The Group

The Moral Economy is an interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and transdisciplinary group of writers, researchers, artists and activists. In very real terms we wish to understand the underpinnings of our economic, political and moral world, as well as to develop practical models for applying and living those understandings, to in other words be the change we wish to see in the world. Our hope is that these models can be shared and improved upon and perpetuated, in order to educate, enlighten and emancipate human beings.

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The theoretical foundations of the group lie in a number very simple principles:

  1. Individual differences permeate the fabric and pull at every thread of human behaviour, and understanding those differences is at the same time an impossible and an imperative task.
  2. Knowledge is no longer about “being right”, about using facts to conclude more facts, but about the logical and intentional process of obtaining knowledge and applying it at the same time; metaphorically it is about the journey and not the goal.
  3. Meaning can no longer be fixed, but for every single term, action, or symbol and for every individual there is a vast network of connections of meaning that can be shared, perpetuated and changed, for instance through language.
  4. Categorical thinking must be understood in terms of its usefulness and limitations, especially with regards to defining categories around human beings and human behaviour. 
  5. Dualistic dichotomies must be dissolved, to the extent that where such dichotomies exist there is usually an interaction between both sides that makes both sides important to understanding.
  6. Language, as the marriage of thought and action, transcends the two.
  7. Morality begins with an altruistic outreach to the individual through language.

The Humans of Earthly Delights Faces

We recognise that such a short list is necessarily incomplete and even misleading. To go into more detail:

  1. Individual differences permeate the fabric and pull at every thread of human behaviour, and understanding those differences is at the same time an impossible and an imperative task. Seeing the continuum of human behaviour and thought as a fractal, these individual differences become dialectical differences as soon as we begin to zoom in to dissect and analyse a given trait, and zooming in or out reveals both differences and patterns of similarity. The sum total of our differences and similarities over time might be understood metaphorically and conceptually not as a historical timeline, but more as a “big bang” from a certain point, whether we want to make that point the rise of human civilisation, the rise of the “first human being”, the beginning of life on the planet, or the Big Bang itself.
  2. Knowledge is no longer about “being right”, about using facts to conclude more facts, but about the logical and intentional process of obtaining knowledge and applying it at the same time; metaphorically it is about the journey and not the goal. In light of this consideration, logic and mathematics become the only “fixed” truths, with other truths or facts of the world revolving around them as we apply new methods and approaches and come to new revelations. This is no new or particularly enlightening discovery, though we lament that even well-trained scientific researchers will make recourse to logic as an authority for the “facts” that they find. Religion, traditionally, has made recourse to “higher” authorities, physical representations of that logic with an intentional character. The intentional side of knowledge represents the very human drive to search for meaning, tied with our individual and shared emotions of anxiety about uncertainty, explaining in part why we put so much stake in finding the source of knowledge in very concrete, authoritative structures, and why we grow angry when those structures are questioned or threatened. Science meets religion, and metaphor meets reality, where the source of authority is no longer a concrete set of facts, but a fluid process of learning that is always changing and never ends.
  3. Meaning can no longer be fixed, but for every single term, action, or symbol and for every individual there is a vast network of connections of meaning that can be shared, perpetuated and changed, for instance through language. Meaning therefore becomes no more than a beacon or a strange attractor around which different understandings revolve, but never in a deterministic pattern. In this sense meaning can also be seen in terms of the traveling salesman problem, whereby the shortest or easiest path between two meanings is also the path most traversed, eventually giving rise to a network of paths where some meanings are more strongly connected than others, but each meaning is nonetheless understood only in the context of the network.
  4. Categorical thinking must be understood in terms of its usefulness and limitations, especially with regards to defining categories around human beings and human behaviour. Any given category can only take us so far, and beyond a not-all-too-certain point can become detrimental to the process of discovery. On a certain level of understanding categories exist only insofar as we see them, much like picking a colour along a spectrum of light or picking a word along a spectrum of sounds. These categories are useful because they can be shared amongst each other and refined or expanded upon, but they are detrimental to knowledge and social cohesion as soon as one category is lifted above others, e.g. the category of race, of gender, or nations, or religion. This list itself, and the single items within it, is merely an artificial category, since the fractal network of ideas distilled in the list are interconnected and have no real boundaries. This group, furthermore, only exists insofar as we share these ideas.
  5. Dualistic dichotomies must be dissolved, to the extent that where such dichotomies exist there is usually an interaction between both sides that makes both sides important to understanding. In light of categorical thinking, these dualistic dichotomies are nothing more than the two ends of the same spectrum, and the spectrum itself is only a slice of a fractal network of meaning. Zooming into the spectrum will cause the ends to diverge, and likewise zooming out of the spectrum will cause the ends to converge.This means that when we zoom out the two sides will never really touch, but likewise when we zoom in the two sides are always connected. Truth lies therefore not in any single view of the spectrum, but in the entirety of the spectrum as we zoom in and out along an axis perpendicular to the spectrum.
  6. Language, as the marriage of thought and action, transcends the two. In a very real sense this means that thought can be put into practice through language, and through language action can likewise change how we think. This holds not only for language, but for all decison-making processes, which are always improved through language. It can be seen, therefore, that the dichotomies of rationality and cognitive affect (emotion and intuition), utility-maximisation and rule-following, and self-interest and altruism are not really fixed, but change in our minds and in the outside world through language and the sharing of decision-making processes.
  7. Morality begins with an altruistic outreach to the individual through languageWithout further explanation, the above list is both a result of and a necessary conclusion to reaching out to other people through language, in trying to understand other individuals in their own language, and trying to make yourself understood. We can claim all beliefs and positions have moral significance without descending into unsustainable moral relativism, and by sharing our meanings we can move the conversation forward, which begins and ends with the removal of the dualistic categories of us and them.

We recognise that such an extended list is necessarily incomplete and therefore misleading. Therefore we ask people directly to ask questions and take part in the journey: moraleconomy {a}{t} mainstreamidea {d}{o}{t} com