Home > Uncategorized > Scientist qua scientist, scientist qua citizen: Part I

Scientist qua scientist, scientist qua citizen: Part I

from Malgorzata Dereniowska

That economics is a value-laden science is not a new idea. Most of the prominent economic thinkers were also philosophers, wary of moral and philosophical content of scientific assumptions, models, and theories. That economics needs philosophy, and the separation between these two cannot be maintained any longer, is gaining recognition, and has become a subject of debates in the field of philosophy of economics that brings together (to various extends) philosophers, mainstream, and heterodox economists. For example, Daniel Hausman (1992) discusses that at an analytic level economists do successfully separate the philosophical and ethical content from economic analysis, albeit this separation is possible only at the analytic level. Karl Polanyi (1957), in his discussion on the entanglement of economic activities in the social totality, gives insights from a different perspective how considering the subject of economic study in social vacuum can in fact lead to thinking that scientific practice indeed has disentangled from society.

Today economists of both mainstream (e.g., Jean Tirole) and heterodox approaches more readily admit: economics is a moral and philosophical science. Yet the meaning and scope of the normative components of economics, the epistemic consequences of the social embeddedness of science, and the social consequences of economics are raising so far inconclusive debates. These issues constitute two-tiered dimensions of scientific rationality: external and internal ones. While the criteria of internal rationality (which constitute the standard approach to scientific rationality) refer to disciplinary epistemology and methodology, the criteria of external rationality involve the axiological, ethical, and societal elements of the process of knowledge production and the social consequences of science.  read more

  1. March 9, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    The problem is not so much that economists play philosopher-kings, or even that they deny the power and responsibility that comes with forming policy, but that no-one appointed economists to do so. Societies need to be informed by philosophy as to what is the good life, for example do we want iPhones and celebrities or affordable food/housing/health for all? Societies need to aggregate these preferences through democracy, by choosing compliant-neoliberal or ambitious-socialist parties. Democracy and philosophy tell us what we want the economy to do, for example create a broad and stable middle class.

    Only then do we need the services of economists as technocrats to tell us which policies will promote these goals. Economists disappoint both as scientists, in that they don’t know or apply religious doctrine instead of technical expertise, and as politicians. Economists lie and play philosopher kings by ignoring the preferences of society and asserting that economics itself, the maximization of certain variables, provides the true guide for what to do. No-one asked economists to decide what societies want, scientifically or not.

  2. Craig
    March 9, 2018 at 6:03 pm

    Science without Wisdom (self awareness and the ethical imperative it denotes) is the orthodoxy and stupidity known as scientism. The scientific study of economics requires Wisdom no less. In fact, as it is a monetary economy and money is the product that grants freedom or enforces enslavement if not loss of life without it….it requires it even more.

  3. Zane
    March 9, 2018 at 6:21 pm

    Aristotle counseled that it is first necessary to know what is, before being capable of considering what ought to be. Burgeoning information and increasingly reliable scientific studies more and more discover highly dependable facts. From these can more valid prescriptions be based for conduct leading to greater individual and overall prosperity, harmony, and happiness.

  4. Frank Salter
    March 10, 2018 at 7:55 pm

    Pertinent questions:

    Would it not be be better to teach “the actual scientific method”, recognisable by scientists, not some metaphysical analysis of what it might possibly be?

    Then, would it not be be better to define a curriculum which teaches scientifically valid analysis? Though one would imagine that to be a very short course indeed!

    • Craig
      March 11, 2018 at 8:34 am

      “Would it not be be better to teach “the actual scientific method”, recognisable by scientists, not some metaphysical analysis of what it might possibly be?”

      No, because natural philosophy-wisdom, not “some metaphysical analysis” includes and encompasses science. In fact it makes for good science instead of scientism, and as the integration of an aspect or aspects of consciousness and the scientific method is the signature of scientific breakthrough it is precisely what settled science/orthodoxy needs.

      • Frank Salter
        March 11, 2018 at 9:50 am

        The theory you espouse, “it makes for good science instead of scientism”, is demonstrably wrong for economics. The exact opposite is true. Adam Fforde’s paper (“Economics as a science” RWER-81) describes what economists consider to be the scientific method and dismisses the alternative which scientists would see as the scientific method — economists apply the very opposite of what empirical evidence shows to be true — scientists apply the scientific method because it works.

        I am not dismissing meta-level analyses as useless. But that they do not provide a useful method of teaching. The vast majority of people do not work from abstractions to the concrete. They work from the concrete to the abstract.

        While object oriented computer programming may appear to be an example of applying abstraction to design, see the books on how to refactor code so as to recognise the abstractions which are present in existing code.

        If I were to follow your reasoning, I would teach arithmetic manipulations by introducing the laws of association, commutation and distribution and expect these to help the learning process — similarly, mathematics from category theory?
        I think not.

    • Craig
      March 11, 2018 at 6:00 pm

      Sorry, you’re not understanding me. I’m advocating using BOTH science and Wisdom. As for Wisdom not providing a useful method of teaching that may be true for those who start from a dogma and simply grasp that and obsessively spout it therefore dramatizing “faith in” something, but there are rigorous and effective spiritual “technologies” and traditions that help one begin from the actual starting line which is meeting and experiencing one’s own consciousness….from which abstraction proceeds. That way one does not become habituated to abstraction and “faith in” science only.

      The biggest breakthrough economics ever had could probably be accomplished by 25-60 year old economists and pundits meeting themselves for the first time in the present.

      • Craig
        March 11, 2018 at 6:03 pm

        Make that “from which abstraction can better and more effectively proceed.”

  5. Norman L. Roth
    March 11, 2018 at 6:37 pm

    “Craig”….. with all due respect,

    After all that righteous rhetoric, Can’t you come up with something better than a COMMITTEE of “25-60 year old ..pundits …in the present” ?
    Who gets to make the short list from all those folks who fall into that criteria ? Who chooses the “COMMITTEE” ? Who decrees the magic Algorithm that will select a “spiritual technology” that will lead to the holy grail of das “Szientific break-through” ? There’s something about your choice of vocabulary that sounds strangely familiar .

    Please GOOGLE: Norman L. Roth

    • Craig
      March 12, 2018 at 12:07 am

      It was meant as a generalized critique, and as for spiritual technology is concerned…as they all have means of meeting oneself and familiarizing one with their various aspects….take your pick.

  6. Craig
    March 12, 2018 at 12:38 am

    Oh, I get it….you didn’t get it.

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