A Note on Disagreeing with Einstein and the Determinists, on Avoiding a Vicious Circle, and on the Need for Precise Analytical Distinctions

Economic process – like other world processes – has an immanent intelligibility consisting of primary relativities which can be applied to the coincidental secondary determinations which occur throughout time in a non-systematic manifold. Economic process is constituted  by schemes of recurrence under the dominance of abstract principles and laws; nevertheless, the actual concrete workings of the economic schemes of recurrence are shot through and throughout time with indeterminancy.  So, it is a fact that prediction is impossible in the general case, since the concrete patterns of events occurring throughout time are a non-systematic aggregate. Thus, the point-to-line and higher correspondences are based upon the indeterminacy of the relation between current surplus products and the ultimate later basic products that eventually exit the dynamic process and enter into the standard of living.

An event in an economic scheme of recurrence has a diverging series of conditions.

Our analysis … acknowledged the existence of schemes of recurrence in which a happy combination of abstract laws and concrete circumstances makes typical, further determinations recurrent, and so brings them under the domination of intelligence.  Moreover, it acknowledged that concrete patterns of diverging series of conditions are intelligible; granted both the requisite information and mastery of systematic laws, it is possible in principle to work from any physical event, Z, through as many prior stages of its diverging and scattering conditions as one pleases; and it is this intelligibility of concrete patterns that grounds the conviction of determinists, such as A. Einstein. … However, we agree with the indeterminists inasmuch as they deny in the general case the possibility of deduction and prediction. For while each concrete pattern of diverging conditions is intelligible, still its intelligibility lies not on the level of the abstract understanding that grasps systems of laws but on the level of the concrete understanding that deals with particular situations.  Moreover such concrete patterns form an enormous manifold that cannot be handled by abstract systematizing intelligence for the excellent reason that their intelligibility in each case is concrete. There results the peculiar type of impossibility that arises from mutual conditioning. Granted complete information on a totality of events, one could work out from knowledge of all laws the concrete pattern in which the laws related the events in the totality.  Again, granted knowledge of the concrete pattern, one could use it as a guide to obtain information on a totality of relevant events.  But the proviso of the first statement is the conclusion of the second; the proviso of the second statement is the conclusion of the first; and so both conclusions are merely theoretical possibilities.  For the concrete patterns form a non-systematic aggregate, and so it is only by appealing to the totality of relevant events that one can select the concrete pattern; on the other hand, the relevant totality of events is scattered, and so they can be selected for observation and measurement only if the relevant pattern is known already  [CWL 3, 650/672-73]

Any criticism of estimates and expectations would move in a vicious circle.  It is to avoid that circle that Lonergan divided the current, purely dynamic process of functional flows in terms of precise analytical distinctions of scientific and explanatory significance – indeterminate point-to-line and point-to-surface and higher correspondences – on the basis of which a complete explanatory theory of the current, purely dynamic process can be constructed:.

The point-to-line and higher correspondences are based upon the indeterminacy of the relation between certain (surplus) products and the (later ultimate basic) products that (exit the process and eventually) enter into the standard of living. … The analysis that insists on the indeterminacy is the analysis that insists on the present fact: estimates and expectations are proofs of the present indeterminacy and attempts to get round it; and, to come to the main point, an analysis based on such estimates and expectations can never arrive at a criticism of them; it would move in a vicious circle.  It is to avoid that circle that we have divided the process in terms of indeterminate point-to-line and point-to-surface and higher correspondences. [CWL 15, 27-28]

 

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