My Hidden Premises: Resources, Exchange, and Control

Posted on October 22, 2009


Richard Rorty, a contemporary and recently deceased philosopher I admire, once quipped that philosophical debates are won by whomever is best able to come up with clever distinctions. The essence of his point is that philosophical debates are won and lost in the battle over the definitions employed to define the debate. Whoever sets, controls, and defines the terms of debate will win the debate. To see this observation in action, one need look no further than politics.

Along similar lines, he also suggests that people generally discuss and debate issues within certain taken-for-granted assumptions. Ultimately, he suggests, it is these fundamental assumptions that determine a person’s point of view in any particular discussion or debate.

I’ve realized, in the course of our discussions on this blog, I have some very specific assumptions that pretty much inform all my claims about human social behavior (like, sex, love, and friendship). I’d like to hear what you think about these assumptions.

They are:

  1. A resource is anything a person values.
  2. Any person can identify, create, and control resources (although, due to coercion, some do not, practically-speaking).
  3. We organize ourselves into distinct social groups which collectively identify, create, and control resources.
  4. We identify, create, and exchange resources with others in our group (cooperatively and / or competitively).
  5. We identify, create, and exchange our resources with the members of other groups (cooperatively or competitively).
  6. In principle, the total set of all resources is not finite, even if some particular resources are finite.
  7. At roots, all our disputes concern the control and exchange of resources.

First impressions? Thoughts? Do you agree / disagree? Am I overlooking something?

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