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Conference paper information

Market reductionism and the transcendent within

S. Lumbreras

17th European Conference on Science and Theology, Lyon (France). 17 April 2018

The success of Modern science does not necessarily lead to the abandonment of any acknowledgement of the transcendent. Although this seems to be the case in the markedly secular West, the process of the “Death of God” has not happened in the same way in Eastern or Islamic societies. I would argue that the reason for this is that the reductionism that reigns triumphant in the West is not derived from the success of the scientific paradigm but from the power of capitalism as a belief system. Western societies live, not confined to immanence but reduced to a specific subset of it: the narrow scope of reality that can be bought and sold. This society is obsessed with possession and accumulation, and with activity – albeit only the one that results in a market exchange. Paid work or leisure belong to the visible sphere, while home care or non-commercial art do not. The Christian vision of God balances transcendence and immanence as two necessary faces of the same ineffable reality. In the same way, the Christian understanding of a monist anthropology includes in an insoluble way our different dimensions: biological, intellectual and spiritual/transcendent. These dimensions are complementary and the two first lead to the third one: both our biology and our intellectual features act as open avenues for transcendence. There are indeed many portals to the transcendent that are widely acknowledged as such: religion, meditation or art being just some examples. However, biology itself is also a door to spirituality. I would argue that, for instance, oxytocin cascades (such as the ones that appear in childbirth) lead to unconditional love and trust beyond any rational experience; and physical and emotional pain are great masters and an unparalleled tool for personal development. Our own body reveals itself as a source of necessary knowledge about the transcendent and a powerful vector that pulls towards it, in the most immanent way possible, from inside ourselves. However, the current secular view negates this and focuses merely in the impulses that are susceptible to be monetized, which ultimately revolve around the idea of possession. The reductionism that we could call market materialism rejects transcendence and further denies the importance of some of the dimensions of immanent existence. For instance, it rejects love using fallaciously biochemical arguments (“Human beings were not built to be monogamous”), and focuses on sex as a ubiquitous advertising weapon. Very interestingly, some recent works within the business literature have seemed to come back to spirituality but only as a tool to achieve better company profits. The myopic interpretation of reality that derives from market reductionism could be at the root of many of the problems of our society: unfair, under an epidemy of depression, unsustainable and weak. Embracing the totality of our immanent reality includes necessarily opening it to the transcendent, as it is understood in Christian tradition. Only by restoring this balance between immanence and transcendence will the West be able to face the challenges that this century poses.

Keywords: economics, reductionism, materialism

Publication date: April 2018.

S. Lumbreras, Market reductionism and the transcendent within, 17th European Conference on Science and Theology - ECST XVII, Lyon (France). 17-22 April 2018.


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