Heresy, Alchemy, & Economics

Inventers of the Modern World

“In Newton’s universe, bodies have no telos because they have no substance other than mathematically described extension. As a result, all motion results from external force, which is ultimately attributable to arbitrary will.

The change in motion Newton wrought by making force the central concern of his physics would have profound political and economic implications. Once inertia became the fundamental principle of the universe, strife would become central to all subsequent expressions of the English ideology based on Newtonian physics. According to Adam Smith’s reading of Newton, greed or self love is an instinct which is analogous to inertia in that each body in space seeks its own good without regard to any other body. Greed, which would lead to chaos, is held in check by competition, and the result is Smith’s version of perfect motion, otherwise known as the ‘invisible hand’ which assures that private vice is transformed magically (or alchemically) into public good.

Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is another example of the English ideology derived from Newton, which also claims that strife – or, as Darwin would say, competition for scarce resources leading to natural selection – is the fundamental principle of the universe. Darwin, like Newton, ‘frames no hypotheses.’ He looks at nature and discovers that ‘strife’ is its fundamental law.”

“This brings us to the mendacity at the heart of the English ideology. Proponents of British empiricism claim with Newton that they frame no hypotheses, while at the same time smuggling covert occult principles into their systems. They subvert the notion of essence; they promote the destruction of substance; and then at the last moment, rather than accept the consequences of what they have wrought, introduce some mathematical deus ex machina or scientific ‘law’ which saves the universe from the chaos which is the natural consequence of their subversion, and reintroduces an order which is totally confected (or framed) and which turns out to be nothing more than a projection of the English economic status quo, which began with theft, onto the universe. The common denominator of the various projections of the English ideology which Newton, Smith, Malthus, and Darwin share is Capitalism, the economic version of strife, which is the fundamental principle of the universe.

Confronted by increasingly strident complaints from the continent which accused him of smuggling occult forces into his system, Newton responded by declaring apodictically, ‘hypotheses non fingo.’ Subsequent proponents of the English ideology would make the same rhetorical move, by claiming that ‘science’ allowed them to view nature as it actually was, without any intervening conceptual framework. In reality, the proponents of the English ideology were doing nothing but projecting their own culture onto the very thing that needed to be explained. This is precisely the charges which Mirowski levels, when he claims that the physicists in question (and this certainly applies to Newton as well as the economists who imitated him) were guilty of ‘reconceptualizing the universe as a reflection of our social and somatic selves.’ In fact, Mirowski continues, ‘physicists have been doing just that for centuries.’”

– E. Michael Jones, Barren Metal – 

– Lucas G. Westman

* These passages are taken from the chapter, Newton and the Capitalist Universe

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