24 September 2007

Is There a Need for Recycling?

If I go to market, to buy a loaf of bread, I exchange what is agreed to be an equivalent amount of money for the bread, and then so far my relationship with that merchant comes to an end. He does not approach me, nor do I approach him, unless I have some enduring need for bread. It is need which might make this cycle repeat itself.

If I go to market and steal a loaf of bread, and later the merchant makes me 'pay the penalty' for my injustice, my relationship with that merchant, again, so far comes to an end. The merchant does not take beyond what justice requires from me, and I do not steal again from him, unless one of us has some persisting pleonexia. Only pleonexia would make the cycle repeat itself.

Now Anaximander does not mention either need or pleonexia as pertaining to the elements, opposites, or substances. And that is why the passage about 'paying the penalty' does not itself imply any repetition of cycles of injustice and retribution. KRS must supply something like this on their own, in order to draw out that sort of conclusion from the fragment. Their conclusion is not based on any 'arguments from the [mere] form of the fragment'.

They begin their discussion of the fragment:

The constant interchange between opposed substances is explained by Anaximander in a legalistic metaphor derived from human society;
But the fragment does not itself mention constant interchange, and there is nothing in the context that indicates that constant interchange is the explanandum. (Nor of course does it mention opposed substances--but that's another difficulty.)
the prevalence of one substance at the expense of its contrary is 'injustice', and reaction takes place through the infliction of punishment by the restoration of equality
So far, no repeated cycles would be implied. For example, the prevalence of water on earth at the beginning of the cosmos is compensated for by the prevalence of fiery dryness at the end. Punishment has thereby been inflicted and equality restored. It's like: I steal bread from the merchant, and then I'm punished. That exchange is over.

Thus, to sustain their intended interpretation, KRS must add something:
... reaction takes place through the infliction of punishment by the restoration of equality--of more than equality, since the wrong-doer is deprived of part of his original substance, too. This is given to the victim in addition to what was his own, and in turn leads (it might be inferred) to κρος, surfeit, on the part of the former victim, who now commits injustice on the former aggressor. Thus both the continuity and the stability of natural change were motivated, for Anaximander, by means of this anthropomorphic metaphor.
Their addition, "of more than equality", is entirely gratuitous, as the dash belies.

It cannot be denied that, if we knew ex ante that, in the fragment, Anaximander was intending to describe repeated cycles of change, then the metaphor would need to be interpreted along the lines that KRS suggest.

But if we do not presuppose such an interpretation (which would be to beg the question), then it seems that we cannot say that that is required by the fragment. Such an interpretation does not follow from 'the form of the fragment'.

(You might be wondering: What about the reciprocal term, ἀλλήλοις? Doesn't this imply more than one cycle? No, it doesn't. It certainly implies that there is more than one cycle, but it does not imply repeated cycles over time, or that all cycles have to be repeated over time. If, for example, somewhere fire dominates and is beaten back by water, and somewhere else water dominates and is beaten back by fire, then water and fire will have exchanged injustice with each other, and made each other pay the penalty.)