared and longed for a re-occurrence.

The children were very small at the time. Although TD was a very gentle dog, I felt that I had to dominate him. A snarl or growl at the children - no matter what they did to encourage it - would be harshly met. I regret this now. I wish I'd had more confidence in his spirit. He'd had a rough start to his life. Much of it had been spent in small cage which must have been torture for a dog that loved more than anything else to run freely. Thankfully, working with me on the markets he was able to indulge his passion. The markets were held on old airfields. Most times we'd turn up in the lorry the night before to set up the stall. It was big one selling music, videos, books and any similar lines that I could get cheap. As soon as the air-handbrake made its 'Pssssst' sound TD would be ready to go. The door would be opened for him and he'd be off. He had complete freedom to roam as he liked over a couple of square miles. Once the framework of the stall was set up we'd give him a shout for his supper. He'd come bounding back, eat, and then he'd be off again for another hour or two before we'd call him for bedtime. I think then, he was the happiest dog in the world.

I recall two incidents in particular. One, when a guy who worked for me was driving at thirty miles an hour along the airfield in his car, only to be passed by a grinning TD who then accelerated away from him. And another, when TD had been off on his explorations for an hour or two. There were a couple of other people who stayed overnight and TD would go to see them, getting snacks and attention. He was well known and well liked. This particular night, a car I hadn't seen before was driving around the market suspiciously. I was keeping an eye on it when it drove towards my lorry pulling up just in front and to the right of it. His headlights were on full beam and his engine still running. I locked my doors and wound down my window a few inches. "What you after, mate?" I shouted. The driver began to wind his window down. When the gap was about six inches, TD bounded out of the darkness and shoved his head through. The car driver shat himself. "Jeesus !" was about all I could make out. I called TD off and he came immediately. It turned out the guy was just an unfortunate minicab driver who'd been called out to the airfield to pick up one of the overnight workers.

When TD was about seven - we weren't too certain of his exact age - I noticed a tiny lump just above his right front paw. I took him to the vets, thinking nothing of it. It just so happened that he was something of specialist in larger breeds. I'll never forget the look on the vet's face. As far as he was concerned that little lump was a death sentence.There were tests to be done of course, but he wanted me to consider that I'd have to have TD put down. I railed against it. He was such a loyal dog and gentle spirit. It cost me far more money than I could afford, and the vet had to spread the cost for me, but I took the option of having his leg amputated hoping that the cancer would not have spread. For a few days after the amputation I regretted it as TD was so very depressed. Soon enough though, his spirits lifted and he was running around again on three legs almost as well as he had done on four. But within six months his health deteriorated. He got to the stage where he found it an effort to go out in the garden. One evening I bought him a whole chicken all to himself. I think he enjoyed the gesture more than the food. Soon after he collapsed. I lifted him into the back of the car and took him to the vets

I can clearly remember standing at the door of the vet's struggling to hold this huge dog in my arms whilst trying to ring the bell for the surgery. As soon as they opened the door, they cleared some space and then laid TD on the floor. He was very near death. We stroked him until finally he let out one last howl and passed. 
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We stayed overnight in the Prince Llywelyn in Beddgelert (you say it be'th'gelert). Beddgelert means the grave of Gelert. This is the story as written on Gelert's tombstone which lies a short walk south of the village 
"In the 13th century Llewelyn, prince of North Wales, had a palace at Beddgelert. One day he went hunting without Gelert, ‘The Faithful Hound’, who was unaccountably absent.
On Llewelyn's return the truant, stained and smeared with blood, joyfully sprang to meet his master. The prince alarmed hastened to find his son, and saw the infant's cot empty, the bedclothes and floor covered with blood.
The frantic father plunged his sword into the hound's side, thinking it had killed his heir. The dog's dying yell was answered by a child's cry.
Llewelyn searched and discovered his boy unharmed, but nearby lay the body of a mighty wolf which Gelert had slain. The prince filled with remorse is said never to have smiled again. He buried Gelert here".
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Details of the Snowdon Walk

We set off from our hotel in Beddegelert at 7.30am on Sunday morning, making the short drive to our starting point which was the car park on the south side of the village of Ryhd Ddu (you say it "rheed-thee"). Now, in deciding upon our route up and down Snowdon there was a problem - one we still hadn't resolved at this late stage. We wanted to ascend the mountain via one path, and descend it via another. The problem is that there is quite a distance between the beginning of one path and the end of another. The last thing you want to do after your hike up the mountain is walk at least another couple of miles along a road to get back to your car. The solution suggested online is that you park your car at your end point, and catch the Sherpa bus service, or even the train, to your start point. Well, that's great if the buses or trains are running at the times you need them. But this wasn't so for us on this Sunday.

The OS map - do buy an OS map - showed a footpath leading from two thirds of the way down the Ranger Path cutting across the quarry and leading back directly to the car park at Rydd Ddu. Armed with a compass and our weatherproof OS map we decided that we'd risk it. If worse came to worst, we'd go to the end of the Ranger path and call a taxi.

The Ascent - Rhyd Ddu

I parked my Berlingo in the Car Park just to the south of the village of Rhyd Ddu. The train stops there, it's well signed, and you can't miss it. Five quid for the day.

From left to right Amy (Daughter), The Stick-soon-to-be-Staff, George (Son),
and Stephen (Daughter's BF)
Our party was one reasonably fit 48 year old and three youngsters ranging from 21 to 24 all blessed with that annoying level of fitness you get in your youth and that you've never had to work for. Physically, the ascent was manageable. Psychologically though it was a bit more challenging. Around half a kilometer from the summit, things start progressively to get a little scary. The climax is where you walk around a little rocky outcrop and then are faced with a path a foot or two wide, and ten or fifteen yards long, going along the top of a ridge. There is fall to certain death either side of you. For us, the drop was partially obscured by mist and cloud cover which helped, and the wind wasn't too strong either. Do have a think if you can handle this before you choose the Rhyd Ddu path. Once past the very scariest bit though, the rest of the walk to the summit is relatively easy going.

Having said this, of the very few other walkers we saw on the Rhyd Ddu path (about 4 or 5 on this very fine day) one was a young girl of about ten years old, hiking with a well equipped adult. So I guess those more used to mountain terrain might scoff at us townies getting scared on a little hill.


The Summit

I haven't been up Snowdon since I was a teenager, so the whole Hafod Eryri visitor center on the summit of Snowdon was new to me. Whatever the right or wrongs of building atop a mountain, the center provided us with the best cup of tea in human history. All the food was fairly priced too. I went up Vesuvius as a teenager (in about 1981) where there was a stall selling Mars bars for the Lira equivalent of £1 (which was a lot of Lira). The usual price for a Mars bar in 1980 was 15 pence. The massive injustice of it still haunts me.

Anyway, in the visitor center you'll find stand-up tables where you're free to eat the packed lunch you've bought with you - none of this 'only food purchased on the premises' malarkey. The idea of standing up is good too. It's tempting to sit down, but a sure way to stiffen up before the descent.

Once I had tapped my stick on the very top of the busy summit, we began our descent.  

The Descent - Ranger Path 

The Ranger and the Llanberis (the easiest of all the paths) run together for the first few hundred yards alongside the railway track before the Ranger crosses over it and descends the mountain more steeply that the Llanberis. For quite a long way - about 45 minutes walking, I think - the Ranger path makes a fairly easy descent before there is a marginally more challenging section. For us veterans of the Rhyd Ddu path though, this was nothing.

Stephen taking in the view

Cutting across from the Ranger Path to the start of Rhyd Ddu

Now here's where it would have been helpful if I'd have taken a note of the OS map reference and a photo or two. But sorry, I didn't. When you're coming down the Ranger path you need to look for a stile on your left hand side that takes you up and over a stonewall. There is a badge on the stile giving the exact OS reference - its something close to SH 57430 55288 (I've tried to work it out with Grid Reference Finder)

The footpath is signed every few hundred yards with a yellow arrow on a pole. It's relatively easy to follow. The ground is quite boggy in places though, so be careful. I think this section of the walk took us just over an hour, maybe ninety minutes. It was really enjoyable though. We didn't see another soul until we crossed the railway track near the end. There is a very short climb over the mounds of discarded slate near the old quarry. And there are some streams that have to be hopped across via rocks although the larger streams have proper footbridges. On a lovely late September summer day none of this was a problem but, I imagine, in very wet conditions the path would be more of challenge.



Here is a map I traced out on Google of the route - start bottom left go round anti-clockwise. The exact distance is 8.6 miles (13.35 km), the ascent/descent of Yr Wyddfa is 2.936 feet (895m).


And here's the relevant section of my OS map showing the Rhyd Ddu path, the Ranger path, and the footpath joining them.


We had the best weekend ever doing this walk. It was really special. Good luck if you choose to take it on. I hope the weather holds for you.
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So it was a great relief to our little party of orange-clad pilgrims to finally see in the late September sunshine the distant glimmer of my beautiful silver Citroen Berlingo. Closer still and we could see her flat wiper blades pressed snugly against the curve of her windscreen; rain-dispersing capabilities and aesthetic appeal in a heady mix of function and form. The French beauty parked peacefully and squarely with her round corners patiently awaiting the return of her those who now longed to be inside her.

We were happy to see the car.

And she must have been happy to see us. Or perhaps, the Staff was already enveloping us in some sort of magical field. Or else, it was all just pure coincidence. But the journey home seemed blessed. We did all that we needed to do. We stopped first at Glaslyn Ices in Beddgelert to quench our thirst. Then we drove. Down the A5 and into England. Burgers and toilet. Then onward. We arrived at Leicester station at 8.59pm. My Son took his bag from the boot, strolled calmly into the station, onto the platform and straight onto the 9.00pm train back to Sheffield, as if it he'd summoned it.

From there we retraced our route back to Royston to drop off my Daughter and her Boyfriend about an hour and a half later, at around ten thirty, quarter to eleven. From there I made the last leg of the journey home alone.
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Me with the stick-soon-to-be-Staff. Taken at a rocky outcrop on Dinas Emrys over looking the valley

So now there exists in our material world a Staff where there was just a stick. It still looks like a stick, but it is imbued with magic. You can believe this, or not believe this. Or you can do as most people on planet Earth do and have done across the ages, you can do both things simultaneously and in complete contradiction.

The Staff also possesses, or at least shares with those around it, some form of momentum. It has, in some sense of the word, intent. The Staff will continue its journey of imbuement by standing upon the peaks of Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis. It now has a ritualistic rhythm to its existence that sets it apart from the slow organic decay of a mere stick.

I will attempt to make this extant temporal pathway visible on the body of the Staff. My task is to try through the carving, marking and inlaying of the Staff, to match corporeal reality with magical essence.

During the writing of this post I have found the name of the Staff, hidden in plain sight, as it should be. It is already taboo to refer to the Staff as a stick.This point was openly agreed among the pilgrims. Henceforth it is taboo to refer to the Staff as 'it'. An 'it' is a thing and the Staff is not a thing. So referring to the Staff as 'it' is not only taboo, it is factually incorrect. The Staff is beyond gender so referring to the Staff as he or she would also be wrong.

As I am in the fortunate position to be chosen by fate as the keeper of the Staff it is incumbent upon me to open my mind to possible future paths, both literal and metaphorical. It is my responsibility to determine whether or not it is in the interests of the Staff to reveal those paths to others. The Staff and the keeper of the Staff may have their secrets.
__________________



I thought about Bill Drummond for a moment when I was up the mountain. To anyone familiar with his writing, the precariously balanced pile of stones is the clear echo of a distant Drummond. And I'm thinking about him now, writing this. Of all of his Ten Commandments of Art, the one entitled 'Don't Make Punk Rock' resonates most strongly with me, and is also the one I'd love to delete (Number eleven of his Ten Commandments gives you the option of deleting one of them). 'Don't Make Punk Rock' contains the line, which should be applied to all art forms : don't join the dots.

I'm forever joining dots.

I have an urge to join the dots now. I want to work out in words why the story of TD is there, I want to write about duality, yin and yang. time and telos. The One and the Many. King Vortigern/Kurt Vonnegut. Sexy Berlingo. Orange jackets. Intent and Intentionality, Money and Currency. Gyges. The visible and invisible. The mundane and the profound. Dylan Thomas. 

I want to connect it all to Money for you

But no. I'll pay heed to Bill's words. And I'll restrict myself to just asking one question.

Is the Staff to a stick, as Money to a coin?
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Well, one question and one quote - from what I was reading when I looked up across Cardigan Bay to Snowdon.
[T]he special attraction of gold and silver is due not to any of the rationalistic considerations generally offered in explanation but to their symbolic identification with Sun and Moon, and to the sacred significance of Sun and Moon in the new astrological theology invented by the earliest civilizations. Heichelheim, the authority on ancient economics, concurs on the essentially magical-religious nature of the value placed on gold and silver in the ancient Near East. Laum states that the value ratio of gold to silver remained stable throughout classical antiquity and into the Middle Ages and even in modern times at 1:13½. It is obvious that such a stability in the ratio cannot be explained in terms of rational supply and demand. The explanation, says Laum, lies in the astrological ratio of the cycles of their divine counterparts, the Sun and Moon.
       The history of money from this point of view has yet to be written. Greek money, which contributes to modern money the institution of coinage, was recognized by Simmel to be essentially sacred and to have originated not in the market but in the temple. Laum has amplified and established the thesis. But Simmel and Laum are confused by the illusion that modern money is secular, and hence they confuse the past by describing as 'secularization' a process which is rather only a metamorphosis of the sacred. Even Keynes perhaps shares this illusion, although he sees the real secularization of money as still lying in the future. The historian must doubt the possibility of having capitalism without gold fetishism in some form or other. At any rate, the historian must conclude that the ideal type of the modern economy retains, at its very heart, the structure of the archaic sacred. And once again the undialectical disjunction of sacred and secular is seen to be inadequate.
Norman O Brown Life Against Death (1959) p. 247-248
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I didn't check the time when I finally arrived home but I am absolutely sure it was 23:23. By this stage of the journey the sychronicitous appearance of 23's was mundane.

And the mundane had become profound. On the final leg of my journey I achieved an almost transcendent level of satisfaction from the most mechanical and predictable of actions; just before I rejoined the A1(M) for the final twelve miles, I heard a buzz and a little yellow light appeared on the dashboard. It was the fuel warning light. The whole adventure - the whole journey from stick to Staff - had drained one full tank. Perhaps you have to spend eight hours a day behind the wheel of a van to appreciate the sense of completeness that this can lend to a journey. It was - or so I thought - a final gift. One personal to me where the giver is like a lover who knows just what to say and do.

The Staff at rest in the reliquary

But I was wrong. There was one more gift.

I was both vessel and witness to its giving, but the prestation was to the Berlingo, not me.

Sainte-Chappelle uncannily
 similar, isn't it? And French.
I think perhaps the Staff had come to regard the Berlingo as a kind of reliquary: a mobile Sainte-Chapelle. Maybe, by virtue of being the most valuable single object that has ever existed, the Crown of Thorns acts teleologically upon all other venerated wooden artifacts. After nearly eight hundred years of being kept inside the high stained-glass walled splendor of it's own, purpose-built, reliquary - the Saint-Chappelle built in the 1240's by King Louis IX - the Crown of Thorn's connection with its immediate surroundings is morphogentically transmitted to all wooden artifacts, forward and backward in time; like a perfect idea, that not only pulls-forth the thoughts that proceed it, but is also the basis for those that come after it. Any Citroen salesman worth his salt will sit you in the back of a Berlingo knowing that experiencing the bright and roomy interior is the best way to sell you the car. I guess to a wooden artifact one bright and roomy French interior is much like any other.  

Or, maybe the Staff just really liked being inside her. She is after all, a very sexy Berlingo. 

Whatever -- whether there was some deep sexual resonance between the Staff and the Berlingo, some sense that unity rather than separateness was their preferred state of being; or whether some mystical power emanating from the Crown of Thorns spread sacredness through the ether to those of similar material and psychical being; or indeed whether it is just incumbent upon the human brain to incessantly search for meaning in what is ultimately a chaotic and meaningless universe -- None of this is in contradiction to the fact of the matter, that when I took the Berlingo to the petrol station to fill her up, this happened.



£69.
3 times 23.
The SEX number.
Taijitu.
The chaotic universe spewed forth meaning regardless of sentience. And it makes me wonder. Is it doing this the whole time?
_____________________


My friendly forgiving lady customer on the Friday night had said, "Magic !". And she was right. It was a magical weekend in any sense you want to give the word. I'm very glad that I got to share it with George, Amy and Stephen.



THE END.


_____________________________________________________________________________
* I didn't take this myself. I got it from a google search and its from here
** If you fancy taking the trip to Dinas Emrys Snowdon Heritage have an audio tour - we didn't the route described, opting instead for the harder walk red path which is shown on the map in the car park, but the audio tour is a good way to learn about some of the history.


Friday, October 17, 2014

Money Wisdom #300

Magic, then is about realizing one's intentions (whatever those may be) by acting on the world. It is not a matter of people's intentions and creative capacities being projected out into it and appearing to those people in strange alienated forms. If anything, it's just the opposite. To phrase the matter in appropriately nineteenth century terms: if religion is the way in which people project (imaginary) human personalities and purposes onto (real) natural forces, then magic would have to be a matter of taking real human personalities and purposes and arming them with imaginary natural powers.
 David Graeber Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value (2001) p.240

Money Wisdom #299

Because money used as money and not as a treasure article is a basic measure of man, it allows of full-time specialization. In turn, full-time specialization entails a further differentiation of the qualities of man. Taking to their specialist tasks, lone individuals seek association in terms of the further differentiations of which they have now become aware, and they search for the assumptions which will guarantee the validity of their new found qualities. As the handling of money habituates its users to the notion of units composed of numbers of units, the one-and-the-many, so in their experience of social life do lone individuals and specialists in association become aware of other lone individuals and other kinds of specialists. This provides an experience of 'manyness' on the one hand, and of the unitary on the other.  
Kenelm Burridge New Heaven, New Earth (1969) p.146

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Intent and Intentionality, Money and Currency

[You can get this post as a PDF if you prefer]

My Daughter is starting her studies at Cambridge University shortly - you might have seen me mention this once or twice on Twitter - and these past few weeks I've been helping her sort out her move up there. I've also arranged and just last weekend took a trip with a stick (and three companions) to Dinas Emrys and the top of Snowdon (more on my 'trip with a stick' in my next post). The upshot is that my long essay on Money Burning, Freud, Nietzsche etc has taken a back seat.

To get my writing back in the driving seat, I thought I'd share part of a section of the long essay with you now and do a ramble around it. I haven't written anything on the blog for a while and the section's subject, 'intent and intentionality' is something I've not mentioned before, so it will be fresh too. In my long essay (which is how I'll refer to it at various point in this post) I'm attempting to relate intent and intentionality to Freudian topology and I'm using money burning as a way to explore that territory. In this post I use a section from it that describes Albert Tauber's discussion of Brentano and Freud's use of intentionality and intent, pretty much as it appears in my long essay but then I veer off into the Money/Currency debate as well as taking in sex, incest and a few other apparently diverse subjects.

_____________



Surface appearances suggest that my reading is taking different directions at the moment. I've just received what looks like a very interesting book 'The Theology of Money' by Philip Goodchild (I'm amazed that a book with this title was put out in 2009 and I've only recently heard about it - so much for amazon's algorithms!). Diametrically opposed to this I've also been enjoying Georges Bataille's pornographic stories and have ordered his three volume philosophical work The Accursed Share. (Its coming from Canada and probably won't be with me until November)

Below the surface swirls though, I think it may well turn out that both Goodchild and Bataille are both in a strong current that flows towards an understanding of 'the sacred' and how money relates to it. I know Bataille wanted to restore the sacred sacrifice which he (and his friends in the College de Sociologie) felt was missing in modern life and surely, any theological work on money such as Goodchild's, will have a conception of the sacred at its core? We'll see, I guess. But the general thrust of my own work has been 'scared-bound' for a while. My long essay has themes of 'forgiveness', 'guilt, debt and time', 'hope' and 'belief'. Plus of course, I have my own 'sacred sacrifice' to make in a few weeks in the form of money burning. (23rd Oct, folks! Do feel free to join in and save the world!)

[As an aside - and showing just how unwieldy and many-pathed money can be - I've also been reading Marc Shell's work on incest. He has an essay here The Want of Incest in the Human Family, and you can access many chapters of his books here. Freud of course saw a fundamental link between incest, and totem and taboo, and for me, currency is very much related to totem and taboo. Shell points out that taboo means both 'dangerous' or 'forbidden' as well as 'sacred' or 'consecrated' (p.626) And beyond this the ideal of Universal Siblinghood can be related - at least in my reading of Shell - to the philosophical question of the One and the Many. And this question is very much related to Money as a metaphysical conception (and, I say rather cryptically, to my trip up Snowdon with a stick).]

Anyway, to get back on track with intent and intentionality.

I originally introduced the theme into my long essay as a way of examining what goes on in money burning. A large part of John Higgs' awesomely awesome The KLF: Chaos, Magic and the Band who Burned a Million Pounds concerns itself with the intentions of Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty. I wondered what, if anything, it would be possible to really know about the intentions of any money burning, or of money burners. Money burning is such a polarizing and final action that intuitively it seems like you should be able to say something meaningful about what lies behind it. I began thinking about it in terms of Tauber's discussion of Freud and Brentano and also in terms of my own notions of Freudian topology of mind.

As is often the way when you start thinking deeply about an issue, it pops up everywhere; sometimes because you're looking for it, sometimes not. I'll come to Tauber in a minute, but for me the most significant - and incidental - occurrence of the word 'intentionality' came when I was re-reading the Ingham/Dodd debate on money and currency* for another section in my long essay. 

I've been meaning to write a summary of the spiky debate between Nigel Dodd and Geoffrey Ingham, Costas Lapavitsas and Geoffrey Ingham, and which also encompassed the work of Keith Hart and Viviana Zelizer. In part, a summary of it would help me tease out and make plain the issues at stake (as I see them), but also I'd want it to be simple short guide to the currency/money debate. Maybe that'd be helpful to anyone coming to it a-fresh, and its obviously something that in my own way I've dealt with extensively on this blog. I'll get round to it eventually. But on this particular read through of Ingham's response to Dodd and Lapavistas (freely available online!) these lines struck me.
"The ontological specificity of money derives from what Keynes referred to as the‘description’of money by a money of account (Keynes 1930: 4). Such a description, by which we understand some object or institution as being monetary, is assigned by what the philosopher Searle refers to as ‘collective intentionality’(Searle 1995, 2005)."
Geoffrey Ingham Further reflections on the ontology of money: responses to Lapavitsas and Dodd Economy and Society Volume 35 Number 2 May 2006 p.261


_______________________



In the first chapter of Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher Albert Tauber emphasizes the importance of intentionality and intent to Freud's project and examines the formative intellectual relationship Freud had with his early mentor Franz Brentano who had re-introduced the term 'intentionality' into C19th philosophy through his Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874).

Brentano viewed intentionality as the fundamental precept of mental life and therefore, to his view of consciousness - 'there is no act of thinking without an object that is thought, nor a desire without an object that is desired' (Brentano, 1973 p.89). For Brentano mental life is consciousness. He refuted 'notions of the unconscious and [made] 'mind' synonymous with consciousness' as a means to establishing a science of the mind. So, Brentano made a metaphysical commitment, and whether that commitment was to method or logic, he steadfastly refused to allow claims for the inclusion of the unconscious in a psychology based on empiricism (p.51).

Freud shared Brentano's wish to establish a science of the mind but in his role as physician he couldn't reconcile conscious thought with manifest behavior. So he took a philosophical position at odds with his mentor and conceptualized the unconscious as the foundation to his own understanding of mind. The unconscious generally, and the Id particularly, would serve for Freud as a repository for the materialist, biological, and scientific aspirations he still shared with Brentano. Moreover, it resonated with a Darwinian understanding linking mind with body, reason with passion, and man with animal

In such a model 'intention' is the linking mechanism bridging the boundary between the conscious and the unconscious; 
"[On Ricoeur's reading of Freud] the conscious component of intention (so important to Brentano) is pushed aside for a deeper psychic intention, namely, that which froths forth from the reaches of the unconscious mind. There intention exists as psychic drives or biological forces, and when integrated with the intention of consciousness, the mind becomes unified. Accordingly, intention goes all the way down, and thus Freud created a theory in which multiple layers of intention exhibit themselves for interpretation."
Albert Tauber Freud - The Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.47

Freud then, first split apart mental life into conscious and unconscious, and then rejoined them - he unified the mind - through his explanations and conceptions of intention. Intention itself, in the Freudian sense, becomes ultimately a question of eros and thanatos - Freud's Life and Death Instincts. That Freud postulated such metaphysical energies (as well as the metaphysical 'placeholder' of the unconscious) served to annoy and frustrate those very folk, of positivist and materialist bent, with whom Freud had originally aligned himself. And Freud's project to present psychoanalysis as science is regarded by Tauber - and science generally - as a failure (although of course, Tauber himself does believe in the value of psychoanalysis as a form of moral inquiry).

Those of you who know about such things, will I'd guess by this point, be concerned about my use of words 'intent and intentionality'. They are, you may well say, 'not the same thing'. And you may well be right. But there is a balance to be struck between meaning and definition. The danger is in allowing the definition of the terms to specify their meaning. No-one has privileged access to the essential nature of these mental processes and states. And everything that is thought or said about them - whether by Daniel C Dennett, John Searle, or even Franz Brentano himself - is after the fact of them. Because of this, special care must be taken so that definition is sculpted from meaning, rather than meaning cast from definition.

Furthermore, my own use of the terms reflects Tauber's, who offers no great extended philosophical discussion of 'intent as purpose' versus 'intentionality as representation'. It's not that he uses them completely interchangeably, but there is a looseness to his matching of Freud's 'intent' with Brentano's 'intentionality'. It's evident in the quote above. 

For me, both terms refer to 'mind-events' taking place in a sort of no-man's land - a 'space' between a chaotic primordial soup of possibilities and the world as we perceive it. Via these 'mind-events' (and mediated through the sort of psychological topology Freud described) form emerges from non-form. Pushed, I might claim that the sum total of intent and intentionality were equivalent to Nietzsche's 'Will to Power'. But let's leave Nietzsche out of it for the time being. Instead let's content ourselves with Tauber's claim that Freud straddled the two worlds of res cogitans and res extensa, consciousness and matter, subject and object'.

So, if we are content in assuming that both intent and intentionality share a similar 'metaphysical space' we are nevertheless left with the question of whether there is a meaningful distinction to be made between them. In the main text of Tauber's book an answer to this question didn't really jump out at me. But hidden in the endnotes was the following:
"Richard Wollheim described Freud's use of intentionality as a 'philosophical assumption' that Freud retained throughout his work and probably derives from... Brentano... And that assumption is that every mental state or condition can be analyzed into two components: an idea, which gives the mental state its object or what it [sic] directed upon; and its charge or affect, which gives it its measure of strength or efficacy"
Richard Wollheim Sigmund Freud (1981) p. 20-21 emphasis added
quoted in Albert Tauber Freud - the Reluctant Philosopher (2010) p.235


Wollheim’s description concurs with my own thoughts. For me, intentionality refers to a fundamentally static mental state; an idea or conception that directs psychical energies (Freud's Life and Death Instincts) towards subject or object. The question of causality - of say, whether an idea exists prior to the object its about - is irrelevant. These events take place in the mental space. The object in this case (as with the subject) refers to some internal mental event - not the thing in itself (indeed the thing in itself does not have to exist in the material world). Contrasted against intentionality then, is intent which is a fundamentally dynamic mental state. It is a description of the movement of the psychical energies themselves. In this way, intent and intentionality are inseparable - and for all practical purposes irreducable. There is no flow, without a direction of flow, and there is no direction without a flow.

[ To extent the analogy - a river's value is in it's directing water from high to low ground; this is equivalent to the river's intentionality. The actual flow of the water expresses its intent. Without that intent - without the action of the water on the landscape - the course of the river would not exist. Likewise, without the course of the river directing the flow of water there wouldn't be a river either. We can only distinguish between these two things because when we look at a river - i.e from our perspective - its course seems static, its flow dynamic.
I could get into a load of stuff here about the One and the Many, Heraclitus Vs Parmenides, stasis Vs flux - I could even mention Robert Pirsig's misconceived (in my view) distinction between static and dynamic Value, but that would take us a long way from where we need to be ]

________________

In The Construction of Social Reality John Searle writes clearly and concisely - no mean feat given what he's trying to achieve. There is a short very readable section on what he means by 'collective intentionality' -  I've put the pages here (p.22-23), here (p.24-25) and here (p.26-27) for you. In essence, for Searle 'collective intentionality' is shared mental states such as beliefs, desires and intentions. Crucially for Searle. collective intentionality is irreducible to singular intentionality - within individual minds there must exist a 'We-concept' as well as an 'I-concept'. We are not simply multitudes, we are also One, because we all as individuals share the belief that we are One.

More broadly, Searle proposes social reality is created by the assignment of function, collective intentionality and constitutive rules. Searle's ideas have an obvious appeal to a social relations based approach to money; it helps to dovetail 'social relations' money into the more traditional functionalist and/or instituationalist accounts of money.

However, there is a fundamental problem with the specific idea of collective intentionality. It's something I stumbled on very early in my long essay. Simply put, it relates to whether you think intent - or intentionality - can exist within a group or whether it is something confined to individuals. As stated, Searle himself doesn't really see this as a problem (although he does recognise that others do). He doesn't believe that the notion of 'collective intentionality' requires us to postulate some idea of collective consciousness or something like it, at all. This paper by Dan Fitzpatrick strongly criticizes Searle's view of collective intentionality, claiming that it is self-defeating. Fitzpatrick asks how a social fact can be said to exist, for example Louis is a member of the communist party - with collective intentionality as a constitutive component of that fact - when Louis could joining with the intention of infiltrating the party organization to spy on it.

I followed a similar line of thought in an early draft of my long essay. I was considering the case of the Greek activists robber money-burners. Simple, I thought. The clear intention of this burning was as a radical subversive political act. This says something definite about the intentions of the perpetrator. But of course, it's not that easy (as any psychoanalyst will tell you). I wondered what other possibilities there may be. Perhaps the person who burnt the money really wanted to prove him or her-self to the leadership of the group? Perhaps they just wanted to impress a prospective sexual partner? Perhaps they just wanted an edgy story to tell their friends?

I think Searle might claim that both my example and Fitzpatrick's confuse intent and intentionality. My feeling - as stated in the previous section on Wollheim's quote - is that the terms are so tightly bound that any meaningful difference between them is perspective dependent and can't be imposed by strict definition, but instead must (hopefully eventually) emerge from imaginative re-conceptualizations of mental life (such as that given by psychoanalysis). 

_____________________________

So, let's return to Geoffrey Ingham's suggestion that 'collective intentionality' establishes, through its relationship with authority and sovereignty, what money is. These are his words from page 265 of the same paper:
"...money is produced by an authority in an act of sovereignty in which what is to count as money and how its myriad forms and media are to be recognized as belonging to the same class of phenomena is established by ‘collective intentionality’..."
As you'll have gathered, I'm critical of Ingham's failure (as I see it) to distinguish between currency and money. I don't think he does so successfully either in his in his dispute with Nigel Dodd or in The Nature of Money (2004) (My reviewMy Ramble). I'm now wondering if my problems with Ingham's story of money actually turn on 'collective intentionality'.

In my review I said that:
The first 85 pages of the book, sectioned together as 'Concepts and Theories' is quite simply the best appraisal and review of theories of money that I've ever read. Ingham shows clearly the inconsistencies of thought that have riddled the various academic schools of thought on Money across the centuries. He explains how economics has claimed possession of the money phenomenon, which in turn has led the work of other disciplines, in particular sociology, to be neglected.
I'd put my problem with how Ingham develops his story of money after page 85 down to the currency/money debate and more broadly to 'authority'. My older psychiatrist brother teases me about whether I have 'a problem with authority' - and I guess I do. In my moments of doubt about the currency/money debate, I'd thought that maybe it was just a distaste for authority making me rail against the credit/state theories of money and their variants. And Ingham himself has an authoritative voice. His story of money comes from years and years of reading, thinking and discussion at the highest level. In a 2009 paper, he recognizes that he is 'an "untouchable" sociologist in the caste of the Cambridge Faculty of Economics' who has 'every reason to take sides with the credit theorists.' (Notes on Revisiting the Credit Theory of Money 2009, p.3)

So, when Ingham proclaimed in The Nature of Money that;
"The very idea of money, which is to say, of abstract accounting for value, is logically anterior and historically prior to market exchange."
Geoffrey Ingham The Nature of Money (2004) p.25

I was, frankly, in a state of bliss. Finally, authority was seeing things my way. Not only does this sentence tally with my own view of money, it also serves as a devastating critique of any commodity theory of money - that is to say, theories which assume that value exists in things which are then exchanged with the aid of a universal equivalent (i.e. money), and that through this process of exchange, the sum of value somehow flourishes. It applies to both Marx's and Hayek's ideas about money. Ingham's dispute with Costas Lapavistas details extensively the arguments in respect of Marx. I was more interested in what it said about an Hayekian idea of money - for me, it really nailed the problem to the door.

When I put Ingham's quote on my blog  I actually tweeted the account @TakingHayekSeriously asking what they thought Hayek's response would have been to this - for Hayek market exchange must come before money. They said 'It does not engage Hayek' - I beg to differ.


Since then I've characterized a Hayekian ontology as  Value > Price > Money  and contrasted it against my ontology of  Value > Money > Price  (which is also how I interpret Ingham's quote).

But such earthly states of bliss tend to be short lived. And so it turned out with The Nature of Money. I'm still good friends with the work, but we drifted apart. In short, I felt Ingham cast the meaning of money from his definition of currency. And that although something like 'authority' - some notion of collective power, social force, or some shared conception of Oneness  - was necessary for currency to flourish, that wasn't true for Money (in Ingham's terms for 'the idea of money').

To be fair to Ingham, I should note before I go any further, that 'collective intentionality' is not a huge theme either in the journal articles nor in The Nature of Money itself - a couple of mentions in the papers and just one in the book. But - and you can see this in the quote above - it is presented, more or less, as fact, or at very least, as an appeal to the authority of an apparently consistent and coherent philosophy of social reality.

This is problematical for me.

For Ingham, collective intentionality becomes a process that sits atop 'abstract accounting for value' by which we all agree what money is. But collective intentionality - as described by Searle - is a primitive biological process that, Searle suggests, we share with other species. I can't see how such a process can sit atop any advanced mental conceptualization, let alone something considered as 'advanced' as the ability to account for value abstractly. Surely, collective intentionality would be constitutive of any such mental phenomena, rather than merely the process by which it is recognized?

As well as having problems with Ingham's use of Searle, I have problems with Searle too. Firstly, I don't share Searle's 'overall ontology'. I took a conscious choice against what Searle recognizes, that '[t]he truth is, for us, most of our metaphysics is derived from physics' - the little mantra to remind me of my choice is the opening line of Marc Shell's The Economy of Literature:
"Those discourses are ideological that argue or assume that matter is ontologically prior to thought." (1978) p.1
And secondly, following on this, my conception of money places it not just within the realm of 'social fact' (as currency) but also within the realm of 'brute fact' (as Money). In my imaginings, Money plays a role, secondary only to Value, in my 'overall ontology', The three axioms underscoring my writing on this blog are my attempt to express these ideas as clearly as I can.

But leaving aside my own issues with Searle, let me expand on the dissonance I see between Ingham's story of money and Searle's story of social reality.

Key here, is where Ingham's 'the very idea of money' sits, ontologically speaking. And, in particular, where it sits in relation to 'collective intentionality',

Ingham certainly considers these issues. However, I sense something contradictory in his story. We are told on the one hand that the idea of money is logically anterior to exchange, and on the other that money is established as a social fact via collective intentionality. We are being told that money exists as an idea in an individual mind, but that its social form is established by some form of collective belief. We still have to get from the mental event in the individual mind, to the collective belief in the social body - and exchange (or rather, specifically market exchange) is excluded as means of getting there. Ingham frames a question around this  - Can an inter-subjective scale of value (money of account) emerge from myriad subjective preferences? He claims that this goes to the very heart of a problem that distinguishes economics from sociology.

My reading of Searle's conception of 'collective intentionality' is that it denies notions inter-subjectivity and emergence. It attempts to be compatible with a physics ontology, its essentially materialistic and atomistic. Money is a social fact for Searle floating in the world of consciousness and mind, above all the matter, molecules, atoms and brute facts. But for Ingham, his paired to the bone 'moneyness', his very idea of money, his 'abstract accounting, they all sit much deeper. They're not floating above all the matter, molecules, and atoms. They're part of it.

And here there is the problem. When money becomes akin to maths - as I would argue it does for Ingham's most fundamental conception of money, it's true nature - where does that place it ontologically? Do we think that money then, must share something essential to its nature with maths? Is there a way in which money, like maths, seems to be written into, or drawn from the very structures of reality? I'm not averse to these ideas, but they begin to make money a 'brute fact' rather than an 'social one'. This is not compatible with Searle's idea of social reality.

But let's take a step back. Rather than making a leap to seeing Money as 'brute fact' (as indeed, I do) let's suppose instead another story; one more palatable to a more conventional general ontology. Let's say that the ability for abstract accounting arose as a critical evolutionary event in the development of the human psyche - put simply, at some point in pre-history mankind learned to count. After this event, and through the phenomena of authority and institution, the possibility arose for some form of money to take shape (or more precisely to Ingham's view, the possibility arose for us to recognize via collective intentionality the institutional form, established through authority, of our ability to account for abstract value).

Being mindful of Searle's specification of collective intentionality - so no social ether, we are 'brains in vats - Ingham has to tell a story that bridges the gap between that first Nietzschean 'price-making mind of man' and the first coin (from there we pretty much know the story). That story turns, of course, on authority. Some powerful king - perhaps some ancient Greek - who could not only impose his price making mind on his subjects through some system of accounting, but also happened across, or invented, or there simply emerged, coins.

For Ingham then, the nature of money is revealed by peeling back ontological layers. Starting from the core it looks like this;

Idea of Money > Authority > Collective Intentionality > Currency


So, do we take from this story that authority is formed by some different even more primitive 'collective intentionality'? Surely, the very idea of authority implies collective intentionality? We all need to believe who the boss is, for them to be the boss. IF I were to believe in Searle's notion of collective intentionality (I don't, but let's suppose) then the following would make more sense to me;

Idea of money > Collective Intentionality > Authority > Currency

But it's clear that this isn't what Ingham proposes. He suggests that in practice both the logical and the historical origins of money are to be found in the state (TNOM p.57) and that analytically money always has an authoritative foundation (Response p.271). And yet Searle is clear that for him 'collective intentionality' is an irreducible, biologically primitive, phenomenon. So really, if we adhere both to Searle, and to our supposition of money as dependent upon the evolutionary development of our brains reaching a critical point at which we gained the capacity to account abstractly for value (rather than my preferred, Money itself being a brute fact) Ingham's story should perhaps read;

Collective Intentionality > Idea of Money > Authority > Currency 

I think it is this confusion over - for want of a better term - the 'ontological chronology of money' that pushes Ingham to conflate money and currency (as Nigel Dodd claims). In Ingham's account ontological layers must be blurred, because their 'ordering' is inconsistent with their conception. This ordering of Collective Intentionality > Idea of Money > Authority > Currency which is what would be needed to maintain an idea that 'the price making mind of man' arose at some evolutionary point and is the basis for money, is inconsistent with the ordering Ingham expresses in his work, namely Idea of Money > Authority > Collective Intentionality > Currency. Without artificially conflating them through authority and collective intentionality, Ingham's notions of the idea of money and currency sit apart in separate ontological universes. We have a tower built on shaky foundations.

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Anyway, I can do little more than criticize here. To offer some alternative story for money would require me to re-write my unfinished long essay in this post. It makes more sense for me just to get on with that. As I've said before on this blog, so much about money relates to the ancient philosophical question of the One and the Many, and I think this issue of collective intentionality - which involves getting from the individual to the social - certainly does. I've also had to consciously avoid in the writing of this post mentioning the Simmelian theme of 'money as a claim on Society' which figures strongly Nigel Dodd's recent work. This too is about money as existing within multitudes (many individuals) and also within a cohesive organic social body; or in my terms, about money being the AND between the One AND the Many.

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To round off - and because I've not found a way of levering them into my essay - I thought I'd just share a couple of quotes with you from a book which has sat, sadly, unread for the most part, on my bookshelf for about 15 years. (Its said that often the most important books you have are the ones you haven't read - not sure that's true in this case but who knows?) Its a book called The Feeling of What Happens by the Portuguese-American neuroscientist/neurobiologist Antonio Damasio. Its a little off the beaten track for me these days, but back then there was still a small part of me that thought neuro-chemicals and the like might offer us some deeper understanding of ourselves.

Anyway, I thought what Damasio says first on intent, then intentionality, is interesting and offers a different perspective.

On Intent:
A simple organism made up of one single cell, say, an amoeba, is not just alive but bent on staying alive. Being a brainless an mindless creature, an amoeba does not know of its own organism's intentions in the sense that we know of our equivalent intentions. But the form of an intention is there, nonetheless, expressed by the manner in which the little creature manages to keep the chemical profile of its internal milieu in balance while around it, in the environment external to it, all hell may be breaking lose.
What I am driving at is that the urge to stay alive is not a modern development. It is not a property of humans alone. In some fashion or other, from simple to complex, most living organisms exhibit it. What does vary is the degree to which organisms know about that urge. Few do. But the urge is still there whether organisms know of it or not. Thanks to consciousness, humans are keenly aware of it.
Life is carried out inside a boundary that defines a body. Life and the life urge exist inside the boundary, the selectively permeable wall that separates the internal environment from the external environment. The idea of organism revolves around the existence of that boundary. In a single cell, the boundary is called a membrane. In complex creatures, like us, it takes many forms - for instance, the skin that covers most of our bodies; the cornea that covers the part of the eyeball that admits light; the mucosae that cover the mouth. If there is no boundary, there is no body. and if there is no body there is no organism. Life needs a boundary. I believe that minds and consciousness, when they eventually appeared in evolution, were first and foremost about life and the life urge within a boudary. To a great extent they still are." (p.136-137)
I had a few thoughts on reading this. I'll not develop them now but they were about;
(a) Freud and his gradual move from conceptualizing psychical energies as stemming from bodily sexual energies to a more metaphysical conception - Damasio conception of intent doesn't seem to rely on sexual energy (although if you do a quick search there's something of a debate around whether amoeba's have a sexual life or not);
(b) the idea of the Nietzschean 'Will to Power' and its relation to Damasio's 'life intent', and
(c) Thomas Crump and his Boundaries - I did an odd little ramble on this (here) - For Crump money has a ability to dissolve boundaries and he suggests that language is it's Trojan Horse. Think about Money as 'aspect of reality' (as I do) rather than a human invention and it relation to what Damasio says about boundaries is interesting.

On intentionality:

Telling stories, in the sense of registering what happens in the form of brain maps, is probably a brain obsession and probably begins relatively early both in terms of evolution and in terms of the complexity of neural structures required to create narratives. Telling stories precedes language, since it is, in fact, a condition for language, and it is based not just in the cerebral cortex but elsewhere in the brain and in the right hemisphere as well as the left.
Philosophers often puzzle about the problem of so-called 'intentionality,' the intriguing fact that mental contents are 'about' things outside the mind. I believe that the mind's pervasive 'aboutness' is rooted in the brain's storytelling attitude. The brain inherently represents the structures and states of the organism, and in the course of regulating the organism as it is mandated to do, the brain naturally weaves wordless stories about what happens to an organism immersed in an environment. (p.189)
I like the line 'weaving wordless stories'.

I should stop there, but...........

This might seem like quite a leap but what Damasio says here relates, to me, to explanations of the birth of currency. My take on that (as I touched on in my Cosmic Trigger piece in May), is that Herodotus's story of Gyges is the mind's 'weaved wordless story' (albeit reproduced in a form of words) of the birth of currency. Herodotus tells a sexy story about visibility and value, as if sexual dynamics are the best way by which we could understand this new phenomenon of coinage. But the sexual story is not only an instructive metaphor, its more. As Owen Barfield might say 'the ghost of concrete meaning'. Leaving aside whether what Herodotus recounts is historical fact - something we'll never know - his story represents a biologically primitive understanding of currency. It says that our sense of sexual being is connected - wordlessly - to Gygian gold. This is important because it gives primacy to passion over reason in the origin of money. So references to 'money of account', authority, institutions, must be understood in this context.

In other words, when Ingham says "The very idea of money, which is to say, of abstract accounting for value, is logically anterior and historically prior to market exchange." he is right, as far as he goes. Abstract accounting for value however, is not irreducible. The 'price-making mind of man' is plainly posterior to, and under the influence of, our sexual being. Making value visible - accounting for it - is for a human being, as Herodotus tried to tell us, first and foremost a sexual thing.

We find ourselves then, peeling off layers of 'biologically primitive' phenomena. But its not collective or singular intentionality that we find at the core. As Tauber points out with Freud, in the end we have to make some sort of metaphysical commitment. We have to imagine how it could be that the things we observe in the here and now are related to some conception of eternity and universality. For me, Brentano, Searle and Ingham all make that commitment too early. In my imaginings Value is the eternal and universal, Money is the means by which Value is knowable, and the Freudian 'Life and Death instincts' are the primary duality. Time, space, sex, and currency all come after this (in an ontological sense).

[To return Marc Shell's work on incest for a moment - as I said earlier my reading of it is that its related to the philosophical notion of the One and the Many. It is, if you like, our sexual being grappling wordlessly with a fundamental philosophical problem. There is a terrific section in Seaford's Money and the Early Greek Mind that I've read a few times now called Is Parmenidean Metaphysics influenced by money in which Seaford advances his ideas about the influence of money on thought. For me, Seaford is really asking what influence currency has on Parmenidean metaphysics, and furthermore I'd say that Parmedian metaphysics is in debt - to coin a phrase - to a the more biologically primitive 'sexual understanding' of the One and the Many extant in the incest taboo.]


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* I'm missing one paper which I must get on my next trip to the LSE. Its the final response from Dodd to Ingham - so my reading is incomplete.