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Insider critiques of neoclassical macro models

Paul Romer has just published a devastating critique of DSGE (or, in his parlance, ‘Post Real’) macro models. He’s not the first important insider to write an article like this. Look here for Paul Krugman, ‘How did economists get it so wrong‘. Look here for Willem Buiter, ‘The unfortunate uselessness of most ‘state of the art’ academic monetary economics’. Look here for Charles Goodhart, ‘Whatever became of the monetary aggregates‘. And look here for the insider of insiders, Olivier Blanchard, ‘Do DSGE models have a future‘ (His analysis: NO! His conclusion: yes).  Especially Krugman, Buiter en Goodhart are extremely eloquent and their pieces are a joy to read.

Two questions: is there a common denominator to these fierce critiques? And does ‘your humble narrator’ have something to add?

The answer to the first question: yes, there is. All authors mention a contempt for reality. All authors mention obfuscating math. And the impossibility to ask questions about monetary instability when even ‘monetary’ models do not model money (and debt). My summary: the models in question disable economists to analyse economic reality instead of enabling them to do this.

Do I have something to add? Yes. Of the authors above, Romer is clearest (not the same as: clear) about the fact that a scientific paradigm does not only need theory but also needs a matching system of measurement, though Goodhart also clearly mentions (in 2007!) that not paying attention to the monetary aggregates (money but, in his view, also credit and debt) was quite a mistake. For quite some time, economic measurement and theory developed more or less in tandem. Veblen’s best students became the heads of organizations, the National Bureau of Economic Research and the Bureau of Labor Statistics and developed the Flow of Funds statistics. Keynes himself established the British Office of National Statistics (yes, the present day ONS), as he needed national accounts data which were not available. In the Netherlands, Tinbergen established the Centraal Planbureau, a ‘fiscal watchdog’ with a strong emphasis on empirics. Look here and here for more information about this. Instead of at least trying to match these efforts and directly measure the variables they model, like ‘the natural rate of interest’,  ‘natural unemployment’ and ‘utility’ they chose to assume that these variables are emergent properties not of the economy – but of the models (read Romer). My point: earlier generations of economists did a much better job and did estimate variables consistent with their ideas and models. Which made their efforts scientific. Let’s stand upon their shoulders!

  1. September 17, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    For those not entirely innocent of mathematics here’s some criticism of General Equilibrium theory, the parent of DSGE:

    http://www.philipji.com/holes-in-general-equilibrium/

    Above all, it shows that there is no basis to GE’s claim that it is superior to Marshallian analysis because it simultaneously takes all markets into consideration.

    It’s a work in progress.

  2. September 18, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    This seems to be much the same mathematical error as Jevons makes in The Theory of Political Economy, discussing the Law of the Variation of Utility at Fig. 3. “As we appoach 0 [food], each increment bears a larger rectangle [higher utility], that standing upon 3 being the largest complete rectangle. The utility of the next increment, 2, is undefined, as also that of 1, since these portions of food would be indespensible to life, and their utility , therefore, infinitely great”.

    So he doesn’t take them into consideration!

  3. September 18, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    From subjective weighing of motives to objective systemic properties
    Comment on merijntknibbe on ‘Insider critiques of neoclassical macro models’

    It is long known that DSGE is a failed approach and nobody needs the insider critique of Romer et al. which amounts to not much more than the smarter rats abandoning the sinking ship. What is needed is a constructive idea about how to switch from the degenerated neoclassical research program to a progressive paradigm.

    Merijntknibbe asks: “Do I have something to add? Yes. Of the authors above, Romer is clearest … about the fact that a scientific paradigm does not only need theory but also needs a matching system of measurement, …” (See intro)

    Yes, indeed, this was already obvious to the ancient Greeks: “Research is in fact a continuous discussion of the consistency of theories: formal consistency insofar as the discussion relates to the logical cohesion of what is asserted in joint theories; material consistency insofar as the agreement of observations with theories is concerned.” (Klant, 1994)

    To establish material consistency requires observation and measurement. The central economic measuring device is national accounting. From this follows that economic theory must, as a necessary condition, (i) contain as a subset those variables that appear in national accounting, and (ii), the definitions of the variables must be identical in theory and in accounting. This is currently not the case (2012) and this goes a long way to explain why economics has never risen above the proto-scientific level.

    The first thing to notice is that standard economics is built upon a set of axioms that do not contain measurable variables at all.* This was already clear to Jevons: “Many will object, no doubt, that the notions which we treat in this science are incapable of any measurement. We cannot weigh, nor gauge, nor test the feelings of the mind; there is no unit of labour, or suffering, or enjoyment.” (1911, pp. 7, 10, 12)

    Standard economics deals since more than 140 years with scientific nonentities: “There is no such measurable quantity as ‘value’ or ‘utility’ (with all due respect to Jevons, Walras, and others) and there is no evaluation of ‘the greatest happiness for the greatest number’ or more flatly, ― there is no such thing.” (Evans, quoted in Weintraub, 2002, p. 60)

    Accordingly, mathiness can be defined as the formalization of nonentities which is an entirely illegitimate/senseless application of mathematics.**

    From all this follows that economics must be based upon premises/axioms that contain only variables that are capable of measurement by national accounting or other measuring devices.

    Because of this, the Walrasian axioms* have to be FULLY replaced. What is required is a paradigm shift and this in turn requires the switch from behavior-centered bottom-up, i.e. subjective microfoundations*, to structure-centered top-down, i.e. objective macrofoundations.

    The most elementary configuration of the economy consists of the household and the business sector which in turn consists initially of one giant fully integrated firm and is defined by these three objective structural axioms:
    A1. Yw=WL wage income Yw is equal to wage rate W times working hours L,
    A2. O=RL output O is equal to productivity R times working hours L,
    A3. C=PX consumption expenditure C is equal to price P times quantity bought/sold X.

    The investment good sector comes in at a later stage. So, what we have with A1 to A3 is the pure consumption economy as the most elementary economic configuration. These premises are certain, true, and primary, and therefore satisfy perfectly all methodological requirements. Note (i) that unacceptable nonentities like utility, maximization, or equilibrium are absent, and (ii), that Yw and C relate to national accounting while W, L, O, R, P, X have to be measured by other devices.

    Human behavior, tastes, choices, or society have no durable underlying structure, but the monetary economy has and it is given in the most elementary case by A1 to A3. Economics is not a behavioral or social science but a system science. A system can be unambiguously defined and measured. All else is proto-scientific rubbish.

    Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

    References
    Jevons, W. S. (1911). The Theory of Political Economy. London, Bombay, etc.: Macmillan, 4th edition. URL http://www.econlib.org/library/YPDBooks/Jevons/jvnPE.html
    Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2012). The Common Error of Common Sense: An Essential Rectification of the Accounting Approach. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2124415: 1–23. URL http://ssrn.com/abstract=2124415
    Weintraub, E. R. (2002). How Economics Became a Mathematical Science. Durham, NC, London: Duke University Press.

    * Standard economics is defined by these six hard core propositions/axioms:
    HC1. There exist economic agents.
    HC2. Agents have preferences over outcomes.
    HC3. Agents independently optimize subject to constraints.
    HC4. Choices are made in interrelated markets.
    HC5. Agents have full relevant knowledge.
    HC6. Observable economic outcomes are coordinated, so they must be discussed with reference to equilibrium states. (Weintraub, 1985)
    ** See Barzilai ‘On the Mathematical Foundations of Economic Theory’
    http://scientificmetrics.com/publications.html

    • September 19, 2016 at 6:43 am

      Egmont, the passage of time has not changed our disagreements. I’ll be brief. First, you write as if matching theory and measurement is simple and easy. It is neither. It’s not even possible sometimes to determine when and where errors are made in this matching. It’s not even possible to directly compare different versions of the measurement of a variable. For example, poverty or employment. But you are correct that science can’t run on theories. It must include measurements. But a part of the measurements work is multiple (often hundreds) measurements with different tools and starting points. Then trying to figure out if and how these overlap or show patterns. And mathematical equations don’t cure this problem. Equations after all are just terms strung together in certain patterns. Show me how the terms in any one of your equations can be measured exactly, precisely, and with finality then I’ll accept your theory of things. Second, one form of economics can certainly be based upon premises/axioms that contain only variables that are capable of measurement by national accounting. But this is not the only possible form for economics. And even this form cannot escape the limitations I’ve listed above. Finally, you are incorrect that human behavior, tastes, choices, or society have no durable underlying structure. If they did not human activities and communications would be impossible. But that structure is not eternally durable. It can and does change. But as a creation of interactions of humans and many other actors (including nonhuman ones) the monetary economy is also only partly and temporarily durable. For example, thought money existed in the Roman Empire wages did not.

    • September 19, 2016 at 3:10 pm

      Egmont, although I have to agree with Ken’s criticisms, we started out agreeing that given the state of economic theorising it was “time to scrap the lot and start again”, and I find myself agreeing with you again here, that:

      “What is required is a paradigm shift and this in turn requires the switch from behavior-centered bottom-up, i.e. subjective microfoundations*, to structure-centered top-down, i.e. objective macrofoundations”.

      Just before reading this I had been hoping for Bob Locke’s editorial support in developing an article on it for RWER, tentatively calling this “Complex Truth and Honest Money, or Macro Foundations for Micro Economics: An Essay in Pursuit of Paradigm Change”.

      It would help if I understood the background you are writing from, but I suspect your concept of “structure” refers to points on a graph representing observation being not randomly spread but lying along a line expressible by a mathematical function. However, understanding that as a mathematician, as both a physical and information scientist I also see structure directly visible in (say) our skeletons, or the steel girders of a skyscraper containing and transmitting gravitational forces to solid but elastic foundations generating equal but opposite forces; and likewise in electrical circuits transmitting not static but variable amounts of energy, with differences indicative of information (i.e. “differences which make a difference”). One cannot directly observe forces and electricity, but indirectly one may be able to detect differences in them, and hence structure in observations of these differences. By means of the conventional associations of these with their context we call language, we are able to communicate by reproducing these structures of difference, and where conventions differ, to translate from one to another by the context of their uses.

      At https://rwer.wordpress.com/2016/09/14/who-will-own-the-robots/ I expressed my delight in finding an underlying structure equivalent to my own in Chinese thinking, and Bob was able to respond helpfully by dint of his association with research in Chinese history. But the same fourfold objective pattern linked by “connectives” directing dynamic logic is familiar (in English grammar at least) from the different uses of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs and words like ‘the’, ‘and’, ‘or’, ‘not’ etc. You will find it in the analysis I have just made of different types of structure. The methodology I have used to ground physical economies in objective physical structures is equivalent to that used by Saussure in his seminal “Course in General Linguistics”, distinguishing synchronic (static) and diachronic (differences between two points in time) and summarising his conclusions in the opening of Part 5:

      Whereas synchronic linguistics allows only one perspective, which is that of language-users, and consequently only one method, diachronic linguistics has both a forward-looking and a backward looking perspective. … The [first] method is simply a matter of checking the available evidence. But in very many instances this … is inadequate or inapplicable. … The opposite approach requires a method of reconstruction, based upon comparison. We cannot establish the original form of just one sign in isolation. … The retrospective method, then, allows us access to the past history of a language looking back beyond the time of the earliest documents. … In this respect evolutionary linguistics is comparable to geology”.

      What is wrong with economics is not least its synchronic paradigm, involving today’s out of date paradigm of unstructured Economic Man, its supersession of ‘complex’ (with parts, as in ‘complex number’) with ‘complexity’ (a measure of the number of parts, equivalent to information capacity), and its inconsequential correspondence theory of truth, undermining honesty (i.e. truth about aims and ways of achieving them). The alternative is a diachronic paradigm, building the future on structural conventions already applicable in the pre-history of evolution: Cartesian co-ordinates to an expanding universe; yin and yang to the complementary behaviour of male and female forms of life, which we now know is built into both the macro structure and protein micro-language of DNA..

      My take on why the necessary conventions are not your equations is that mathematical equality implies equilibrium. Structural theory in this form should have the ‘=’ replaced by ”, for it is a matter for empirical investigation which of these relationship is applicable in economics. The difference between dynamic computing and static mathematics, incidentally, is shown in Algol68 by the variable on the left hand side of your equation “becoming” the result of the right hand side, symbolised by a back arrow (not even available on my computer) or optionally by ‘:=’. One can of course also STATE that “A = B”.

      • robert locke
        September 19, 2016 at 6:40 pm

        “Just before reading this I had been hoping for Bob Locke’s editorial support in developing an article on it for RWER, tentatively calling this “Complex Truth and Honest Money, or Macro Foundations for Micro Economics: An Essay in Pursuit of Paradigm Change”.

        You asked me about this in a Chinese context, and I referred to the work of Roger T Ames. Curious about what you think of what economics can learn from Chinese thought in Pursuit of Paradigm Change. Ames seems to think we can learn a lot.

      • September 19, 2016 at 9:13 pm

        Roger says “the classical Chinese canons … challenge such an understanding of theorizing itself by beginning from the primacy of practice and by taking theorizing as an intrinsic feature — a nonanalytic aspect— of practical activity itself. .. Angus Graham famously offered us a contrast between the dialectical dispute among philosophers seeking fixed ends who would ask “What is the truth?” as opposed to those who would look for an emerging consensus in asking “Where
        is the way? … any search for a “methodology” distinctive
        to Chinese philosophical texts will lead us necessarily to the oft- referenced mode of associative, correlative or analogical thinking” which later relates to C S Peirce’s abduction. What this does is to abstract from the whole rather than generalise particulars, Steve Coutinho saying “Successful abduction requires accumulated knowledge, extensive experience and
        a lively imagination. We start with a mystery, a perception, a text; these provide the “evidence” consisting of a small number of clues, or traces. We then use our imagination, informed and constrained by our extensive experience, and
        accumulated knowledge to construct an explanation”. Much as I’ve said here about informed intuition. “In other words, when we reflect upon the nature of nested “events” (rather than discrete “things”) within this processual cosmology, the relationship between these particular foci and their fields encourages a holographic understanding of world systems that begins from the assumed primacy of vital relationality”, i.e. the nested structure of live events rather than dead lines on a graphical surface.

        It seems, then, that a “Chinese” economics may start from observing what an economy in our world actually does: not as we tend to do, generalising from obvious features of it, but stripping away by abstraction the Chinese puzzle of events “nested” one inside another, in search of misconceptions which, when put right, will enable the outer levels to be more reliably constructed. But in each of the open boxes remain four sides and an energetic base. We might even liken this to doing a jigsaw, completing the picture by filling holes with plausible pieces of the right size four-interlock shapes. Much indeed as our anti-bodies neutralise antigens when we are ill.

    • September 19, 2016 at 3:21 pm

      Clearly this blog has corrupted the information I just sent, for I’ve kept a copy of it. Let’s try again. “Structural theory in this form should have the ‘=’ replaced by ” … ” , or in case that gets corrupted, by “”.

  4. September 18, 2016 at 8:07 pm

    I’ve read the literature on these models. As models go they are simplistic and even much of the mathematical guts of the models is questionable. So digging into them might be worthwhile if your interest is in making them better. Also, while I agree with the necessity to link the models and empirical measurements I suggest this requires a great deal of caution and thoroughness. Linking a model with measurements may sound simple on the face of it. That is not the case. The issues are multiple. First, at what point do you contend that a measurement is linked or the same as a particular element of a model? Almost all measurements are indirect and reflect only one approach to measuring. There are multiple indirect paths and multiple approaches to measuring. Second. no measurement is exact. Sometimes you may believe one item, like unemployment is being measured while it’s another or several others reflected in the measurement. Third. since no element of a model can be defined precisely or completely, even mathematically the model itself may lead to varying and often contradictory measuring attempts. None of this, however translates to giving up the basic tenet that what’s happening in the world we observe always trumps (no pun intended) any model of these observations.

    • robert locke
      September 20, 2016 at 11:12 am

      After Dave asked what we could learn from the Chinese way of thinking, I emailed an old acquaintance Roger T Ames about it

      rtames@hawaii.edu
      Roger,

      I retired in 1999 in the Department of History. We use to talk occasionally in the 1990s about various subjects.
      Since retirement I have lived in Germany in a small city on the Polish border, named Goerlitz. I have kept up my interests in comparative education, publishing regularly on the subject in the past two decades, and try, as an historian, to participate on a blog (rwer blog) of reformist economists, which is tough sledding because economists, even those seeking to reform their discipline, have closed minds.

      Recently, one of the participants on the blog (Dave Taylor) suggested: ”Given the major role in international economics the Chinese are about to play, perhaps it is time Western economists went back to school and studied their way of thinking instead of trying to teach them.”
      I
      know that you have been doing this for decades and would very much appreciate any help you can give to us, especially about how Chinese way of think affect economics.
      I’m 85 next February, but that hasn’t stopped me.

      Dear Robert (didn’t you go by Bob)

      I remember you well–the big guy.

      I am now retired too, and have signed a 5 year contract with Peking University. This morning I will give a lecture at Tsinghua University on Chinese thinking, using my Sun-tzu and Sun Bin books. This might be the place to begin in articulating a Chinese way of thinking, since business schools all over use these texts.

      In any case, I will attach a recent piece I did on Chinese thinking. Let me know what you think.
      Best. Roger over and out.

      The attachment is the one Dave analyzed, to which you responded so positively. Think others might be interested in learning from elsewhere.

  5. September 19, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    No! The missing characters are the mathematical signs for less than, equals and more than. How pathetic this is!

  6. September 19, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Someone else agreeing that macroeconomics needs to be dynamic:

    https://rwer.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/rising-tides-and-marginal-productivity-theory/#comment-112358.

    • September 20, 2016 at 5:50 am

      Your points are sublime, while a bit obtuse. Maybe it’s just the roundabout way you express them. But on target none the less. I try to speak clearly and succinctly. All of life and the rest of what confronts us each day is complex and dynamic. Any activity of science that misses this basic point is not worth pursuing. Tending to obscure more than it reveals. Chinese culture and science has had a great more time to recognize and accept this basic. And to integrate the recognition into everyday life. Our science in the west is just too young. And like most small children we still live in a largely black and white world. No complexity, no unexplainable, and no evolution. Remember 40% of Americans reject evolution, 40% accept evolution, and 20% are uncertain. And 60% will accept evolution so long as it’s guided by God.

      The real issues for western economists is their view of science and the way human collectives work is buried in the notions of the western Enlightenment. This revolution left western science trapped in rationalism, objectivism, and a split of science from non-sciences (humanities, etc.) leading in our time to scientism and a war of science and scientists with the rest of culture. Roger Ames and other students of China show clearly the roots of Chinese science as well as economics are different than those in the west. And the differences, as they say make all the difference. Your summary of some of these differences is excellent. Although much of what you say will not be understood by most economists any many other western scientists. Chinese scientists are by the way a long way down the path of integrating Chinese and western science. A process interesting to track.

    • September 20, 2016 at 1:40 pm

      Thanks, Bob and Ken. (Most of that last post is of course Roger’s). Last night I read a reflection by friends who have good reason to need to look on the bright side, observing how we delight in seeing a field suddenly lit by sunlight, but then move on and the moment is gone. Their advice was to dwell on it, as these moments are the reality of life. This morning I had another such “Eureka” moment, seeing my “crossed diamond” structure as looking straight into an infinitely deep Chinese box: seeing four sides seeming to meet each other in the distance.

      Even thousands of years ago the Chinese could work out that our body is energised by food energising a digestive system to energise blood distributed by a vascular system which feeds a pulmonary system, this releasing the energy to activate a neural system, which squares the circle by enabling one to look for food.

      From the 1970’s my own scientific work with computers enabled me to see electrical energy activating logic to digest not food but information inputs (representing difference or change), interpreting them according to their type of encoding before storing them in variables at known addresses so they can be output to create or seek changes. Algol68’s complex Fregeian computer language differentiates not only types of input (as if from eyes or ears), but can also REFer to the computer’s addressing, hence to a variable containing an address (REF REF) which may itself be the address of the program dealing with referencing (extending the nesting to REF REF REF, i,e. four levels 0-3 including the reference itself). The data is often itself nested, as in the algorithmic encoding of arabic number forms with hundreds containing tens containing units etc, or in languages where documents contain phrases containing words containing symbols. Likewise in algorithmic-structured programs, which contain loops within loops, repeatedly using procedures which contain operators which contain triggers to repeatedly switch on and off logic circuit loops. The program itself may direct a system controlling change (a PID servo), in which changes corrected now nest in past changes to form the datum if program changes (i.e. danger avoidance) are needed in the future.

      In short, if Western economists are to atune themselves to Chinese wisdom, they would do well to start not with mathematics but with dynamic Algol68 computing and PID servos. The one was designed as a scientific language requiring users to define their terms unambiguously, and the other is the error correcting logic our great economist Keynes was feeling for: articulated after his death in the information science of Shannon’s “Mathematical Theory of Communication” and Wiener’s “Cybernetics” (steering), both published in 1948.

  7. September 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    We have written a report that shows that the efficiency measure defined, for instance, in Gregory Mankiw’s Principles of Economics is biased towards those with more purchasing and selling power. Therefore, market equilibrium does not result in the benefit of society as a whole.

    Thebenevolentsocialplanner.wordpress.com

  8. September 22, 2016 at 11:26 am

    Ken, when you said above that my writing was “a bit obtuse”, I had to look up in my dictionary what the word meant, and the point of the Chinese puzzle emblem is that writing cannot come sharply to a point if it is about it is going round in ever decreasing circuits.

    I also needed to explore exactly what Tony Lawson was objecting to as the Popper/Hempel “deductive-nomological” method in today’s economics. I had understood that in Popper, but have only just managed to acquire Carl G Hempel’s “Philosophy of Natural Science ” (1969, Prentice-Hall), which is a bit newer and more rounded than the 1965 “aspect” Tony refers to in “Economics and Reality”.

    The summary and quotation I am about to give are really important for understanding my position on paradigm change in economics. Hempel has been discussing bridge principles (amounting to how inner or outer Chinese boxes relate to the one one is looking at) and vitalism, where he follows the Humean crowd in rejecting what as still a Christian I accept (i.e. invisible energy preceding measurable material forces). He then says on p.75:

    “Testability-in-principle and explanatory import, though crucially important, are nevertheless only minimally necessary conditions that a scientific theory must satisfy; a system that meets these conditions may yet afford little illumination and may lack scientific interest.

    “The distinctive characteristics of a good scientific inquiry cannot be stated in very precise terms. Several of them were suggested in Chapter 4, where we discussed the considerations that bear on the confirmation and acceptability of scientific hypotheses. But some additional observations are now in order.

    “In a field of inquiry in which some measure of understanding has already been achieved by the establishment of empirical laws, a good theory will deepen as well as broaden that understanding. First, such a theory offers a systematically unified account of quite diverse phenomena. It traces them back to the same underlying processes and presents the various empirical regularities as one common set of basic laws. … It might therefore be tempting to say that theories often do not explain previously established laws, but refute them. But this would give a distorted picture of the insight afforded by a theory. After all a theory does not simply refute the earlier empirical generalisations in a field; rather , it shows that within a certain limited range defined by qualifying conditions, the generalisations hold true in fairly close approximation. … Finally, a good theory will also broaden our knowledge and understanding by predicting [c.f. “retrodicting”] and explaining phenomena that were not there when the theory was formulated.”

    That is a complete justification of what I have done by going deeper than Hume and retrodicting the energetic consequences (including for instance, gravity) of a Big Bang, along with linguistic conventions which enable one to explain the the evolution of observable things from when there were no such things.

    For economics the outcome is a paradigm shift from explaining by means of market forces on economic atoms to one more based on the technology of communications, where the laws of both physics and information apply and despite the possibility of distorted as well as true communication. The enrichment of the rich at the expense of the poor can be explained in the electric circuit terms of parallel circuits in which one more or less short-circuits the other.

    Since Hempel was discussing Natural rather than social science, it is important to say that the mathematical form for combining the effects of parallel circuits also explains the “accumulated probabilities” in Cardinal Newman’s “Apologia Pro Vita Sua”, i.e. how it is possible for probabilities to be indefinitely (hence inductively) accumulated.

  9. September 24, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Interesting thoughts. I begin from a different starting point than Lawson, Popper, and Hempel. But I do see why you like Lawson, et al. I begin with William James and end with Michel Serres and Bruno Latour, along with John Law, Michel Callon, Lucy Suchman, Steven Shapin, Andrew Pickering, etc. I assume nothing — laws, forces, rules, actors, etc. – exist. I begin by asking questions and follow where the questions lead. Recognizing all the while that any answers I imply or believe I’ve found are reversible and always unclear and uncertain. That’s the world you and I, and all the rest exist in. Latour’s questions are a good place to begin. Do groups exit and how are they formed and reformed? What are the boundaries of action and learning? Are humans the only actors that have agency? How do facts and matters of concern relate? How do we write down the accounts of our experiences? John Law begins more simply and less philosophically. The divisions (seams) in the world and in us are effects or outcomes. Outcomes of interactions among actors (human and nonhuman) which create both themselves and the world they inhabit via these interactions. The division that Popper and much of science relies on – deductive/inductive – is one of these. Since all there is is the result of interactions that create facts as well as their context and meaning. I don’t need to assume the world is any form, created for any given purpose, or rests on any unseen or unknowable forces or energies. I simply have to follow the interactions and their results. I say simply but the work is not simple and it is hard and complex work. I don’t accept Popper’s “nature of the world” any more than I accept Lawson’s or yours for that matter. Doing so just gets the way of looking for the effects and tracing their workings.

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