Preparing For Something That Never Happens:
The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
By David R. Loy

International Studies in Philosophy
Vo. 26, No. 4
pp. 47-67



p. 47 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

When I think of all the books I have read, wise words heard, anxieties given to parents, ... of hopes I have had, all life weighed in the balance of my own life seems to me a preparation for something that never happens. (William Butler Yeats)

    Yeats died in 1939. Today in Japan, where I write this, toddlers take entrance exams to get into the best kindergartens, because the best kindergartens help you to be accepted into the best primary schools, which help you get into the best middle schools, which help you get into the best high schools, which help you get into the best universities, which help you get hired by the best corporations, where assuredly your difficulties are far from over... Some of the obvious problems with this have been publicized -- e.g., teenage suicides due to academic pressure, others so traumatized they refuse to attend school -- but the greater tragedy is whole generations of students so burnt out preparing for "examination hell" that they are brain-dead by the ripe age of 19. Since the sole reason for studying is to pass university entrance exams (your university, not your academic performance while there, determines your employment prospects), there is little incentive to study once you are in -- and, of course, any personal motivation for an education has been eliminated in the process.

    Needless to say, this is only one example of a more widespread problem with education today. Those of us who teach philosophy soon realize that our role is not Socratic: among other problems, the structure of higher education makes that almost impossible. The system of grading, credits and degrees is a prime example of what I will call means-ends reversal: inevitably one learns to study in order to pass exams, get credit, earn degrees, win fellowships, and so forth, rather than understanding that process as encouraging an e-ducere imperfectly (if at all) measurable in those terms. We readily acknowledge the intrinsic value of lifelong learning, yet this inversion is now so deeply rooted that it is taken for granted and one mentions it at the risk of being dismissed as naive. Bertrand Russell already noticed the problem many decades ago: education today has become one of the main obstacles to intelligence and freedom of thought.

    This paper, however, is not another polemic on what is wrong with our educational systems. I want to reflect more generally on the duality between means and ends -- not the usual problem of omelette and eggs, but their divergence in the modern world. I am concerned about the way contemporary



p. 48 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

culture has become so preoccupied with means that it loses ends -- or, more precisely, they become inverted, in that means, because they never culminate in an ends, in effect have come to constitute our ends.

    Heidegger does not use the same vocabulary but this way of formulating our problem is consistent with his later thinking about technology, which for him too is a means that has become more than a means: Technik is the particular "way of revealing" whereby Being manifests itself today. "Everywhere everything is ordered to stand by, to be immediately at hand, indeed to stand there just so that it may be on call for a further ordering." He calls this Bestand "the standing reserve." [1] Technik discloses all beings as raw material to be exploited by the human subject; and the subject also becomes raw material for exploitation, as we too become objectified by our own objectifications. The point of Bestand is not so much that our activities require such a "standing- reserve" as that, for reasons we do not fully understand, we want to have such a standing-reserve always available. That is, we desire limitless convertible means which may be directed to any ends, even as -- or all the more because -- we no longer know what goals to seek, what values to value. In this way Bestand too loses ends, for Technik, because unable to provide an answer to our ultimate questions about what is valuable and meaningful, has itself become our answer. If if it is true that today "end-less means" have become our common goal, the taken-for-granted value, how important is that? What are its causes; and insofar as it is problematic, are there alternatives? We shall begin by considering what Max Weber (1864-1920) wrote about the rationalization and disenchantment of the modern world. Weber himself noted that the "formal rationality" pre-eminent today deals only with means and cannot answer our ultimate questions about goals and values. This aspect of his thought is familiar, yet just as important is another, lesser- known side of his social theory: his analysis of our reactive flights into subjectivity -- inner-worldly responses to the rationalization of the world which do not escape the problem but aggravate it. Weber's study of the origins of capitalism suggests not only that it had religious roots but that it may still retain a religious character. Then must any "solution" to the rationalization and disenchantment of the world also have something of a religious character?

    Part two turns to Weber's colleague Georg Simmel (1858-1918) in order to contemplate the example par excellence of means-ends inversion: money as it functions today. Simmel's magnum opus The Philosophy of Money contains, appropriately, the most profound reflections on the means-ends split in modern culture. It also challenges our understanding of their bifurcation by arguing that the distinction between them, including our quest for the ultimate meaning of life, is quite a recent cultural development. Our yearning for an ultimate is a product of our dissatisfaction with the possibilities contemporary life provides, due to its sacrifice of substantial values for instrumental rationality. But is there any way out of this "iron cage?"



p. 49 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

    We conclude with some Buddhist-related reflections on how one might respond to this problem. For Mahayana Buddhism our contemporary bifurcation between means and ends is another version of dualistic (and delusive) thinking which should be related to the more fundamental duality between subject and object. That will enable us to appreciate how the Buddhist deconstruction of subject-object duality points toward a way to resolve the means/ends split.



Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and most intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. [2]

Today the distinction between public and private has become so absolute that we have difficulty comprehending how anything could weld whole civilizations together. What has taken the place of prophetic pneuma for us? "The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the 'disenchantment of the world.'" [3] Zweckrationalitat is better translated as a purposive-rational or instrumental-rational orientation; its complement is Entzauberung, the "de-magic-ing" of the world. Zweckrationalitat is an excellent example of what Wittgenstein called family resemblances: no single characteristic is common to all the types Weber analyzed. Instrumental rationalization is a family of separable although interrelated processes which have different historical roots, develop in different ways and occur at different rates, and tend to promote different interests and groups. Examples include an increasing emphasis on calculability in various institutions; rule-determined bureaucratic administration; the specialization and compartmentalization of knowledge; and, more generally, more impersonal control over the ways we live and the decisions we make. [4]

Weber distinguished such formal rationality from what he called substantive rationality. Our problem today may be described in terms of the conflict between them: "Formal rationality refers primarily to the calculability of means and procedures, substantive rationality to the value (from some explicitly defined standpoint) of ends or results." [5] From the perspective of a substantive rationality whose concern is to actualize particular goals and values, instrumental rationality can be profoundly irrational. This irreducible antagonism between the rationality of our modern social and economic order and its irrationality from the value perspectives of equality, fraternity, love, etc., is for Weber "one of the most important sources of all 'social' problems." [6] Weber explicitly describes capitalism, his most famous example of rationalization, as involving the "domination of the end (supply meeting demand) by the means." [7] The purely formal



p. 50 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

nature of instrumental rationality, its indifference to all substantive ends and values, defines what is unique about our modern world and demonstrates what is morally and politically problematic about it. [8]

    What allows instrumental rationality to become so problematic is the obvious fact that today we do not agree about what goals and pursuits most deserve be valued; and in this matter -- which is of course the most important matter -- instrumental rationality, no matter how sophisticated, cannot help us. Weber knew his Nietzsche: the fate of our culture, which has "tasted the fruit of the tree of knowledge", is "to have to know that we cannot read the meaning of the world in the results of its investigation, no matter how perfect, but must instead be in a position to create that meaning ourselves". Yet such creation tends to be frustrated by the increasingly incomprehensible complexity of the modern world, whose organization escapes questions about value and morality by objectifying human activities into more impersonal processes. The "disenchantment of the world" means not so much the debunking of magic and superstition as the tendency to devalue all mysterious and incalculable forces in favor of the knowledge "that one can, in principle, master all things by calculation." Yet this proven calculability conceals what Lawrence Scaff calls a Simmelian paradox, for

its extension throughout culture as a possibility to be applied only "in principle" is accompanied by the individual's diminishing knowledge and control over all the conditions of life. We can interpret this to mean that each of us comes to be surrounded by and dependent on myriad complex "processes, " from economic transactions to nuclear fission, affecting the immediate experienced world and the prospects for continuation and transformation of that world, which we individually cannot possibly comprehend, much less control. [9]

Consider, for example, that complex of rationalized economic forces known as the stock market. If we ignore such ineliminable abuses as insider trading, its functioning is governed by an impersonal rationality that bypasses all the ethical dimensions to the issues of how people earn their livelihood. The leveraged-buyouts popular in the 1980's were often justified as beneficial to the economy, but those decisions were made according to equations that determined how much debt could be borne, not its effect on people and their communities. Economics is a moral science because the problem of who gets what is inevitably a moral issue, yet economists and their clients strive to quantify economic processes into mathematical formulae that can be calculated and manipulated as if they were as impersonally valid as Euclidean geometry. The belief that an "invisible hand" will beneficently regulate the economy, if only government intervention were removed, is an almost ideal type of formal-instrumental rationality swallowing substantive rationality; and the never-ending controversy this belief generates demonstrates Weber's point about the irresolvable antagonism between such rationality and the more substantive rationality for which such a belief is deeply irrational.

    The economic example is appropriate because Weber is best known for his



p. 51 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

controversial theory which locates the origins of capitalism in the "this-worldly asceticism" of puritan, especially Calvinist, ethics. Qualifying rather than rejecting materialistic determinism, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism argued that "idealist" factors sometimes affect the direction of historical development. Calvinism believed in the predestination of a select number for heaven, which encouraged what became an irresistible need to determine whether one was among the chosen; such predestination made sacraments unnecessary and led to devaluation of the sacred; in its place, economic success in this world came to be accepted as the demonstration of God's favor; which created the psychological and sociological conditions for importing ascetic values from the monastery, where they had been the prerogative of religious orders, into one's worldly vocation, as one labored to prove oneself by reinvesting any surplus rather than consuming it. The crux of Weber's essay reflects on how, in this complex interweaving of materialist and idealist factors, the original intention behind an activity may eventually be transformed into something quite different:

The Puritan wanted to work in a vocation; we must do so. For when asceticism was carried out of monastic cells into vocational life and began to dominate inner-worldly morality, it helped to build the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order. This order is now bound to the technical and economic presuppositions of mechanical, machinelike production, which today determines with irresistible force the life-style of all individuals born into this mechanism, not only those directly engaged in economic enterprise, and perhaps will determine it until the last ton of fossil fuel is burned. In Baxter's view the care for external goods should only lie on the shoulders of the saint like "a light cloak, which can be thrown aside at any moment." But fate decreed that the cloak should become an iron cage. [10]

We are a long way from Adam Smith's invisible hand. Weber's metaphor is less sanguine: the original Calvinist vocational ethos now "prowls about in our lives like the ghost of dead religious beliefs", conquered by a rationalized civilization of large-scale production and ravenous consumption that today rests on merely mechanical foundations. [11]

    An important implication of this has not been much noticed and perhaps was not fully understood by Weber himself. His sociology of religion distinguishes more ritualistic and legalistic religions, which adapt themselves to the world, from salvation religions more hostile to it, which obey sacred conviction rather than sacred law. The latter are often revolutionary due to the prophecy and charisma that motivate them, missionary because they seek to inject a new message or promise into everyday life. Their efforts to ensure the perpetuation of grace in the world ultimately require a reordering of the economic system. Weber noticed that adherents of this type of religion usually "do not enjoy inner repose because they are in the grip of inner tensions."

    All this serves just as well to describe the Puritans discussed in The Protestant Ethic, which leads to the supposition that capitalism began as, and may still be understood as, a type of salvation religion: dissatisfied with the world as it is and compelled to inject a new promise into it, motivated (or justifying



p. 52 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

itself) by faith in the grace of profit and concerned to perpetuate that grace, with a missionary zeal to expand and reorder (rationalize) the economic system.

    This supposition challenges our usual distinction between secular and sacred, between the economic sphere and the religious one -- a distinction which as many anthropologists have noticed is a late development, the exception rather than the rule. Weber's argument suggests that although we think of the modern world as secularized, its values (e.g., economic rationalization) are not only derived from religious ones (salvation from injecting a revolutionary new promise into daily life), they are largely the same values, albeit transformed by the loss of reference to an other-worldly dimension. Or, more precisely, these values have been distorted by the fact that our no longer other-worldly yet still future-oriented motivation has become unconscious, which implies, according to psychoanalytic theory, that those values will be objectified and projected. This sheds light on Weber's enigmatic claim that "Today the routines of 'everyday life' challenge religion" because heute aber ist es religioser 'Alltag', the religious has become everyday/ordinary. [12] The routinization of our lives challenges religion because our new values constitute an alternative to its older forms. But then the rationalization and disenchantment of the world is not so much an alternative to religion as a particularly heretical -- and perhaps demonic -- form of it.

    I shall not attempt to evaluate the lengthy scholarly debate that Weber's thesis has provoked, [13] but if true it is a paradigm case of means swallowing ends: Puritanism initially bifurcated the means (capital accumulation) from the goal (assurance of salvation); in its preoccupation with this means the original goal became attenuated, yet inner-worldly asceticism did not disappear as God became more distant and heaven less relevant; in our modern world the original motivation has evaporated but our preoccupation with capital and profit has not disappeared with it; on the contrary, it has become our main obsession. As Weber emphasizes, the ascetic vocational ethos may have lost its original meaning yet that does not make it any the less powerful. Our type of salvation still requires a future-orientation. As Norman Brown puts it, "We no longer give our surplus to God; the process of producing an ever-expanding surplus is in itself our God." [14] In contrast to the cyclic time of pre-modern man, which is maintained by seasonal rituals of atonement, capitalist time is linear and future-directed, because it reaches for an atonement (originally, to be one of the elect who will be saved) that can no longer be achieved because it has disappeared as a conscious motivation. But as an unconscious motivation it still functions, for we continually reach for an end that is perpetually postponed -- which in effect makes the means into our ends. So our collective reaction has become the need for growth: the never-satisfied desire for an ever-higher "standard of living" (because those who now understand themselves as consumers can never have too much) and the gospel of sustained economic "development" (because corporations and the GNP are never big enough). [15]

    The psychic toll of a perpetual future-orientation, of this means which never



p. 53 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

reaches fulfillment in an ends, is not difficult to imagine. So it is no surprise that modernity is also characterized by compensations for the increasing rationalization of the world. In reaction to its objectivity and impersonality, there has developed what Weber called a "subjectivist culture" which attempts to redeem us by cultivating an Innerlichkeit inwardness. Traditionally religion has offered whatever salvation has been necessary, but the loss of belief in a "higher" world has removed that avenue of escape without eliminating our psychological need for a redemption from this world. The nineteenth century found a temporary alternative in the Hegelian and Spenglerian creeds of social evolution, yet by Weber's day liberal historicist belief in progress was being discredited and replaced by "value spheres" that sought an inner-worldly redemption. A new place of refuge was discovered or invented: hypertrophied subjectivity. In various essays Weber focussed on three such spheres whose "irrationality" (or nonrationality) we seize upon as a relief from the seemingly inexorable rationalization of the world: an absolute ethics of "brotherliness" which for many of his contemporaries would be embodied in socialism; aestheticism; and eroticism.

    The problem with brotherliness as an absolutist ethics is that, unless still rooted in religious, other-worldly imperatives, it is plagued by a dilemma. One must choose between hoping to end all forms of domination or accepting the expediencies necessary for effective political action. "If the former, then one must be prepared to live with the maddening incongruities between ideal and real. If the latter, then one must be prepared to live with the diabolic uncertainties of responsibility for consequences of action." [16] Concern for results entails the loss of redemptive purity, but purity can be preserved only by withdrawing into a subjectivity which will become that much more inner-worldly as it becomes more alienated from a world increasingly preoccupied with results and efficiency.

    Originally the other two value spheres, art and eros, were like ethics closely associated with religion, but today they too have become autonomous. The more we self-consciously elevate them into absolutes, and the more we understand them to preserve "the most irrational and thereby real kernel of life", the more aesthetic and erotic pursuits have taken over "the function of a this-worldly salvation from the routines of everyday life and, above all, from the increasing pressures of theoretical and practical rationalism." [17] Weber, like Simmel, had some contact with the aesthetic circle of Stefan George and he observed with disapproval how George developed into a "prophet" of aestheticism. Simmel, himself somewhat of an aestheticist, noticed that one who lives in more direct contact with nature may enjoy its charms yet "lacks that distance from nature that is the basis for aesthetic contemplation and the root of that quiet sorrow, that feeling of yearning estrangement and of a lost paradise that characterizes the romantic response to nature." [18] This insight becomes more important when extrapolated: then it asks us to consider not only whether our valuation of aesthetic experience but whether our very notion of aesthetic experience might be modernist: that is, historically-conditioned by the same social forces that have



p. 54 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

disenchanted the world. The implication is that our aesthetic sensitivity to music, poetry, painting, etc., has developed in response to (and reciprocally encouraged) the de-aestheticization of the routined everyday world. In other words, certain types of "bracketed" sensory experience have been privileged, and our responsiveness to them has hypertrophied, as the rest have been devalued. Kant's famous definition characterizes aesthetic experience as nonintentional and disinterested, in sharp contrast with the utilitarian, means-ends preoccupations of daily life; yet perhaps this is less a definition than our modern construction of "aesthetic experience." This suggests a similarly disturbing question about brotherliness: has preoccupation with a purist personal ethics also developed in reaction to (and in its turn encouraged) the "de-ethicization" of our more objectified social world -- e.g., the loss of community that has accompanied modernity?

    Our third escape from the disenchanted everyday is eroticism, which we now experience as closest of all to the real and natural because we understand it as the ultimate font of life; for

only in the secret, inward sphere of the irrational, far beyond the banalities of routine existence in the everyday, can one directly sense life's pulsating forces. To assume its fullest meaning, "life" in this world, the only world there is, must be lived "beyond good and evil." Only under such conditions can its irrational core -- eroticism -- ever be imagined to offer an avenue of eternal renewal and escape. [19]

Yet to express the dualism this way, by dialectically opposing "life" to the rational, makes us wonder whether such eroticism too might be another historically-conditioned conception. Insofar as the parallel with aestheticism and brotherliness continues to hold, we may also ask whether eroticism in the modern world has been hyper-eroticized in reaction to the de-eroticization of the rest of everyday life. The question is awkward because it is difficult to gain a sense of what other alternatives there might be to the banalities of the more public everyday. Does our contemporary preoccupation with sex as that which frees us from the routinized utilitarian world reflect a commensurate lack of sensitivity to a larger "erotic" dimension -- for example, a playfulness now almost completely lacking in the more "serious" economic and political spheres? To try to evaluate this (and our other two suppositions) is not easy and would take us beyond the bounds of this paper, yet it may be mentioned that some psychologists have reached similar conclusions about eros. [20]

    With all three value spheres the flight into subjectivity appears to be a dialectical reaction to the rationalization of the objective world. Rather than providing an inner-worldly salvation, however, each seems to aggravate the problem it flees. An absolute ethic of brotherliness can maintain its purity only by becoming irresponsible (in the literal sense: unable to respond) and therefore more alienated from more rationalized social forces. By developing an acute sensitivity to art, music, literature, etc., we may have acceded to the de-aestheticization -- part of the disenchantment -- of everyday life. And by becoming preoccupied with the erotic as the "most real kernel of life", we may have become desensitized



p. 55 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

to the routinization of the "less real". If so, what we understand to be the solution is actually part of the problem. In this way modern culture has ended up deeply divided against itself, with the impersonal objectivist tendency towards rationalization at war with the subjectivist value-spheres that develop in hostility to it -- yet each dialectically reinforcing the other. The deceptive possibility of a private escape encourages us to yield to the degradation of the public realm, which in turn encourages the development of subjectivist culture.

    For Weber "the spheres of the irrational, the only spheres that intellectualism has not yet touched, are now raised into consciousness and put under its lense. This modern intellectualist form of romantic irrationalism ... may well bring about the very opposite of its intended goal." [21] How might that happen? Scaff points to a paradox that emerges from the dependence of subjectivist culture on its objectivist enemy: "the blossoming of an inwardness of cultural redemption was scarcely imaginable without the new technologies of publication and communication, the cultural hothouse of the modern city, new possibilities for economically independent urban existence -- or, in short, the complete intellectualization of even the most sacred value-sphere of subjectivity." [22]

    Yet I think that such a sociological explanation needs to be supplemented by a more Buddhist perspective, for which the basic problem may be more simply understood as the unfortunate bifurcation between an increasing sense of self-consciousness that by definition feels alienated from an increasingly-objectified rationalized world. Since for Buddhism such a Cartesian-like subject is a delusion -- an incorrect understanding of ourselves which is in fact the very source of our duhkha, "suffering" -- any salvation from modern Zweckrationalitat which involves a subjectivist withdrawal from it, thus granting its free reign within the objectified world, will only increase the anxiety and instability of such a groundless sense-of-self.

    From his Weberian perspective, Scaff agrees that the sense "of an increasingly radical tension between this world and the thought-to-be-inviolable self seems to be at the basis of our most serious and austere responses to a disenchanted fate." He concludes that "[w]hat we now need is not so much seductive "grand narratives" and enticing routes of escape, but rather temporally bounded, self-restrained, and specific inquiries that bring our history back into view and retrieve the concrete and particular, the locally expressed, the individually experienced, the detailed." [23] He does not elaborate on what these might be. Weber was pessimistic about our escaping the iron cage while finding his own personal solution in an "ethic of responsibility." That seems to have been his attempt to integrate substantial rationality with instrumental rationality by combining a passionate commitment to ultimate values with a dispassionate analysis of the best ways to pursue them. [24] As a modernist ethics this is admirable and perhaps necessary, yet it cannot be a sufficient response to the problem of modernity, insofar as its dilemma is rooted in our subjectivist alienation from a disenchanted world. If even capitalism has religious origins, as Weber argued, and still retains



p. 56 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

a religious character, as I have suggested, perhaps the solution must also have a religious character -- religious in the sense that it addresses directly the fundamental and increasingly radical tension between an objectified world and the subjectified self.



Modern times, particularly the most recent, are permeated by a feeling of tension, expectation and unreleased intense desires -- as if in anticipation of what is essential, of the definitive meaning and central point of life and things. This is obviously connected with the overemphasis that the means often gain over the ends of life in mature cultures ... the growing significance of the means goes hand in hand with a corresponding increase in the rejection and negation of the end. [25]

Simmel's most sustained meditations on the problem of means and ends are found in what he considered his magnum opus, The Philosophy of Money. Perhaps only the chapter on "Filthy Lucre" in Brown's Life Against Death equals its wealth of insight into the role of money in our lives -- a role which, it hardly needs to be pointed out, continues to increase in modern life along with instrumental rationalization and subjectification generally.

    Higher concepts in philosophy are able to embrace an increasing number of details only by a corresponding loss of content. Money for Simmel is an exact sociological counterpart, "a form of being whose qualities are generality and lack of content". For Norman Brown too, money can be the purest symbol of all "because there is nothing in reality that corresponds to it." [26] Hence its unparalleled usefulness as a measure of everything else, and the inevitability by which such a perfect means becomes the end:

Never has an object that owes its value exclusively to its quality as a means, to its convertibility into more definite values, so thoroughly and unreservedly developed into a psychological value absolute, into a completely engrossing final purpose governing our practical consciousness. This ultimate craving for money must increase to the extent that money takes on the quality of a pure means... Money's value as a means increases with its value as a means right up to the point at which it is valid as an absolute value and the consciousness of purpose in it comes to an end. (PhM 232)

Money has become most important in those times when other value-pursuits such as religion, which encourage satisfaction with more modest circumstances, lose their attraction. Simmel compares our present situation with the decline of Greece and Rome, when all of life came to be colored by monetary interests. He calls it an irony of history that, as the intrinsically satisfying purposes of life become atrophied, precisely that value which is nothing but a means assumes their place. (PhM 236) Later Brown would use psychoanalytic theory to relate money's hypertrophy with unconscious guilt and fear of death.

    However, its increasing importance for us is only part of a more general transformation of all the elements of life into means, as sequences that had previously terminated in autonomous purposes have become mutually connected



p. 57 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

into more complex teleological structures. Today, in place of earlier, relatively self-satisfying ends Simmel like Weber sees "objectively and subjectively calculable rational relationships" that "progressively eliminate the emotional reactions and decisions which only attach themselves to the turning points of life, to the final purposes." Among the many examples he discusses is the English landed gentry, whose transformation into a class based on more portable wealth has been held responsible for a decline in their communal social responsibilities. Rural self-governance had been based on the personal participation of this class, which has now yielded its paternalistic role to the more impersonal State. (PhM 431, 343)

    Yet money has also enabled people to join groups without needing to sacrifice any personal freedom. This is an exemplary difference from medieval types of association, which tended not to distinguish between people as such and people as members of a group. Medieval associations encompassed all one's interests -- economic, political, familial and religious alike. This is consistent with Weber's point about the modern development of subjectivist value-spheres, but Simmel's response is more positive. Money should be given its due:

Thus money, as an intermediate link between man and thing, enables man to have, as it were, an abstract existence, a freedom from direct concern with things and from a direct relationship with them, without which our inner nature would not have the same chances of development. If modern man can, under favourable circumstances, secure an island of subjectivity, a secret, closed-off sphere of privacy -- not in the social but in a deeper metaphysical sense -- for his most personal existence, which to some extent compensates for the religious style of life of former times, then this is due to the fact that money relieves us to an ever-increasing extent of direct contact with things, while at the same time making it infinitely easier for us to dominate them and select from them what we require. (PhM 469)

Simmel had stronger ties with fin-de-siecle aestheticist culture than Weber did and was less inclined to dismiss it as the reactive pole of a dialectical problem. On the other side, however, this quotation suggests that he was also less sensitive to the intrinsic connection between the modern "feeling of tension, expectation and unreleased intense desires" he noticed and our modernist subjectivity alienated from an increasingly disenchanted objectivity.

    Yet their differences are not as important as what they have in common. Just as Weber traces capitalism back, in part, to a vocational ethos imported from Puritanism into the economic sphere, Simmel also reflects on the religious significance of money. He notices that all Greek money was originally sacred, for it emanated from the priesthood, along with other standard concepts of measure (weight, size, time, etc.); money bore the symbol of the common god because the priesthood at that time represented the unity of the various regions. Brown's Life Against Death supplements this sociological explanation with a psychoanalytic one that accounts for why money continues to be sacred for us: "the money complex, archaic or modern, is inseparable from symbolism; and symbolism is not, as Simmel thought, the mark of rationality but the mark of



p. 58 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

the sacred." As Ernest Becker explains it, the first coins were minted and distributed by temples because they were medallions inscribed with the god's image and embodying his protective power. Containing such mana, they were naturally in demand, not because you could buy things with them but vice-versa: since they were popular you could exchange them for other things. The consequence was that "now the cosmic powers could be the property of everyman, without even the need to visit temples: you could now traffic in immortality in the marketplace." This eventually led to the emergence of a new kind of person "who based the value of his life -- and so of his immortality -- on a new cosmology centered on coins." [27]

    Simmel is not unaware of the relation of symbolism with the sacred, for he notices a profound parallel between money and God:

In reality, money in its psychological form, as the absolute means and thus as a unifying point of innumerable sequences of purposes, possesses a significant relationship to the notion of God... The essence of the notion of God is that all diversities and contradictions in the world achieve a unity in him, that he is the coincidentia oppositorum. Out of this idea, that in him all estrangments and all irreconcilables of existence find their unity and equalization, there arises the peace, the security, the all-embracing wealth of feeling that reverberate with the notion of God which we hold.

There is no doubt that, in their realm, the feelings that money excite possess a psychological similarity with this. In so far as money becomes the absolutely commensurate expression and equivalance of all values, it rises to abstract heights way above the whole broad diversity of objects; it becomes the centre in which the most opposed, the most estranged and the most distant things find their common denominator and come into contact with one another. [28]

So it is no coincidence that money exhibits the same duality in function as religion: it is one in the series of human concerns, yet also transcends the others as an integrative force which supports and infuses all other concerns. (PhM 485)

    Then perhaps God and money suffer from similar problems. The difficulty with God, as usually conceived, is that in order to encompass all things he becomes so attenuated that his being is difficult to distinguish from nonbeing -- which has made it easy for him to disappear altogether for us, or (as Simmel's analogy suggests) for his role to be assumed by money. We have noticed that money too is a perfect symbol because it has no content of its own; yet that is also what allows its means to become the end, what encourages us to take its no-thing-ness as more real than anything else. Preoccupation with either type of nonbeing devalues, and encourages a withdrawal from, the sensory world of more transitory beings. We attain a sterilized Being apparently immune to its impermanence but, like Midas, we are unable to appreciate its charms.

    The Philosophy of Money concludes by relating the domination of monetary relationships today with the way that the relativistic character of existence finds increasing expression in our lives, for "money is nothing other than a special form of the embodied relativity of economic goods that signifies their value." (PhM 512) To a Buddhist this suggests a rather different analogy between money and sunyata, the concept of "emptiness" in Mahayana Buddhism. Sunyata has



p. 59 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

often been reified into an Absolute or a Buddha-nature taken to constitute the essential nature of all things, but for Nagarjuna (whose Mulamadhyamikakarikas is the most important text of Mahayana philosophy) sunyata is a heuristic term used to describe the relativity, and therefore the lack of self-existence (in Derridean terms, lack of self-presence) of all phenomena. Nagarjuna took pains to emphasize that there is no such thing as sunyata: "Sunyata is a guiding, not a cognitive, notion" employed to "exhaust all theories and views; those for whom sunyata is itself a theory they [Buddhas] declared to be incurable" (Mulamadhyamikakarika 24:18, 12:8). If we misunderstand this the cure becomes more dangerous than the disease, for "the feeble-minded are destroyed by the misunderstood doctrine of sunyata, as by a snake ineptly seized" by the tail rather than by the neck (24:12). Money -- also nothing in itself, merely a symbol -- is equally indispensable because of its relativism, its unique ability to convert something into anything else. But woe to those who grab this snake too wrongly: who mis-take the symbol for reality, this means for the end.

    Simmel's concern with means-ends teleology derives from a fundamental paradox or unresolvable conflict which he believed to characterize all developing cultures. Life always produces cultural forms in which it expresses and realizes itself: these include sciences, technologies and systems of law as well as religions and works of art. Such forms provide the flow of life with content and order. Yet, although arising out of the life process, once objectified such forms no longer participate so directly in life's ceaseless rhythm of decay and renewal. They become cages (we are reminded of Weber's iron cage) for the life-force that creates them but then transcends them; they remain fixated into identities whose own law and logic inevitably distance them from the creative process that produced them in the first place. [29]

    As a culture evolves more such forms are produced and take on a life of their own, which entails a developing relationship between them and the creative impulse that produces them. Teleological series lengthen and ramify. A rudimentary example is basic tools. A knife is very useful but it already complicates things. As well as learning how to use it efficiently and safely we must learn how to make it, which requires further teleological chains to locate and work the right kind of bone or stone. So a developing culture constructs increasingly complex mechanisms of interlocking preconditions that become necessary to fulfill each step of the means.

    Simmel was so impressed by this tendency that he considered it the tragedy of culture: once cultural forms exist, they become the unavoidable objects by whose assimilation we become acculturated -- and with whose acculturation we necessarily become preoccupied, at the cost of a more direct relationship with the creative impulse. For prehistoric societies the terminus a quo as well as the terminus ad quem of cultural forms usually remained within the lifetime of their creator; the invention of writing systems constituted evidently the greatest quantum leap outside that boundedness. Today we are all technicians of



p. 60 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

teleologies whose termini are not only unknown but unimaginable. The incalculable abundance of modern artifacts and the continual ramification of modern teleologies means that in order to play whatever role we may within our own culture, we must subordinate ourselves more and more to them. Scholars need only reflect on the changes within their own disciplines during the past generation or two. The flood of noteworthy books and papers threatens to become a tidal wave that will submerge those who try to keep up with all the developments in their fields. A theoretical physicist once told me that specialists whose researches are interrupted for a year may never be able to catch up afterwards.

    A consequence of this heightened teleological consciousness, and of our own diminishing role within it, is the peculiar frustration of a life impelled to seek beyond itself for what it suspects will never be found and never be fulfilling.

A developing culture not only increases the demands and tasks of men, but also leads the construction of means for each of these individual ends even higher, and already often demands merely for the means a manifold mechanism of interlocking preconditions. Because of this relationship, the abstract notion of ends and means develops only at a higher cultural level. Only at that level, and because of the numerous purposive sequences striving for some kind of unification, because of the continuous removal of the specific purpose by a larger and larger chain of means -- only then does the question of ultimate purpose, that lends reason and dignity to the whole effort, and the question of why emerge. The idea of an ultimate purpose in which everything is again reconciled, but which is dispensable to undifferentiated conditions and men, stands as peace and salvation in the disunited and fragmentary character of our culture. (PhM 360, my italics)

This is one of those insights which compels assent and therefore redefines our problematic. Lengthening teleological chains are what lead us to ask about the end, the ultimate purpose of life. What is distinctive about our situation today is not so much means-ends inversion as our more basic sense that they are divorced. Modernity is better defined as the aggravated awareness of a split between them. Then our need for absolute ends and goals reflects our tendency to make everything into a means to something else. A yearning for meaning and ultimate purpose is the other side of our inability to be satisfied with the possibilities our culture offers us, a dissatisfaction which, ironically, can be traced back to its sacrifice of substantial values for instrumental rationality.

    When the problem is viewed from this perspective, what "solution" is possible? The answer would seem to be none whatsoever so long as we understand any alternative as a particular goal to be gained by means of instrumental rationality. For that approach is itself the problem. Then no seductive grand narrative or enticing mode of escape, as Scaff puts it, and no political or metaphysical end of history can be expected to fulfill us. What other alternative can there be? Wittgenstein points us in the right direction: if the abstract notion of ends and means develops only at a higher cultural level, "the solution to the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the problem." [30] But now that the problem



p. 61 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

of life weighs so heavily upon us, modernists and postmodernists alike, can it ever disappear?


The Nonduality of Means and Ends

The perplexity of utilitarianism is that it gets caught in the unending chain of means and ends without ever arriving at some principle which could justify the category of means and end, that is, of utility itself. The "in order to" has become the content of the "for the sake of"; in other words, utility established as meaning generates meaninglessness. (Arendt) [31]

It is by no means an objective truth that nothing is important unless it goes on forever or eventually leads to something else that persists forever. Certainly there are ends that are complete unto themselves without requiring an endless series of justifications outside themselves... If no means were complete unto themselves, if everything had to be justified by something else outside of itself which must in its turn also be justified, then there is infinite regress: the chain of justification can never end. (Yalom) [32]

We, at the present day, can hardly understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth, a soft bed, a glass of wine, were formerly enjoyed. (Johann Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages) [33]

    We have seen that Weber's modern world is characterized not only by instrumental rationality and disenchantment but also by compensatory emphasis on an inner-worldly salvation for the self. Increasing objectification correlates with increasing subjectification; and although one could argue about which preceded which, the more important point is that each aggravates the other. Extrapolating a hint of Simmel's, I have suggested that Weber's subjectivist refuges themselves contribute to the world's disenchantment. Circumscribing our aesthetic sensibilities within narrowly- defined limits may help to de-aestheticize the everyday world; the hypertrophy of sexuality today perhaps contributes to de-eroticizing the rest of our routinized existence; and preoccupation with living a morally-pure life within our own circle encourages us to reject the rest of the world as irredeemably corrupt -- which can become a classic case of self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I mentioned that this way of formulating our situation is especially meaningful for Buddhism, since the sense of dualism between subjectified self and objectified world is understood as the crucial delusion that causes us to suffer, as we try to secure a sense-of-self which because it is illusory can never ground itself. Contrary to the other-worldly salvations sought by most religions, Nagarjuna makes it clear that the goal of Buddhist practice is another way of experiencing this world: "The ontic range of nirvana is the ontic range of the everyday world; there is not even the subtlest difference between the two" (Mulamadhyamikakarika 25:20). In Weber's terms, Buddhism may be understood to promote the re-enchantment of our everyday world -- re-aestheticizing, re-eroticizing and re-ethicizing the whole of it -- by reducing our dualistic sense of alienation from it until we realize that we are nothing other than it. In this



p. 62 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

concluding section we need to see what such a re-enchantment has to do with teleology and the split between means and ends.

    For Simmel, modern culture is characterized by a widening divergence between means and ends. Lengthening and ramifying teleological chains lead to means drowning out goals, a process best exemplified in the role of money today. As money becomes the absolute value, in which our consciousness of purpose reaches its end, the other activities of life become demoted into our methods to attain it. Schopenhauer said that money is human happiness in abstracto, sought by those no longer capable of human happiness in concreto; our preoccupation with this "purest" symbol refutes the common belief that the modern world is materialistic. [34]

    Simmel observes that only in more ramified cultures does the question of ultimate purpose emerge. As teleological chains multiply, we begin to wonder why? and yearn for some reconciliation that can unify our fragmented lives. For Buddhism, however, this modern sense of a growing bifurcation between means and ends is another example of our more general problem with dualistic thinking. Usually we dualize (e.g., good vs. evil, success vs. failure) in order to affirm one term at the price of its opposite. In this case we use the means to get some ends, yet the same paradox bedevils us: the opposites are so dependent upon each other that each gains its meaning only by negating the other. A life self-consciously "good" is preoccupied with avoiding evil, my desire for success is equalled by my fear of failure, and when ends disappear into the future they reappear the only place they can. The further our goals and purposes are projected into an indefinite future, the more inexorably our means take over their role. Weber characterized modernity as emphasizing instrumental rationality at the price of more substantive rationality, yet the better way to express it is that instrumental rationality has become our substantive rationality: in reaction to our confusion about what to value, we have come to value Zweckrationalitat itself. Unfortunately, such instrumental rationality grants us no peace. Being a means, Zweckrationalitat is always going somewhere, but, being a means, it can never rest anywhere. Hence the peculiarly modern feeling of tension, expectation and unreleased desires that Simmel notices: our perpetual anticipation of something essential yet to occur, Yeats' sense of a whole lifetime preparing for something that never happens. No wonder, then, that we cannot understand the keenness with which a fur coat, a good fire on the hearth and a glass of wine were enjoyed in medieval times; for today they do not satisfy us.

    This inability to be satisfied is a good Buddhist definition of our duhkha, whose usual translation "suffering" leaves much to be desired. Duhkha, the first of Sakyamuni Buddha's four noble truths, is characteristic of life generally, which makes the restlessness of modern culture an aggravated version of the more general problem with being human. Buddhism traces this most fundamental duhkha back to the delusion of self: the sense of a self that is other than the world is something which, by definition, can never be satisfied. Lacking any



p. 63 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

being or ground of its own, the self is best characterized as an ongoing process which seeks perpetually, because in vain, for some way to feel secure, to make itself real. [35] The intensified psychological duhkha of modern life corresponds to our intensified individualism. This enables us to relate Simmel's increasingly ramified and increasingly frustrating teleological chains with Weber's dualism between the rationalized objectification of a disenchanted world and the subjectification necessary for an inner- worldly escape from it. If the modern, more subjectified ego-self is a delusion that is never satisfied, it will understand its dissatisfaction as due to not having attained its goals; and as attaining the more modest goals of the past (e.g., a glass of wine before the fire) brings no satisfaction, the need will develop to project more ambitious goals at the end of lengthening teleological chains...

    If so, the only solution is to deconstruct the sense of a bifurcation between such an alienated self and its objectified, disenchanted world. In this context, we need to see how Buddhism relates this deconstruction of self to the deconstruction of causality, insofar as the problem of means and ends relies upon our more basic notion of cause and effect. [36] Then what will happen to the self when the causal relation it elaborates to make itself real turns out to be problematical? Nietzsche (whom Weber and Simmel read) traced the fiction of self back to the fiction of intentionality, the supposed need for an agent to cause the action. His critique of the self follows from his critique of causality, which led him to conclude that "everything of which we become conscious is a terminal phenomenon, an end -- and causes nothing." [37] Mahayana Buddhism reached similar conclusions by a different route, which offers a more practical path to overcome our subject-object, means-ends dualities. For this our point of reference is again Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamikakarikas.

    The relationship between cause and effect was one of the main issues of classical Indian philosophy. Nagarjuna's own approach, however, seems paradoxical. On the one hand, causality is the main weapon he uses to demonstrate the interdependent relativity of things and therefore their lack of self-existence. On the other, probably the most important verse in the Mulamadhyamikakarikas seems to deny causality and interdependence from what is evidently a "higher" point of view: "That which, taken as causal or dependent, is the process of being born and passing on, is, taken non-causally and beyond all dependence, declared to be nirvana" (XXV:9). This climactic chapter of the Mulamadhyamikakarikas argues that, if there is no self-existence, then the enlightenment of nirvana, the Buddhist goal, must also be sunya -- that is, even nirvana cannot be said to exist. Nagarjuna turns traditional Buddhism upside-down by asserting there is no specifiable difference between samsara (our everyday world of duhkha, in which is the things are born, change, and pass away) and nirvana. There is, however, a change in perspective, or a difference in the way things are "taken" -- a difference which may be important if we want to avoid always preparing for something that never happens.



p. 64 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

    The irony of Nagarjuna's approach to the interdependent relativity of things is that his use of causation also denies causation. Having deconstructed the self-existence of things (including us) into interdependent conditions, causality itself disappears, because without anything to cause or be effected, the world will not be experienced in terms of cause and effect. Once causality has been used to refute the apparent self-existence of objective things, the lack of things to relate- together also refutes causality. If things originate (and change, cease to exist, etc.) there are no self-existing things; but if there are no such things then there is nothing to originate and therefore no origination. It is because we see the world as a collection of discrete things that we need to superimpose causal relationships, to glue them together.

    This transforms the Buddhist doctrine of dependent origination into an account of non- dependent non-origination. It describes not the interaction of things but the sequence and juxtaposition of appearances -- or what could be called appearances if there were some non- appearance to be contrasted with. Without any self or essential "thing-ness" behind appearances, however, no such contrast is possible. Origination, duration and cessation become "like an illusion, a dream, or an imaginary city in the sky" (Mulamadhyamikakarika VII:34). It is not self-causation, for the category of causality is eliminated altogether. This is tathata, the thusness or just this!-ness which describes the way an enlightened being lives, according to Buddhism. [38]

    This, of course, does not eliminate causality experienced "as if" in everyday life (Nagarjuna ends up with a two-tiered concept of truth), but it does enable us to experience the everyday world in a fresh, noncausal way. The crucial difference from our usual understanding becomes clear if we translate Nagarjuna's dialectic into our problematic: if there are only means, then there are no means, for every event becomes an end in itself. Ultimately, events are not to be justified by their reference to some other events, e.g., by their effectiveness in producing some other event. To live only in a causal, means-ends world is constantly to overlook the most obvious thing about ourselves and this world we are "in." The challenge, for a Buddhist, is to realize this and then to live it -- a task that soon exposes our inability to dwell in the present, the sense-of-self's need to flee its own sense-of-lack now by projecting itself into the future and identifying itself with its goals, which we hope will make us feel more secure, more real. In this way the deconstruction of the cause/effect duality also leads to deconstructing the duality between the objectified world and subjectified self. Here there is not the space to describe how meditation practices can lead to "forgetting the self," [39] but the result of that conflation is less sense of an alienated self which needs to use instrumental rationality to try to get something from the world. This breaks the vicious circle between the increasing objectification of the world and the increasing subjectification of an internalized self. Needless to say, such practices and experiences are not confined to Buddhism, yet the



p. 65 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

Buddhist understanding of this process, which emphasizes deconstructing both causality and subject-object duality, presents our problem and its solution in a manner easily related to what Weber and Simmel have noticed about modern culture. In place of end-less means, this gives us something that might be described as meaning-ful ends or end-full means; that is, life becomes play.

    Something is play when its meaning is self-contained, because nothing needs to be gained from it. From the broadest perspective, then, we are always playing; the question is not whether we are playing but how. Do we suffer our games as if they were life-or-death struggles, because they are the means by which the self hopes to ground itself sometime in the future (by qualifying for heaven, becoming rich, famous, etc.), or do we dance with the light feet that Nietzsche called the first attribute of divinity? In Derrida's terms, it is the difference between dreaming of deciphering a truth which will end play by restoring self-presence, and affirming a play which no longer seeks to ground itself. For Buddhism the latter is possible only insofar as the self is not alienated from its world, for the alienated ego-self is that which, due to its intrinsic instability, seeks to ground itself, and therefore needs to objectify its world as its place to do so.

    "So the grand destiny of man is ... to play?" Does our incredulity reflect the absurdity of the proposal, or do the negative connotations of the word reveal less about play than about us: our self-importance, our need to stand out from the rest of creation (and from the rest of our fellows) by accomplishing great projects. The loss of such self-preoccupation makes true play possible:

To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence. It is, in fact, seriousness that closes itself to consequence, for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself. [40]

The problem with instrumental rationality is, finally, its seriousness, which presses for specified conclusions and is not open to the unpredictable. When everything that happens is of consequence --not because of its causal consequences, but because we are open to it--the world becomes re-enchanted. If Buddhism is right, however, the cost of this is nothing less than one's self.

End and Goal. -- Not every end is a goal. The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end it would not have reached its goal either. A parable. (Nietzsche) [41]



p. 66 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4


1. Martin Heidegger, "The Question Concerning Technology" in The Question Concerning Technology and other Essays, tran. William Lovitt (New York: Harper Colophon, 1977), pp. 5.12, 17.

2. "Science as a Vocation," in From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. and trans. Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills (New York: Oxford University Press, 1946), p. 135.

3. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, p. 155.

4. See Rogers Burbaker, The Limits of Rationality: An Essay on the Social and Moral Thought of Max Weber (London: Routledge, 1991), p. 9.

5. The Limits of Rationality, p. 36; Brubaker's italics.

6. Max Weber, Economy and Society, ed. Guenther Roth and Claus Witich, 2 vol. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), p. 111. See The Limits of Rationality, p. 4.

7. Max Weber, "Socialism," trans. D. Hytch, in Max Weber: The Interpretation of Social Reality, ed. J. E. T. Eldridge (New York: Shocken, 1980), p. 202.

8. The Limits of Rationality, p. 10.

9. Lawrence A. Scaff, Fleeing the Iron Gage: Culture, Politics, and Modernity in the Thought of Max Weber (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), p. 227.

10. Scaff's translation in Fleeing the Iron Cage, p. 88.

11. Quoted in Fleeing the Iron Cage, p. 89.

12. "Science as a Vocation" in From Max Weber, p. 149.

13. For an early overview, see The Protestant Ethic and Modernization: A Comparative View, ed. S. N. Eisenstadt (New York: Basic Books, 1968), especially pp. 67-86.

14. Norman O. Brown, Life Against Death: The Psychoanalytic Meaning of History (New York: Vintage, 1961), p. 261.

15. In Brown's psychoanalytic terms, the result is "an economy drive by a pure sense of guilt, unmitigated by any sense of redemption," which is "the more uncontrollably driven by the sense of guilt because the problem of guilt is repressed by denial into the unconscious." (Life Against Death, p. 272).

16. Fleeing the Iron Cage, pp. 98-9.

17. From Max Weber, 345; cf. The Limits of Rationality, pp. 78-9.

18. Georg Simmel, The Philosophy of Money, ed. David Frisby, trans. Tom Bottomore and David Frisby from the 2nd ed. of 1907 (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1978), p. 478.

19. Fleeing the Iron Cage, p.109.



p. 67 Preparing For Something That Never Happens: The Means/Ends Problem in Modern Culture
International Studies in Philosophy, Vol. 26, No. 4

20. This is one of Norman Brown's main points in Life Against Death and Love's Body.

21. From Max Weber, p. 143.

22. Fleeing the Iron Cage, p. 112.

23. Fleeing the Iron Cage, pp. 241, 240.

24. See The Limits of Rationality, p. 108.

25. The Philosophy of Money, p. 481, altered. Weber was a friend of Simmel's and benefited from his writings, including the Philosophy of Money, yet this influence, although no doubt considerable, is not well understood. See, e.g., Fleeing the Iron Cage, ch. 4, "The Sociology of Culture and Simmel."

26. The Philosophy of Money, p. 221; Life Against Death, p. 271.

27. The Philosophy of Money, p. 187; Life Against Death, p. 246; Ernest Becker, Escape from Evil ( New York: The Free Press, 1975), pp. 76, 79.

28.The Philosophy of Money, p. 236. Simmel also notices a very different parallel: "The indifference as to its use, the lack of attachment to any individual because it is unrelated to any of them, the objectivity inherent in money as a mere means which excludes any emotional relationship-all this produces an ominous analogy between money and prostitution." (77)

29. See Simmel's Confilict in Modern Culture and other essays, trans. K. Peter Etzkorn (New York Teachers College Press, 1968), p. 11.

30. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 6.521.

31. Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (The University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 154. The same point can be made about pragmatism.

32. Irvin D. Yalom, Existential Psychotherapy (New York: Basic Books, 1980), p. 466; Yalom's italics.

33. Johann Huizinga, The Waning of the Middle Ages, trans. F. Hopman, (Penguin, 1987), p. 9.

34. In The Hour of our Death (Penguin, 1981) Philippe Aries turns our usual critique upsidedown. "It is difficult for us today to understand the intensity of the [late medieval] relationship between people and things." The modern world is not really materialistic, for "things have become means of production, or objects to be constumed or devoured. They no longer constitute a 'treasure'... Scientists and philosophers may lay claim to an understanding of matter, but the ordinary man in his daily life no more believes in matter than he believes in God. The man of the Middle Ages believed in matter and in God, in life and in death, in the enjoyment of things and their renunciation."(pp. 136-7)

35. For more on this, see "The Nonduality of Life and Death: A Buddhist View of Repression" Philosophy East and West 40 no. 2 (April 1990), and "Trying to Become Real: A Buddhist Critique of Some Secular Heresies" International Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 32 no. 4, December 1992.

36. Simmel notes that "the whole structure of means is one of causal connection viewed from the front" (The Philosophy of Money, 431).

37. Friedrich Nietzsche,The Will to Power, tran. Walter Kaufmann and R. J. Hollingdale (New York: Random House, 1968), no. 478, p. 265. See also no. 666, p. 352.

38. The aporias of causality are well known in Western philosophy, mainly due to Hume's critique. Nagarjuna's version points to the contradiction necessary for a cause-and-effect relationship: the effect can be neither the same as the cause nor different from it. If the effect is the same as the cause, nothing has been caused; if it is different, then any cause should be able to cause any effect. (Mulamadhyamikakarika X:19, 22) Weber too abandoned the one-dimensional causal model, ordered from the foundation upward (e.g., Marxist materialism) in favor of what may be understood as a network model of causality. (For more on this, see Fleeing the Iron Cage, 48-9, and my Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy (Yale University Press, 1988), chapter six.)

39.This is discussed in the articles mentioned in fn. 35.

40. James P. Carse, Finite and Infinite Games (New York: Free Press, 1986), 15.

41. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow, no. 204, in Human, All Too Human, tran. R. J. Hollingdale (Cambridge University Press, 1986), p. 360.