Introduction (The Einsteinian Context)

CWL 21, For a New Political Economy, was arranged by the Editor, Philip McShane, into three main parts:

Part One: For a New Political Economy

Part Two: Fragments, 1942-1944

Part Three: Circulation Analysis

In the Note at the beginning of that book’s Index, McShane remarks

Part Three … belongs almost entirely in what I call the Einsteinian context, in contrast to the Newtonian achievement of Part One, … [CWL 21, 325]

What does McShane mean by “the Einsteinian context of Part Three, in contrast to the Newtonian achievement of Part One”?  That assertion would appear to state that Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics is a relativistic field theory superseding the deficient efficient-cause theories of today.  If so, might our gaining an understanding of what McShane meant help us to a deeper understanding of the economic process and better appreciation of Lonergan’s achievement? Did Lonergan discover a relativistic macroeconomics, a process constituted by purely relational interdependencies?  Did he discover a deeper unity and a better explanation of the economic process?  Did he achieve a new paradigm by the discovery of a new science?  We must explore what McShane meant by “the Einsteinian context.”

This topic, The Einsteinian Context, is arranged as follows:

  • This Introduction
  • Two Tables comparing selected aspects of Newtonian Mechanics, Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics. The serious reader will benefit by reading both down the columns of the particular science and across the rows differentiating the contents of the different sciences.
  • Comments on specific similarities of key notions in Einstein’s and Lonergan’s work

Let us recall that in the act of insight  –  whether we are trying to understand a circle, or an economic process, or the invariant intelligibility of Special Relativity’s spacetime under inertial transformations, or General Relativity’s equivalence of the curvature of spacetime and energy-momentum under any permitted transformation  –   all the concepts are implicitly related to one another by a sweeping act of understanding the whole.  That is, all the interrelated, relativistic concepts tumble out together in a purely relational, explanatory, unified whole.  The concepts are relative to one another.

The difference between an absolute and a relative consists in this, that an absolute reality possesses its entire meaning within itself, whereas a relative reality has its complete meaning only by comparison to something else. [CWL 12 697]

The fact that we conceive nothing without relations is clear on both a priori and a posteriori grounds: a priori, because every finite act of understanding is synthetic as apprehending many things as one; a posteriori, because in going through every primary concept you will always find analogy, proportion, and comparison, … Similarly, in mathematics rules determine operations, and operations generate numbers of every kind; in physics objects are defined through the laws by which they are connected to one another; in chemistry elements are defined through the various series of relations that are found in the periodic table; in physiology organs are defined by the functions they have with regard to the whole body; and so on. [CWL 12, 717]

(In) every basic insight there is a circle of terms and relations, such that the terms fix the relations, the relations fix the terms, and the insight fixes both. If one grasps the necessary and sufficient conditions for the perfect roundness of this imagined plane curve, then one grasps not only the circle but also the point, the line, the circumference, the radii, the plane, and equality.  All the concepts tumble out together, because all are needed to express adequately a single insight.  All are coherent, for coherence basically means that all hang together from a single insight.  [CWL 3, 12/36]

Notable features of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, General Theory of Relativity, and Generalized Theory of Gravitation are

  1. A postulate of invariance of understanding and expression under transformations between systems of reference
  2. a field theory of immanent intelligibility rather than a theory of efficient causes
  3. a purely relational system: elements are defined implicitly by their relations to one another in a mathematical formalism isomorphic with the patterns of the data under investigation.

Galileo inaugurated modern science by insisting that the nature of weight was not enough; from sensible similarity, which resides in the relations of things to our senses, one must proceed to relations that hold directly between things themselves. [CWL 3, 38/62]

  1. the use of a) vectors as terms in the constrained geometry of Special Relativity, and b) tensors for their transformation properties in the more general geometry of General Relativity
  2. Special Relativity’s generalizationof Newton’s first law of motion of constant velocity lacking an intelligibility in an absolute space and an absolute time. Special Relativity’s postulate of invariance and its empirical hypothesis of the constant speed of light mandate a redefinition of Newton’s and Galileo’s notions of space and time as relative to one another rather than as absolutes in and of themselves, and leading ultimately to the equating of rest mass an energy.

The uniform velocity takes care of itself without introducing causes.  You come to something that demands an intelligible cause when you come to acceleration.  Einstein’s relativity, to my mind, is just a generalization of that first law of motion in Newton. [CWL 18, 61]

  1. General Relativity’s generalization of Special Relativity’s inertial transformation to an implicit and mutual definition of tensorial energy-momentum and the tensorial curvature of spacetime.

Notable features of Lonergan’s Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics are

  1. A postulate of invariance of understanding and expression in all systems and isms of reference
  2. a field theory of immanent intelligibility rather than a theory of efficient causes
  3. a purely relational system: interdependent functional flows are defined implicitly by their functionalrelations to one another in a mathematical formalism isomorphic with the patterns of the data under investigation.
  4. the use of a) vectors as basic explanatory elements relating differing flows, and b) simple tensors in the normative reciprocity of monetary demand flows, P’Q’, and monetary supply flows, p’a’Q’ and p”a”Q”.
  5. Akin to Special Relativity’s redefinition of Newton’s and Galileo’s notions of space and time as dilating and contracting relative to one another in an ever-shifting 4-dimensional spacetime rather than absolutes in and of themselves, a redefinition of price and quantity as dilating and contracting relative to one another in a pretio-quantitality rather than as absolutes in and of themselves,
  6. A general relativity by an insight into the conditions of functional concomitance and functional equilibrium equating the two processes of price-quantity buying, P’Q’, and price-quantity producing, p’a’Q’ and p”a”Q”.

P’Q’ = p’a’Q’ + p”a”Q”

Einstein achieved a deeper, more general set of explanatory relations in the phenomena of motion. And, as we shall see, Lonergan achieved a deeper, more general set of explanatory relations in the phenomena of economic functionings.