“Function” as Sometimes Nominally Descriptive and Sometimes as Theoretically Relational

The utterance “function” may be used as a name (nominal) for a concrete activity or as a designation of a relation of terms (explanatory) to one another.

In our everyday, descriptive conversations we speak, often without serious thought, of an overall economic functioning or of a particular economic functioning, such as supply or demand.  Thus,  we speak of the gerund “functioning” and the noun “function” in the sense of an activity and often in the sense of an activity’s efficient or final cause – purpose.

Efficient cause:

  • He is the one who keeps the books.
  • He is the one who puts out fires.
  • He is the one who makes us smart.

Final cause or purpose:

  • Keeping the books is the function of an accountant.
  • Putting out fires is the function of a fireman.
  • Making us smart is the function of a teacher.


  • Accounting is his function.
  • Putting out fires is his function.
  • Teaching is his function.

The functioning is with respect to time, so we think fuzzily of it is at a speed.[1]  Also, a particular functional flow of goods or money may be cloudily sensed as a component flow in a system of interdependent components without our precisely distinguishing the flows or specifying the interdependence of the flows. “They mined too much ore.” “There’s no money around.”  We are aware that money is the means and medium of the exchange of goods and services; we have a vague idea that there is some sort of duality of the productive and the monetary in the entire process.