Opportunity of Cost of Usury

Consider a contract of sale. In the terms there is a transfer of ownership of property. On the seller side, what justifies the charge is the property being sold. The seller may consider the opportunity cost as a means of determining how much to charge, but he does not sell the opportunity cost but the property. It is the property exchange that justifies the charge.

Consider a contract of rent. In the terms of the contract the owner transfers the use temporarily to the renter. The renter is allowed to make use of the property within the proscribed limits of the contract, but cannot dispose of it as he wishes. What justifies the charge by the owner is the claim of ownership against the real property that is being used by another according to the contract. He may consider the opportunity cost in how much he wishes to charge, but it is the ownership claim of the property used by another that justifies his charging of rent.

Consider a mutuum contract. In the terms of the contract the owner transfers the ownership of some property in exchange for a promise of return in kind, therefore the thing itself is not necessarily returned. What justifies the return of the principle, that is the exact amount in kind, is the value of the property having been exchanged which is identical to similar property in kind. What justifies the return is the receipt of the promise of return in kind. There is no justification for something beyond the principal, because lender has no property claim and his own claim is against the borrower for a return in kind. He may consider the opportunity cost of engaging in such a transaction, but this, as above, does not provide the justification of a return as it is not something exchanged.

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Dante’s Middle Ages

I just finished Mark Musa’s critical edition of Dante’s Inferno. One of the rewards of reading it (apart from a greater fear of hell and desire for heaven) was some historical perspective.

The Middle Ages weren’t some golden age of Catholicism. Wicked men much as now ruled the earth. Sodomy, bestiality, treachery, fratricide, simony and the worst all existed then in abundance as now, especially in Italy by Dante’s telling.

The world is much the same then as now with centers of wickedness and power geographically different. Good popes and bishops and evil ones as well. Saints and multitudes of sinners walking the earth. Fredricks and his sons butchering here and there. Cruelest murders of the most innocent victims.

It seems just romantic delusion to return to that prior age as it is to remain in this one. As with Dante the best movement seems to be up and out of here through purgatory and homeward not holding on to or awaiting an imminent eschaton.

With Dante’s

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Metaphysical Anti-Relationalism

In the prior post, I supposed that Aquinas’ notion of right is an relation as the object of justice. One of the characteristic endemic to modernity is the metaphysical loss of relation.

In the case of liberalism, right is taken out of the context of is relational character and given substantial presence in the individual. In this light, we speak of rights freeing and liberating people, because we have lost sight of rights as relating to another as obliging another in justice.

Having lost the relational character of right, political disputes must devolve into your individualistic rights against my individualistic rights. Your subsistent claim violates mine and vice versa. Yet freedom must prevail in some arbitrary, ambigious and progressive sense.

In this we also can see the metaphysical anti-relationalism in Descartes. By the way of ideas, he breaks the mind from relation with extra-mental reality. What the mind knows in an idea which represents something outside of the mind. Contrary to the way of signs as proposed by John Deely, where the mind knows the extramental by being related to it on the basis of the sign relation transcending the mental and extramental. The 9th circle of Descartes is solipsism where there is no relation and perhaps exemplified by Kant’s division of the phenomena and noumena.

In the modern sciences, we may see this also in the break way from formal and final causes. Formal causes are relational structures and unite a thing’s constituent elements into a unified whole. Final causes are the directedness of something to some end. Both eminently relational concepts.

I think we can go back to the syllabus of liberalism and discover this lose of relations in each.

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Doing Right by Aquinas

Based on a comment from Zippy, I began to wonder what connection there might be between right as understood in the Middle Ages and authority as understood by Zippy. Naturally, I meant straight to Aquinas ST II.II.Q57 on Right as the object of justice. Here’s my take.

Right as Aquinas means it here is something along the lines of “John did right by Fred.” John gave Fred his due or acted justly toward Fred. In this sense, I take it that “right” mean the specific equality or commensuration created by an act of justice.

Note first of all that this “right” is not something possessed. In fact, it is not something that necessarily exists prior to the act of justice. It is a relation that is the object of justice in so far as the act of justice produces the said relation.

Now what is possessed is the claim to this relation as due to another. It is in this sense that we typically speak about “rights.” A right is a claim to something that is due to the possessor of the right.

Now Aquinas acknowledges that animals have this sort of rights, in that they are due certain things. However, it is only rational agents that are not only the terminus of the right-relation but also aware of it that we arise to the level of authority.

A rational agent is aware of the right or lack of right as his due claim. It is this claim to something that is due that grounds his authority. The rational agent in virtue of his rights can make a claim to it and thus against another bind him morally to meet the obligation of giving the authority his due.

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Aristotelian Quantum Mechanics

Taking Seriously Heisenberg’s Potentia cited in An Aristotelian Approach to Quantum Mechanics from Feser’s Blog post.

One of the interesting implications of the proposed interpretation is that the lowest level substances do not have quantity or extension actually but only potentially. Quantum substances act as if they are spread out over a large area, larger than is explainable if they have quantity actually.

An implication of this is that they have actual qualities (e.g. charge for an electron), but this quality is not localized in some quantitative body as we would understand at a macro level. It is curious to claim that quantum substances can act without being actual bodies, that is material substances qua quantified or extended. Moreover, quantum substances have qualities that are also in potency, such as spin/angular momentum, momentum/impetus, etc.

If quantum substances possess quantity only potentially, then it is difficult to articulate how a quantum substance moves from one place to another. Indeed this movement may only be articulated in terms actual quantity. In quantum terms, the “strength” of the disposition of the quantity to be in a particular place moves and evolves. This sort of movement would seem to require a different sort of interpretation.

At a high level, it appears that Aristotelian metaphysics provides an interpretative lens for addressing quantum paradoxes (ignoring the author’s silly claim that quantum substances violate the principle of non-contradiction and law of excluded middle). However, it seems that there are still some questions to be addressed. I’ll have to read the An Aristotelian Approach to Quantum Mechanics a bit closer and see what is addressed there.

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Electronic Property

Consider a book. When I buy a book I have a concrete ownership over that particular object. Subject to copyright laws, I can do with it as I please and dispose of it as I see fit. Most importantly, I can sell the property. I have authority not only over the use, limited by applicable laws, but also over its being, I can transfer the ownership to another person.

Consider an ebook. When I buy the book, I have a kind of license over a particular sort of information. What the seller give me is not some concrete object. If I download it from a website, they send information through the internet which is then copied onto my hard drive. I don’t even have the thing they sent. I have a copy of the thing and given the complexity of networks, I may have a copy of a copy of a copy of a copy of what is actually on their server.

In a concrete way, I own the hard drive on which the ebook resides and I own the paper and binding of the book. However, I don’t own the ebook, the actual information on my hard drive. There is no plausible way that I could sell the ebook to another without making a copy of it, except were I to sell the underlying substrate, that is the hard drive.

Therefore, it seems that I own a sort of nontransferable license to the ebook. This can be modified by the terms of the sale, but it does not seem that I own the ebook.

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A Bit of Reality

In order to clarify the value of bitcoins, consider the following story:

Suppose that a group of accountants work in a closed room each with a copy of the same ledger. The assets that are recorded on the ledger are located in a secure area that no one has access to.

Each accountant has a phone and at random receives a call of a transaction. The receiving accountant records the transaction in his copy of the ledger and proposes the change to the others. After 51% of the accountants agree it is a legitimate transaction, all enter it on their ledger.

Suppose now that all of the property in the secured room is destroyed. However, since no one has access, transaction calls continue to come in and the accountants continue to work. At this point, no property is really being exchanged because it has been destroyed. The ledger references nothing. All that really exists at this point are entries on the ledger which remain “in the system” and reference nothing. The value of property involved is exactly zero and the system represents nothing but consumption of energy and resources.

Now consider the same situation where there is no secured room and no property. With each transaction call, each accountant adds a ledger entry for himself at an agreed upon amount. On and on the system goes, increases amounts in accounts on the ledger and transacting these amount between accounts, but there is no property, nothing of value. There is nothing other than entries in the ledger that reference nothing at all.

Now consider Bitcoins, etc.

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