Home > Uncategorized > Scientific realism and inference​ to the best explanation

Scientific realism and inference​ to the best explanation

from Lars Syll

In a time when scientific relativism is expanding, it is important to keep up the claim for not reducing science to a pure discursive level. We have to maintain the Enlightenment tradition of thinking of reality as principally independent of our views of it and of the main task of science as studying the structure of this reality. Perhaps the most important contribution a researcher can make is to reveal what this reality that is the object of science actually looks like.

darScience is made possible by the fact that there are structures that are durable and largely independent of our knowledge or beliefs about them. There exists a reality beyond our theories and concepts of it. It is this independent reality that our theories in some way deal with. Contrary to positivism, I would as a critical realist argue that the main task of science is not to detect event-regularities between observed facts. Rather, that task must be conceived as identifying the underlying structure and forces that produce the observed events.

Instead of building models based on logic-axiomatic, topic-neutral, context-insensitive and non-ampliative​ deductive reasoning — as in mainstream economic theory — it would be much more fruitful and relevant to apply inference to the best explanation. 

People object that the best available explanation might be false. Quite so – and so what? It goes without saying that any explanation might be false, in the sense that it is not necessarily true. It is absurd to suppose that the only things we can reasonably believe are necessary truths …

People object that being the best available explanation of a fact does not prove something to be true or even probable. Quite so – and again, so what? The explanationist principle – “It is reasonable to believe that the best available explanation of any fact is true” – means that it is reasonable to believe or think true things that have not been shown to be true or probable, more likely true than not.

Alan Musgrave

  1. March 20, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Inference? I’m not sure, but the below certainly isn’t taking clues as to how our economy works from observing an apparently immutable capitalism.

    http://www.vcn.bc.ca/~vertegaa

  2. March 21, 2018 at 7:44 am

    I propose rewording relevant statements as follows,

    We MAY CHOOSE to maintain the Enlightenment tradition of BELIEVING THAT WHAT WE OBSERVE IS principally independent of our views of it and of the main task of science as studying the structure of this ASSUMED reality. Perhaps the most important contribution a researcher can make is to reveal what this ASSUMED reality that is the object of science looks like.

    I HAVE FAITH, I BELIEVE [t]here exists a reality beyond our theories and concepts of it.

    Rather, that task must be conceived as identifying the underlying structure and forces that LEAD THE OBSERVER OR OBSERVERS TO CREATE the observed events.

    Inference is a useful approach in these efforts. But inference that reflects the uncertainty of human actions and observations. Uncertainty, a concept many economists simply cannot deal with.

    • Rob Reno
      March 21, 2018 at 1:44 pm

      The King of Poland and a retinue of dukes and earls went out for a royal elk hunt. Just as they approached the woods, a serf came running out from behind a tree, waving his arms excitedly and yelling, “I am not an elk!” The king took aim and shot the serf through the heart, killing him instantly. “Good sire,” a duke said, “why did you do that? He said he was not an elk.” “Dear me,” the king replied. “I thought he said he was an elk.”

      A scientist and his wife are out for a drive in the country. The wife says, “Oh, look! Those sheep have been shorn.” “Yes,” says the scientist. “On this side.”

    • Rob Reno
      March 21, 2018 at 1:57 pm

      Better yet:

      Secretary: Herr Doktor, there’s a ding an sich in the waiting room.
      Urologist: Another ding an sich! If I see one more today, I think I’m screaming! Who is it? Secretary: How would I know?
      Urologist: Describe him.
      Secretary: You must be kidding!

      • March 22, 2018 at 5:04 am

        Rob, all hyperbole and blind merriment aside, I’ve always admired how Ian Hacking expressed the differences here.

        “There is only one way in which my thesis is contrary to a bundle of metaphysical doctrines loosely labelled ‘realist’. Realists commonly suppose that the ultimate aim or ideal of science is ‘the one true theory about the universe.’ I have never believed that even makes sense. Our preserved theories and the world fit together so snugly less because we have found out how the world is than because we have tailored each to the other.” *

        This means multiple arrangements of science are possible, between which tensions and even clashes made occur. While scientists construct their sciences, historians and social scientists construct their observations on this work and the conflicts it may involve. I view realism (in all its various forms) as an evasion of the responsibilities of historians and social scientists. In the words of John Law, “The God eye is alive and well and seemingly incurable in its greed for that which is flat and may be easily brought to the point. But, or so I firmly believe, the real chance to make differences lies elsewhere. It lies in the irreducible. In the oxymoronic. In the topologically discontinuous. In that which is heterogeneous. It lies in a modest willingness to live, to know, and to practise in the complexities of tension.” It seems most economists are realists, unfortunately.

        *
         Hacking, Ian, The Self-Vindication of the Laboratory Sciences, in “Andrew Pickering, Science as Practice and Culture.”
         Law, John, “After Method: Mess in Social Science Research.”

      • Rob Reno
        March 23, 2018 at 5:30 pm

        Realists commonly suppose that the ultimate aim or ideal of science is ‘the one true theory about the universe.’ ~ Ken Zimmerman

        No definition of critical realism I have read claims to be trying to find “ulitimate”, or “ideal”, or “one true” anything Ken, so I have not a clue where you are coming up with this definition. So I think your definition is bullshit because it assumes a false definition right out the gate. I find it ludicrous per every definition I have found on the meaning of “critical realism” to claim it means the goal is some “ultimate aim or ideal of science” or finding the “one true theory about the universe.”

        I simply find your hyperbolic extremes sometimes, well, extreme, and think we human being can reasonably believe there a middle ground between its all in our heads and its all out there. Most reasonably educated persons realize our experience of the world-out-there is mediated by many things, from our own minds to our education, culture, etc. They also know there is no such thing as The Truth or One True Theory. But when they stub their toe on a rock they also don’t claim there is no such thing as a rock.

      • March 24, 2018 at 4:14 am

        Rob, I asked to put all hyperbole aside. Which, of course you did not.

        The definition you’re questioning is Ian Hacking’s, not mine. But I agree with it. Realists believe there is a world that exists apart from humans which it may be possible for humans to reveal. One world, not multiple worlds. For realists there is one reality we’re attempting to discover, not multiple realities. Hence Hacking’s definition. If this is exaggeration to you, you live a sheltered life. Hacking is one of the most conservative and polite men I’ve met. He’s doesn’t engage in exaggeration. The objections you raise are irrelevant. Of course, realists (most anyway) recognize that all kinds of relationships and operations of the human mind can and do affect our experiences and understanding of the world around us. But this doesn’t hinder the realists in assuming there is a one real world existing apart from humans that still may be discovered, even with all these interferences. As for rocks, they certainly are socially constructed. Hacking in Chapter 7 of his book, “The Social Construction of What?” examines this work in detail. It’s a brilliant piece of work from Hacking.

      • Rob Reno
        March 25, 2018 at 6:02 pm

        The definition you’re questioning is Ian Hacking’s, not mine. But I agree with it. ~ Ken Zimmerman

        So what Ken? Irrelevant. I don’t care if you pull it out of your behind, it is simply a sophistic red herring you use to evade the fact that you impose your own opinion (and that is all it is, a viewpoint among other viewpoints that is ultimately unprovable) in an imperialistic intellectually arrogant typical manner.

        You use such red herrings to avoid the fact there are other equally valid ways of viewing the world, such as critical realsism (which is nothing like your definition above of naïve realism) which you ignore for your own sophistic purposes so you can impose a false dichotomy upon a discussion while ignoring the excluded middle ground.

        The fact that you ignore such reasonable differences of view tells me you are not here to honestly discuss anything but to impose your dogmatic beliefs upon others under the pretense of expert knowledge. Sorry Ken, that is not expert that is just arrogant. But Ken, when you ignore that there is such a view held by many scientists and philosophers that does exist between your its all in our head view that borders on down right silly arguments that rocks are all our head make your arguments irrelevant. I will agree this may be true for you though in your solipsistic universe of one ;-)

        Bottom line, I’m here to learn what the authors on this WEA connected blog have to say. You, on the other, don’t even read a single one of their books. (BTW, I bought the book you recommended and read it.) I am beginning to think you are here for your own entertainment. So many times you drag the discussion off into netherworlds not even related to the post or books the author has written, and now and then, rarely it seems, you make a wonderfully insightful comment, when you aren’t being imperialistically dogmatic that is.

        The truth is Ken your position is a philosophical one; and some philosophical positions are simply that; viewpoints that are not conclusively provable. So, when Lars (and many others) put forth a critical realist philosophical position it is just as valid as yours, and to use sophistry to deny it exists and is just as philosophically valid is to put it generously naïve and if persisted in simply disingenuous and arrogant. No one is doubting that the world is, as Lars writes, “epistemologically mediated by theories” that are creations of human mind, but that does not necessarily imply that the world is a product of them. When I was a child hunting grouse and I picked up a rock and bagged my first bird, I think it is perfectly reasonable to hold that I wasn’t using rocks in my head.

        There is a middle ground; a critical realist mode (as referring to realities beyond ourselves, but realities that are always apprehended in terms of human concepts) opposed to a naïve realist mode such as you use as a straw man/red herring.

        The overarching flaw with methodological individualism and rational choice theory, in their different guises, is basically that they reduce social explanations to purportedly individual characteristics. However, many of the characteristics and actions of the individual originate in and are only made possible through society and its relations. Even though society is not an individual following his own volition, and the individual is not an entity given outside of society, the actor and the structure have to be kept analytically distinct. They are tied together through the individual’s reproduction and transformation of already given social structures.

        It is here that I think that some social theorists falter. In economics, the economy is treated as a sphere that can be analyzed as if it were outside the community.

        What makes knowledge in social sciences possible is the fact that society consists of social structures and positions that influence the individuals, partly since they create the necessary prerequisites for the actions of individuals, but also because they predispose individuals to act in a certain way.

        Even if we have to acknowledge that the world is mind-independent, this does not in any way reduce the epistemological fact that we can only know what the world is like from within our languages, theories, or discourses. But that the world is epistemologically mediated by theories does not mean that it is the product of them. (Syll 2016, 5)

        Our observations and theories are concept-dependent without therefore necessarily being concept-determined. There is a reality that exists independently of our knowledge and theories. Although we cannot comprehend it without using our concepts and theories, these are not the same as reality itself. (Syll 2016, 6)

        Social science is relational. It studies and uncovers the social structures in which individuals participate and position themselves. It is these relations that have sufficient continuity, autonomy, and causal power to endure in society and provide the real object of knowledge in social science. It is also only in their capacity as social relations and positions that individuals can be given power or resources or the lack of them. To be a capital-owner or a slave is not an individual property, but can only come about when individuals are integral parts of certain social structures and positions. Just as a cheque presupposes a banking system and tribe-members presuppose a tribe social relations and contexts cannot be reduced to individual phenomena. (Syll 2016, 6)

        The theories and models that economists construct describe imaginary worlds using a combination of formal sign systems such as mathematics and ordinary language. The descriptions made are extremely thin and to a large degree disconnected to the specific contexts of the targeted system than one (usually) wants to (partially) represent. This is not by chance. These closed formalistic-mathematical theories and models are constructed for the purpose of being able to deliver purportedly rigorous deductions that may somehow by be exportable to the target system. By analyzing a few causal factors in their “laboratories” they hope they can perform “thought experiments” and observe how these factors operate on their own and without impediments or confounders. (Syll 2016, 6)

        Unfortunately, this is not so. The reason for this is that economic causes never act in a socio-economic vacuum. Causes have to be set in a contextual structure to be able to operate. This structure has to take some form or other, but instead of incorporating structures that are true to the target system, the settings made in economic models are rather based on formalistic mathematical tractability. In the models they appear as unrealistic assumptions, usually playing a decisive role in getting the deductive machinery deliver “precise” and “rigorous” results. (Syll 2016, 6)

        (….) Economic theorists ought to do some ontological reflection and heed Keynes’ [1936: 297] warnings on using models in economics:

        The object of our analysis is, not to provide a machine, or method of blind manipulation, which will furnish an infallible answer, but to provide ourselves with an organized and orderly method of thinking out particular problems; and, after we have reached a provisional conclusion by isolating the complicating factors one by one, we then have to go back on ourselves and allow, as well as we can, for the probable interactions of the factors amongst themselves. This is the nature of economic thinking. Any other way of applying our formal principles of thought (without which, however, we shall be lost in the wood) will lead us into error. (Syll 2016, 7, On the Use and Misuse of Theories and Models in Mainstream Economics.

      • March 26, 2018 at 9:24 am

        Rob, your attitude sucks. Not a helpful stance.

        If we examine the works and comments of scientists, the result most common is that scientists are partly and selectively realists. Copernicus, for example said this when comparing his geometric constructions with those of Ptolemy,

        “It is not easy to determine which of them exists in the heavens, … except that the perpetual harmony of the numbers and appearances compels us to believe it is some one of them.”

        The world is complex; thus, such selectivity for scientists. As an example, we have this from Friedel Weinert’s book, “Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud: Revolutions in the History and Philosophy of Science.”

        “Copernicus was not a realist about his geometric devices. He had some difficult believing that the theoretical structures employed in heliocentrism – the eccentric and epicyclic motions which serve to account for the observable phenomena – have a counterpart in physical reality. Copernicus was not a realist about the algebraic structure of his model. Copernicus was a realist about celestial objects, their motions, and the system that holds them together. He believed that the place he had assigned to the Earth in the heliocentric model corresponded to a part of the structure of the solar system. Copernicus was a realist about the topologic structure of the heliocentric model. Copernicus’ realist arguments are presented in his Preface and Dedication to Pope Paul III and Part I of his book.”

        Stephen Hawking and Leonard Mlodinow coined the term “model-dependent realism” in their 2010 book, “The Grand Design.” Model-dependent realism is a view of scientific inquiry focusing on the role of scientific models of phenomena. It claims reality should be interpreted based upon these models, and where several models overlap in describing a subject, multiple, equally valid, realities exist. It claims that it is meaningless to talk about the “true reality” of a model as we can never be fully certain of anything. The only meaningful thing is the usefulness of the model.

        “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True” is a 2011 book by the British biologist Richard Dawkins. It’s intended for young adults. In the first chapter of the book, Dawkins explains what he means with the title The Magic of Reality… Dawkins “reality” is my favorite among scientists.

        “Magic is a slippery word: it is commonly used in three different ways, and the first thing I must do is distinguish between them. I’ll call the first one ‘supernatural magic’, the second one ‘stage magic’ and the third one (which is my favourite meaning, and the one I intend in my title) ‘poetic magic.’ … What I hope to show you in this book is that reality – the facts of the real world as understood through the methods of science – is magical in this third sense, the poetic sense, the good to be alive sense. […] In the rest of this book I want to show you that the real world, as understood scientifically, has magic of its own – the kind I call poetic magic: an inspiring beauty which is all the more magical because it is real and because we can understand how it works. Next to the true beauty and magic of the real world, supernatural spells and stage tricks seem cheap and tawdry by comparison. The magic of reality is neither supernatural nor a trick, but – quite simply – wonderful. Wonderful, and real. Wonderful because real.”

        “An independent reality, in the ordinary physical sense, can neither be ascribed to the phenomena nor to the agencies of observation.” Niels Bohr.

        “If one wants to give an accurate description of the elementary particle. . .the only thing which can be written down as description is a probability function. But then one sees that not even the quality of being. . .belongs to what is described.” Werner Heisenberg.

        Rob, I agree with many of your comments. But when you make statements like this, “[t]he truth is Ken your position is a philosophical one; and some philosophical positions are simply that; viewpoints that are not conclusively provable,” I must call a halt. Conclusively provable is not possible within the human realm. So why call for it? Why waste time and effort pursuing it?

  3. March 21, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    Okay, I guess my index page wasn’t pertinent enough to arouse your interest for more than a few seconds. In the hope this qualifies, can I try once more?

    Click to access epiconomics.pdf

    • Rob Reno
      March 21, 2018 at 2:48 pm

      Interesting John. Look forward to reading.

    • Frank Salter
      March 21, 2018 at 7:59 pm

      I looked at your introduction and you suggest:
      “But by starting out with a very different set of first principles, we will be able to go beyond
      and bypass just about all the theorization that went on before.” — which is a description of my paper. (F M Salter, Transient Development, RWER-81 )

      You also state:
      “There is after all a reason why, after at least three centuries of trying to get the full
      picture, economists, even those on top of their game and writing text books, are still pretty
      much mystified about how it all hangs together”

      Your not wishing to use mathematics is unfortunate as this continues the three hundred years, to which you refer, without any real progress in analysis. Any quantitative analysis requires mathematics. It is unavoidable.

      I would appreciate your comments on my analysis which is classical and transient!

  4. March 22, 2018 at 1:49 am

    Lars Syll >> Science is made possible by the fact that there are structures that are durable and largely independent of our knowledge or beliefs about them. There exists a reality beyond our theories and concepts of it. It is this independent reality that our theories in some way deal with. … [T]he main task of science is not to detect event-regularities between observed facts. Rather, that task must be conceived as identifying the underlying structure and forces that produce the observed events.

    I fully support this proclamation of Lars Syll’s on science. I believe he includes economics in this category of science. If we firmly keep this research stance and attitude, the rest are auxiliary problems concerning the strategies we choose in attacking our objectives. Those strategies can be very different depending on the nature and character of object of our research. They may even change according to researcher’s personal aptitude. They may be conceptual, analytical, axiomatic, statistical, empirical, or historical. Even for the same object, two or three strategies might be useful and often necessary. We may criticize plethora of mathematics in mainstream economics but we should keep in mind that mathematics itself can be a good, often necessary tool of analysis for many research objectives.

    • March 24, 2018 at 2:11 am

      This is 31st comment on Syll’s post Scientific Realism. I have read all 30 comments. Argument concerning pros and cons on mathematics is fruitless just as the series of many comments here prove it. What is important is to find a new constructive tool of economics that may go beyond the limits of mathematics. In short, economics needs to introduce the third mode of science.

      Let me cite the abstract of my paper A Guided Tour of the Backside of Agent Based Simulation (a chapter of a book which appeared 2016):

      Agent-based simulation brings a host of possibilities for the future of economics. It provides a new analytical tool for both economics and mathematics. For a century and a half, mathematics has been the major tool of theoretical analysis in economics. It has provided economics with logic and precision, but economics is now suffering; economics in the twentieth century made this clear. Theorists know that the theoretical framework of economics is not sound and its foundations are fragile. Many have tried to sidestep this theoretical quagmire and failed. Limits of mathematical analysis force theorists to adopt mathematically tractable formulations, though they know these formulations contradict reality. This demonstrates how economics lacks a tool of analysis that is well suited to analyzing the economy’s complexity. Agent-based simulation has the potential to save economics from this dead end and can contribute to reconstructing economics from its very foundations. Achieving this mission requires those engaging in agent-based simulation to have an in-depth understanding of economics based on its critical examinations. This guided tour leads readers around the backside of economics, tells what is wrong with economics and what is needed for its reconstruction, and provides hints for a new direction open to incorporation of agent-based simulation.

  5. March 22, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Frank:
    Aside from the reason given in the second paragraph of the preface (the introduction starts at pg. 7), my refusal to use math is the same as it is for the overwhelming part of the accountancy profession. They recognize that, in terms of an economic continuity, production isn’t real before being realized through returns. Instead, in the real world it invariably induces a to be resolved disequilibrium and hence there is no way to provide a determinate point of departure, nor can there be a deterministic function, from which to start doing math.

    Your paper is a prime example of “as-if” economy-endogenous physicalness matters; from which meta-axiom, a mean value theorem is made to follow. This would imply however that the value of the rate of change of productivity or technical progress (tp), whether calling it transient or not, is yet paid at that mean value at every shown point in time. But again, the real world doesn’t work that way. Those that are effecting (tp) operate “in pipe-line”, and as a rule they are being paid with final output embedded with less (tp) than what will be appearing later on the retail level as a result of their then former effort to effect (tp). That is if in the interim, the accounts regarding (tp) remain resolvable. A no doubt crucial physicalness doesn’t make an appearance _before_ final output becomes consumed exogenous to the economy.

    The previous paragraph is suggestive of an inherently elastic value of the economy’s numeraire over the period that (tp) happens, and when such value is yet kept invariant because physicalness matters in an overriding way, the type of economics engaged in not only loses its connection to but defines away the real world. Within the latter, production values heretofore in search of determinants aren’t in a position to be aggregated.

    In conclusion: While you readily admit that your model isn’t real-world dynamic, calling it transient doesn’t make it more realistic, nor does it advance on the neoclassical dictum of supply creating its own demand. At least, that’s what it looks like from my perspective.

    • Frank Salter
      March 22, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      Clearly you have not read my paper or you have not understood it t all. It takes me several days to read and study before I gain an understanding of most substantive analyses.

      On your page four, you state:
      “Although the explanation of any logically true theory has to commence with a stated set of
      axiomatic assumptions, I doubt very much that any novel theory starts out with its discoverer
      coming up with a set of axioms from which the theory fleshes out and takes shape.” — You should note that, that is exactly what my analysis does — but I came to my analysis in this form after many years of effort.

      When a quantitative analysis predicts, from first principles, the actual values which are to be found in the real world, you talk about an “as-if” economy. How can real world values be “as-if”?

      If you wish to call the classical use of the labour value of production a numeraire, then so be it. But you claim to espouse the works of a follower of Adam Smith.

      You demonstrate your failure to understand what a first principles analysis implies. There is no model at all! So it is impossible for me to accept your claim of accepting is not “real world dynamic” Transient is a very specific physical process not some rhetorical device. See the differential equations in my paper. They deny your claim of the analysis not being “real-world dynamic”. Or are you disputing the definitions of productivity and the level of technical progress.

      As my analysis provides a rejection of neoclassical analysis, I do not understand your
      comment about “the neoclassical dictum of supply creating its own demand. At least, that’s what it looks like from my perspective.” My analysis implies the exact opposite, but I will need to extend it as another mathematical paper to explain that.

    • Frank Salter
      March 22, 2018 at 4:24 pm

      First line of above should finish — … understood it at all. It …

    • March 23, 2018 at 8:10 am

      John, thank you for these cogent comments. Mathematics can be a useful tool for scientists, including social scientists such as economists. But it’s important for scientists to understand what mathematics is and does. Mathematics is one of the great cultural achievements of humans. Mathematics is a language for abstraction. Different from similar languages invented by humans (e.g., logic, philosophy) mathematics was also taken to be the language of certainty. In this way mathematics, apart from its utilitarian functions, set the parameters for epistemology, ideology, and even mysticism, at least in the West. But for all these claims, mathematics is not and can never be the language of certainty. First, because it is grounded in material-historical human culture. Second, because uncertainty is a fundamental part of this culture. Mathematics is no different from all human culture; all are socially constructed.

      This becomes clear in observing mathematics in use. The simplest mathematical operation is counting. But counting is uncertain when counting physical objects. After all, not all gold bars are the same. But when we count gold bars, 1, 2, 3, etc., we must assume they are identical. Even if created in different places, by different people, with different motivations. But isn’t it the job of auditors and accountants to make certain such counting mistakes are corrected. However, this job is impossible to complete. Accountants must depend on people to do the weighing and transport of both the gold bars and scales, and even build the scales. Each action is as likely to produce more errors as less. But this can’t be so in measuring the universe and the world of atoms and molecules, right? Wrong! It’s still people doing the counting, inventing the telescopes and other machines, and twirling all those knobs. So, if mathematics can’t ensure certainty in the basic operation of counting physical objects, how can it ensure certainty in measuring human intentions and motivations, or even willingness to cooperate with both mathematics and those who depend on it? No doubt humans created the part of culture called mathematics to be useful and even inspiring, but humans cannot create it to be certain. This is simply beyond the capabilities of humans. No matter how much math teachers, computer authorities, and some economists may claim otherwise.

      • Frank Salter
        March 23, 2018 at 8:58 am

        Ken Zimmerman states:
        “But it’s important for scientists to understand what mathematics is and does.”

        Scientists and engineers are the ones who do understand the use of mathematics. They can distinguish the differences between pure and applied mathematics — they are tools of their trades. It is social scientists who conflate the two repeatedly.

        Ken Zimmerman:
        “Mathematics is a language for abstraction. … mathematics is not and can never be the language of certainty.”

        Thereby introducing philosophy! Science does NOT claim certainty. It accepts theories as being valid when their predictions match the empirical evidence. If hypotheses fail to predict that evidence, they are rejected — unlike neoclassical economists for example.

        Does the uncertainty Ken Zimmerman is projecting extend to never trusting engineering constructs, based on mathematical design tools, such as bridges, aeroplanes etc?

        Ken Zimmerman:
        “But when we count gold bars, 1, 2, 3, etc., we must assume they are identical. Even if created in different places, by different people, with different motivations.”

        Thereby translating a category error into mathematical uncertainty. It is not a counting error but an accounting error!

        Ken Zimmerman:
        “how can it ensure certainty?”

        Ken Zimmerman sets up a binary true-false logic — effectively an exclusive or certain or wrong! A convenient straw man to be knocked down. Scientific theories do not claim certainty. They claim empirical validity.

      • March 23, 2018 at 10:16 am

        Frank, let me say this about all that!

        (1) Agree some scientists and engineers know how to use mathematics. Not sure they ever consider what it is.
        (2) No, science does not claim certainty. But mathematics was invented with that adjective attached, in practice if not always in “philosophy.”
        (3) I made no comment about trust. Trusting mathematics, particularly those who use it is vastly different from asserting mathematics provides certainty. I trust that that my barber will not shave my head in a fit of mismeasurement. Even thought rulers cannot assure certainty in hair measurements.
        (4) Mathematics comes in lots of versions. Accounting is one. When I say one potato, two potato, three, I’m counting potatoes, right? Not tomatoes, thought they are similar in appearance and could be confused. Maybe somebody painted a tomato brown and slipped in in the basket. Mathematics can’t assure this doesn’t happen. Mathematics is just a cultural tool. People with intelligence and emotional stability use it to successfully count one potato, two potato, three. But even these intelligent and mature people can misuse mathematics, and mis-count.
        (5) Scientific theories claim plausibility. Of all the possible explanations of given observations I’m aware of, the one I as scientist have chosen is plausible. But not the only plausible theory. You’re correct about the dichotomy I set up. It’s not a dichotomy. It’s a process continuum from certain to uncertain, with mixes of both in between. But like an asymptotic curve we just never reach certainty. And uncertainty either, for that matter. It’s a judgement call of where each decision falls on this continuum.

      • Frank Salter
        March 23, 2018 at 11:02 am

        The essential point is that every quantitative theory in economics requires the use of mathematics. Unfortunately there appears to be an anti-mathematical bias within some of the heterodox community. This leads to the kind of anti-mathematical comment, which started this thread (John Vertegaal; March 22, 2018 at 3:04 pm).

      • March 23, 2018 at 11:46 am

        Quantification in science is wedded to mathematics in the present. A non-quantitative science is, of course feasible, but not pursued often. After all, what’s the difference between, We’re 95% certain about projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including changes in wind patterns, precipitation and some aspects of extremes and of ice vs. the wording of the IPCC 2007 report, “There is now higher confidence in projected patterns of warming and other regional-scale features, including changes in wind patterns, precipitation and some aspects of extremes and of ice.” It seems science can function with and without mathematics. Or even combine with and without in the same study.

    • Frank Salter
      March 23, 2018 at 12:00 pm

      Which leads us back into analysis from first principles and specific model hypotheses. These are so very different that their conflation in economic theorising is what must be resolved before real progress will be made.

  6. Rhonda Kovac
    March 22, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Unfortunately, ‘reality’ is not so simple, especially when it comes to economic, or other social, systems. The basic components/elements of an economy’\ are artificial conceptual constructs, not external ‘realities’. For example, ‘demand’ — and its regulation against supply by price — don’t really ‘exist’ in the sense that a molecule exists. It’s in large part an abstraction imposed on the world. (One might even argue that ‘molecules’ and such are themselves, ultimately, imposed abstractions as well.) We don’t look at the world through microscopes, ‘observe’ ‘economies’, conclude their principles of operation, and then design our economy to align with those principles.

    There have existed other economic systems, with a fundamentally different design, such as in earlier Native American societies, which were based on cooperation and sharing and where money is not involved — not on supply as balanced against demand by price — and which possess advantages over present systems from which we could benefit. Does the scientific study of present ‘reality’ lead us to them? It is by no means clear.

    Now, of course such alternative systems did exist, and therefore are part of ‘reality’, through history. And study of that historical reality can be performed. Still, what about additional alternatives that are possible but yet have never occurred? Can we be confident we would be led to them through the study of what has occurred or is now occurring?

    Just as there is a serious question as to whether we would have been led to the Native American economic system through study of present reality, so the study of present plus historical reality may not lead us to other potentially useful economic principles. The problem is that focusing on ‘reality’, can, and often does, predispose us to unthinkingly accept what’s already here here and neglect envisioning alternatives.

    As regards experimental protocols, where new situations can be created and studied: Science is good at testing hypotheses. But it tells us nothing about which hypotheses to test.

    Certainly, scientific study, in its Enlightenment conception, can catalyze — and has catalyzed, often impressively — new ideas based on new principles. Nonetheless, its limitations and biases — which can be considerable in the social realm — must also be recognized.

    • Rob Reno
      March 22, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Rhonda, I really enjoy your comment. Thanks.

    • March 23, 2018 at 8:11 am

      Excellent comments. Reality is not simple, never simple. And never certain.

  7. March 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Exactly… after many years of effort, a set of axioms somehow arises from that effort. There is no disagreement here. Just don’t pull arguments out of context please.

    You seem to be under the impression that I’m disputing some internal consistency, needing an arduous studying of the terms in your equations to reach that conclusion.
    I didn’t find a fault in your logic, that part of it looks impeccably put together; but also irrelevant as it happens. For my critique concerns your axioms having the meta-axiom of “physicalness matters in economic phenomena”, as an underlying truth or reality. Do you deny the latter? That’s why it’s a reality _as-if_ the underlying “truth” holds indeed true. By disputing your meta-axiom, your set of axioms and derived definitions would be undercut, if my argument or model either points out a serious dynamic incongruity or shortcoming with respect to empirical evidence, or is able to make a more general case in explaining how our economy works than yours. The argument backed-up by my model does both.

    Every theory is a model of perceived reality. Your perception of a real economy is one that is made up from physical things as existing in time, and your quantitative analysis is based on a set of axioms representing physical things. It’s a kind of “reality” that is neither shared by accountants, nor, as I indicated before, is it realistic time-wise with how technical progress, the subject of your paper, gets distributed; and that’s even before bringing in the essential demand side of an economy. With that specific paragraph being more or less the meat of my earlier critique, hanging on a skeleton of disputed physicalness, why don’t you attack that to save your approach? Another way to potentially send me packing is by turning the tables on me, and somehow show that my first axiom in particular is incongruous with empirical evidence. That way we’ll both have to go back to the drawing board.

    No idea where “the classical use of the labour value of production a[s] numeraire” comes from. My use of the term “numeraire (generally money)”, is the same as your use on pg.147 of your pdf article. However the qualifier you’re using in that paragraph is about as telling as pigs flying. It shows that you really don’t have the foggiest, that what you call an “affine transformation from the theoretically valid labour-time measurements”, in the monetary economy we all (used to) make a living in, become booked and expended values. And that unless resolved, the latter, under penalty of default, will bring your transient “real world dynamic” quantitative analysis of the productive side of our economy to a screeching halt.

    What’s your argument that your transient depiction of the economy’s supply side is synonymous with a real-world dynamic depiction of supply and demand? If demand determines the value of supply in the real world, as I’ve been implying all along and all accountants agree with, supply and hence the subject of your paper is indeterminate until an uncertain demand gets into the picture. And all the fancy math you’re applying, regardless of your lament, is simply the wrong tool for the job of finding out how the economy works. But pretty much the same goes for virtually the entire economics-teaching profession, so at least you’ve got plenty of company to share the misery.

    I interpreted your line “It does not provide a theory of economic dynamics comparable to general equilibrium theory”, as an admission that your analysis, in its lacking of a demand side, wasn’t “real world dynamic”. Thanks for confirming, as you’re now telling me you’ll need to write “another mathematical paper to explain that”. Good luck in bettering F. Hahn!

    • Rob Reno
      March 23, 2018 at 5:09 pm

      [A]fter many years of effort, a set of axioms somehow arises from that effort. There is no disagreement here. Just don’t pull arguments out of context please.
      You seem to be under the impression that I’m disputing some internal consistency, needing an arduous studying of the terms in your equations to reach that conclusion.

      I didn’t find a fault in your logic, that part of it looks impeccably put together; but also irrelevant as it happens. For my critique concerns your axioms having the meta-axiom of “physicalness matters in economic phenomena”, as an underlying truth or reality. Do you deny the latter? That’s why it’s a reality em>as-if the underlying “truth” holds indeed true. By disputing your meta-axiom, your set of axioms and derived definitions would be undercut, if my argument or model either points out a serious dynamic incongruity or shortcoming with respect to empirical evidence, or is able to make a more general case in explaining how our economy works than yours. The argument backed-up by my model does both.

      Every theory is a model of perceived reality. Your perception of a real economy is one that is made up from physical things as existing in time, and your quantitative analysis is based on a set of axioms representing physical things. It’s a kind of “reality” that is neither shared by accountants, nor, as I indicated before, is it realistic time-wise with how technical progress, the subject of your paper, gets distributed; and that’s even before bringing in the essential demand side of an economy. With that specific paragraph being more or less the meat of my earlier critique, hanging on a skeleton of disputed physicalness, why don’t you attack that to save your approach? Another way to potentially send me packing is by turning the tables on me, and somehow show that my first axiom in particular is incongruous with empirical evidence. That way we’ll both have to go back to the drawing board.

      No idea where “the classical use of the labour value of production a[s] numeraire” comes from. My use of the term “numeraire (generally money)”, is the same as your use on pg.147 of your pdf article. However the qualifier you’re using in that paragraph is about as telling as pigs flying. It shows that you really don’t have the foggiest, that what you call an “affine transformation from the theoretically valid labour-time measurements”, in the monetary economy we all (used to) make a living in, become booked and expended values. And that unless resolved, the latter, under penalty of default, will bring your transient “real world dynamic” quantitative analysis of the productive side of our economy to a screeching halt.

      What’s your argument that your transient depiction of the economy’s supply side is synonymous with a real-world dynamic depiction of supply and demand? If demand determines the value of supply in the real world, as I’ve been implying all along and all accountants agree with, supply and hence the subject of your paper is indeterminate until an uncertain demand gets into the picture. And all the fancy math you’re applying, regardless of your lament, is simply the wrong tool for the job of finding out how the economy works. But pretty much the same goes for virtually the entire economics-teaching profession, so at least you’ve got plenty of company to share the misery.
      I interpreted your line “It does not provide a theory of economic dynamics comparable to general equilibrium theory”, as an admission that your analysis, in its lacking of a demand side, wasn’t “real world dynamic”. Thanks for confirming, as you’re now telling me you’ll need to write “another mathematical paper to explain that”. Good luck in bettering F. Hahn! (John Vertegaal, To damn good not to repeat, but with emphasis added!)

      John, you’re in good company, to wit:

      The real problem, which many great economists over the past hundred years have identified in their writing, is the lack of commitment within the profession toward honestly advancing useful knowledge. Many economists are confused here about the word “useful,” thinking that it must mean “having a direct application” as opposed to developing a better understanding of the world. This confusion then gets contorted, where an economists might think: I am more interested in understanding than direct application–therefore, why should I concern myself over what is “useful”? In turn, that alleged better understanding is confused with an interest in esoteric theory, which, more often than not, offers no better understanding. Rather, all that such esoteric theory really offers, in most cases, is a self-contained and self-serving exercise of mental self-gratification. This is where many theoretical economists are so impressed with the mathematics involved, and so proud of themselves for having the grey matter to handle the math, that they lose site of the fact that their theory offers nothing valuable for anyone (beyond self-amusement), regardless of whether the work results in a technical journal article. (Payson 2017, 6-7, How Economics Professors Can Stop Failing Us: The Discipline at a Crossroads.)

      Most academic economists need to realize that it is not about contrast between direct, practical application and higher understanding or theory. One’s “understanding” of phenomena, independent of direct practical application, can be useful or it cannot be useful. That is, by “useful” here I do not mean “applied” in contrast to “theoretical” knowledge–theoretical knowledge that is not applied can be extremely useful because anything that advances our true understanding of how the world actually works is inherently useful, even if the only immediate benefit is to grant us the satisfaction that we understand the universe better. In economics, knowledge that is not useful (if we go even as far as calling it “knowledge”) is typically literature that shows how certain published mathematical models, which usually have virtually no relevance to the real world, can be related to another newly created mathematical model which also has no relevance. Such useless “knowledge” analogous to “knowledge” about what the next move should be in a chess game that will never be repeated again by anyone in the world for the next hundred years. (Payson 2017, 7, How Economics Professors Can Stop Failing Us: The Discipline at a Crossroads. Emphasis in original.)

    • Frank Salter
      March 23, 2018 at 5:40 pm

      states:
      ‘my critique concerns your axioms having the meta-axiom of “physicalness matters in economic phenomena”.’

      You invoke a new concept, meta-axiom, to dismiss real science, not hand-waving rhetoric. All actions in the real world must obey the laws of physics. They are therefore able to be described in quantitative terms. In essence your argument is that this is not true. You apparently believe that economic actions are somehow able to elude this aspect of reality.

      John Vertegaal:
      “if my argument or model either points out a serious dynamic incongruity or shortcoming with respect to empirical evidence, or is able to make a more general case in explaining how our economy works than yours. The argument backed-up by my model does both.”

      It is being claimed by John Vertegaal that “with respect to empirical evidence” my analysis is invalid. He offers no example of any empirical evidence which my analysis predicts incorrectly . I have been unable to find any peer reviewed article with empirical evidence of his model.

      John Vertegaal:
      “Every theory is a model of perceived reality.”

      This is simply wrong. First principles analyses are never models.

      John Vertegaal:
      “technical progress, the subject of your paper”

      Again simply wrong. My paper’s abstract begins, “A first principles quantitative assessment is made of the transient development of manufacturing projects’ making and using tools to create their final products.” The level of technical progress is defined as a partial differential equation. As can be seen, I am only following where the solution of the differential equations lead.

      John Vertegaal:
      ” With that specific paragraph being more or less the meat of my earlier critique”

      In that specific paragraph, John Vertegaal interprets production theory to be the modelling of a whole economy. It is not. He set up a straw man to knock down and chose to make invalid claims about my analysis. I would draw attention to the title of this blog post “Scientific realism and inference​ to the best explanation”. I would commend the following of this thought.

      John Vertegaal:
      “the classical use of the labour value of production a[s] numeraire”

      John Vertegaal introduced “numeraire”. The only analogue to this in my analysis is the labour theory of value of production.

      John Vertegaal:
      “all the fancy math you’re applying, regardless of your lament, is simply the wrong tool for the job of finding out how the economy works”

      An assertion that it is mathematics which is wrong NOT that neoclassical analysis is wrong.
      I am trying to arrive at “the best explanation” of the empirical facts. John Vertegaal is shooting at the wrong target and obfuscating the subject of this blog.

      John Vertegaal:
      “I interpreted your line “It does not provide a theory of economic dynamics comparable to general equilibrium theory”.’

      I have no problem is dealing with the words I write. But those you quote are not on this page nor in my paper. The writing of another mathematical paper would be necessary to explain in detail why it is a rejection of neoclassical analysis to people who lack the understanding that transient analysis provides a valid theory which neoclassical analysis does not.

      • Rob Reno
        March 23, 2018 at 5:57 pm

        Bullshit Frank, John just makes explicit what you prefer to leave implicit and unspoken, or perhaps just unaware and unexamined assumption. Nice try but you assertion is nothing but ad hominem verging on pseudo-science.

      • Rob Reno
        March 23, 2018 at 6:19 pm

        “Every theory is a model of perceived reality.” [John Vertegaal]

        This is simply wrong. First principles analyses are never models. (Frank Salter)

        Frank likes to make up his own definitions and then dogmatically pretend they are science. That is more akin to pseudo-science than true science. In fact and truth, his mathematical analysis indeed is modeling despite his vacuous remonstrations to the contrary. From physics, to biology, to the social sciences what Frank’s paper is doing is modeling. It is a model, and his dogmatic assertion contrary to hundreds of scientists from diverse fields plainly attesting that such mathematical analysis is modeling flies in the face of his quasi-religious assertions that are more pseudo-science (aka scientism) than science.

        I have a library of books from scientists in physics, biology, etc. plainly refuting Franks dogmatic, pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious claims about what he is doing is THE SCIENCTIFIC METHOD and everyone else just doesn’t get because they (here he uses hubris dripping ad hominem) don’t know the math or are afraid of it, which of course is pure hogwash.

        There is no ONE TRUE SCIENTIFIC METHOD as many world class scientists in a diverse range of fields know. In addition, Frank shows a childishly naïve understanding of the relation between philosophy and science, which explains much as to why he makes such naïve dogmatic assertions.

        He uses terms like “First Principles” as though that ends the discussion. Unfortunately for Frank there is a world of other equally qualified (if not more so) scientists who flat out refute Frank’s dogmatic assertions of what not only science is but how it proceeds.

        All that John has done is make explicit the unexamined assumptions that are the achiles heal of Frank Salter’s analysis, and rather cogently at that.

  8. March 23, 2018 at 3:06 pm

    Thanks for your long comment Ken. Agree with pretty well all of it, but would add that math is a deductive science also. And as such it’s having its own sets (geometry, arithmetic…) of uncertain axioms underlying it. Got to run, as I have other things to do today

  9. Craig
    March 23, 2018 at 4:28 pm

    Science like food is beautiful, wonderful, delicious and necessary, and it resides entirely within the digestive tract of wisdom.

    Science is looking. Wisdom is knowing. As Steve Keen, Michael Hudson and other economists have shown science is often a pretense for orthodoxy that can delude and prevent thorough looking. Thorough looking is a precursor of discovery and scientific breakthrough which leads to cognition, i.e. realization of a new and fuller truth and its significance for the first time, in other words wisdom.

  10. Frank Salter
    March 23, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Rob Reno states:
    I make up my own definitions. “First principles analyses are never models.”

    Please check your facts before you cry “Bullshit”. For a simple explanation go read Wikipedia’s page, First Principle where it states:
    “In physics, a calculation is said to be from first principles, or ab initio, if it starts directly at the level of established laws of physics and does not make assumptions such as empirical model and fitting parameters.”

    Rob Reno states:
    “I have a library of books from scientists in physics, biology, etc. plainly refuting Franks dogmatic, pseudo-scientific, quasi-religious claims about what he is doing is THE SCIENCTIFIC METHOD and everyone else just doesn’t get because they (here he uses hubris dripping ad hominem) don’t know the math or are afraid of it, which of course is pure hogwash.”

    I do not believe that I have ever claimed that the scientific method is anything other than
    the rejection of hypotheses which do not match the empirical facts. So if you think my analysis fails the test of the scientific method, demonstrate your contentions to be true.
    I have asked for everyone to test my analysis to that standard. So far as I know, no one has.

    Rob Reno states:
    “He uses terms like “First Principles” as though that ends the discussion. Unfortunately for Frank there is a world of other equally qualified (if not more so) scientists who flat out refute Frank’s dogmatic assertions of what not only science is but how it proceeds.”

    I believe that first principle does answer the question about models. I do not recognise that I have ever attempted to state what “science is and how it proceeds”. I attempt to use my words with care.
    Do not make assertions that evidence exists. Provide the evidence.

    Rob Reno states:
    All that John has done is make explicit the unexamined assumptions that are the achiles heal of Frank Salter’s analysis, and rather cogently at that.

    No! He has not done that at all. He has introduced other irrelevant claims which like your comments do NOT deal with the actual subject in any way.

    If you believe my analysis to be incorrect, then explain what you believe is wrong. So far you have failed to do this in any way at all.

    I appear to have rubbed you up the wrong way, but I do not understand what has raised your ire so much. I have tried only to deal with specific points when they have been made. Am I to expect that you will present reasoned arguments as to why my analysis is wrong?

    • Rob Reno
      March 24, 2018 at 4:47 am

      Wikipedia doesn’t make you look any less foolish Frank. Funny, a so-called scientists appealing to Wikipedia. A middle-school child knows better than to use Wikipedia as an authoritative source Frank, but apparently that eludes you in your arrogance.

      • Frank Salter
        March 24, 2018 at 6:41 am

        On Rob Reno’s comment (March 24, 2018 at 4:47 am)

        Again you use rhetoric and intemperance to justify the unjustifiable.

        If you believe me to be so wrong then one would imagine it will be easy to demonstrate that this is so by using good scholarship and reasoned argument.

        I challenge you to demonstrate your contentions that I am wrong by applying the scientific method to my analysis. You only need to demonstrate that the mathematics predicts values which are not in accord with the empirical evidence. Without that I will continue to assert its validity, which you see as arrogance.

        I eagerly await the results of any serious scholarship you chose to present.

  11. Norman L. Roth
    March 23, 2018 at 11:39 pm

    March 23, 201

    I admit that I have not read Mr. Frank Salter’s opus. Because I have long forgotten the basic math he depended on to do justice to his claims. Please note that I am in complete agreement that the most appropriate mathematics should be used for any scholarly effort: Providing it serves to clarify the subject matter and enable understanding {“VERSTEHEN und ERKLARING”} Nothing particularly new or controversial about that. And it’s more or less what most reputable economic thinkers subscribed to.{Please read my quotations from Keynes & Marshal on the use of math in economics in earlier RWER articles}. BUT, I would like to know whether Mr. Salter submitted it for peer review; Presumably with an introductory abstract .And what comments the peer review committee made, both for and against. I made it a smoother journey by writing a complete book and subsequently getting it published on the basis of the peer reviewers’ scholarly conclusions to their recommended publisher. I’m sure M. Salter is at the very least, just as familiar as I am with this process. Since I am not an academic & never have been. Maybe that was an advantage of sorts. So, Mr. Salter, Why not present your abstract herein ?

    With respect: Norman L. Roth

    • Frank Salter
      March 24, 2018 at 11:02 am

      Thank you for your reasoned comment. The RWER is peer reviewed. I submitted the paper complete with the abstract shown on page 135. The reviewers accepted it for publication. They felt that the one sentence conclusion might be extended to incorporate further conclusions. I felt that my claim that it demonstrates “a parsimonious quantitative description of the development histories of manufacturing projects and industries” was of sufficient moment that it should not be diluted by more but less momentous conclusions.

  12. March 24, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for your ringing endorsements Rob! And of course for jumping to my defense against Frank. I’m done with him. The straws that finally broke the camel’s back were that after he asks me to critique his paper, which I wasted a whole day on, he then picks an argument that doesn’t exist and denies verbatim quotes as ever having been written by him. But that’s not even the worst of it. The poor guy is so brainwashed with physics envy that it blinds him to recognize that the product of conscious human activity, isn’t part of the subject of physics; the latter generally known as the study of the spontaneous activity of nature. Of all the schools of philosophy, even the ancient Greek Sophists for chrissakes already knew better than to make that fundamental error. And since all human economic activity is booked somewhere, all he ends up doing is applying his “science” and math savvy to a system of human-made accounts. It’s really too crackpot for words and spending any more time on.

    Over at Econospeak there is a guy just like him. I had a run in with him about a month ago. Slightly different angle but the same argument. End result is nobody is wasting any more time engaging him since. But he can’t help himself and is still trolling. Wonder what these guys are in it for.

    Thanks also for the Payson transcript. Looks interesting enough to try to get a copy through the library later when I get back home from snowbirding. It reminded me of something I wrote a long time ago as part of a manuscript that didn’t go anywhere at the time, and that I recently reread to see if either parts of it are salvageable or it can be finished as a whole somehow…

    “… In order to acquire some credibility as an alternative explication, it is probably worthwhile to expose the philosophical foundation of orthodox economics that its superstructure is build upon, and compare that with the foundation of the proposed alternative paradigm. One of the fundamental questions, if not “the” most basic one, is why there even should be economists, or a science of economics, in the first place. In other words, the very first consideration that should come up is whether there is any virtue in having them, and their knowledge, around to guide us in our daily lives. From a moral and/or ethical perspective we seem unable to escape the need to make a value judgment about economics and its practitioners; is the world indeed better off with economists, or not? Now given the self-worth of economists in their own eyes and by thus having answered this fundamental question in the affirmative, they thereby attest to the validity of value judgments a priori, and would risk fatal contradiction if their further theorizing belies this acknowledgement.

    To give meaning to the notion that economists are valuable, their theories need to pave the way to “better” society from any point of departure. Next, it would normally be necessary to define “better”, but a critique of orthodox economics would be sufficiently valid if any definition by orthodox economists of “betterment” is either lacking or self-contradictory. And this is where orthodoxy seemingly has dug its own grave. By considering economic value to be subservient to price theory and meaningless in the understanding of economics, economic betterment is no longer determinable. For while higher value creation and betterment are obvious synonymous, striven for by classical theorists and heterodoxy alike, higher prices and betterment are obviously not. And although lower prices at first blush may fulfill this objective, when it becomes clear that the only component of price is income to someone within an economy, that too fails to “better” society in any way. Hence, unless the above reasoning can be refuted, orthodox economics founded on price theory and its practitioners are meritless from the get go.”

    Comments welcome as it is in conflict with the emphasis I put on utility as an orthodox value criterion in the introduction submitted earlier. What is it with them, utility or price theory that founds their approach? Has that been cleared up somewhere?

    • Frank Salter
      March 24, 2018 at 4:30 pm

      John Vertegaal (March 24, 2018 at 2:27 pm) states

      [Frank Salter] denies verbatim quotes as ever having been written by him.

      John Vertegaal (March 23, 2018 at 3:04 pm)

      I interpreted your line “It does not provide a theory of economic dynamics comparable to general equilibrium theory”, as an admission that your analysis, in its lacking of a demand side, wasn’t “real world dynamic”.

      The line in question is a quotation from North, D. C. (1994). ‘Economic Performance Through
      Time’. In: The American Economic Review 84(3), pp. 359–368.
      url: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2118057
      North, D. C. (1994) p. 359 — my paper p. 139.

      Is this a sufficient explanation as to why I disavowed your incorrect attribution.

  13. Frank Salter
    March 25, 2018 at 7:35 am

    The whole of the above exemplifies the problems found in the reactions of those who might be considered peers. It could serve as a “case study” in the failure of economic discourse.

    From Lars Syll’s initial blog, which I would interpret as a description of the scientific method, there have been a variety of contributions. There are many thoughtful and relevant contributions. At the other end of the spectrum are contributions which must be seen as, at the least, very poor scholarship and at the worst trolling.

    The trolling can simply be ignored. The poor scholarship can not. After all, the blog was about good scholarship.

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