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Econometrics and causality

from Lars Syll

Judea Pearl’s and Bryant Chen’s Regression and causation: a critical examination of six econometrics textbooks — published in Real-World Economics Review no. 65 — addresses two very important questions in the teaching of modern econometrics and its different textbooks — how is causality treated in general, and more specifically, to what extent they use a distinct causal notation.


The authors have for years been part of an extended effort of advancing explicit causal modelling (especially graphical models) in applied sciences, and this article examines to what extent these endeavours have found their way into econometrics textbooks (and Pearl has later come back to the theme in his The Book of Why (2018))

Although the text partly is of a rather demanding ‘technical’ nature, yours truly definitely recommend it for reading, especially for social scientists with an interest in causality. 

Pearl’s seminal contribution to this research field is well-known and indisputable, but on the ‘taming’ and ‘resolve’ of the issues, I, however, have to admit that — under the influence of especially David Freedman and Nancy Cartwright — I still have some doubts on the reach, especially in terms of ‘realism’ and ‘relevance, of these ‘solutions’ for social sciences in general and economics in specific (see hereherehere and here). And with regards to the present article I think that since the distinction between the ‘interventionist’ E[Y|do(X)] and the more traditional ‘conditional expectationist’ E[Y|X] is so crucial for the subsequent argumentation, a more elaborated presentation had been of value, not the least because then the authors could also more fully explain why the first is so important and if/why this (in my, Freedman’s and Cartwright’s view) can be exported from ‘engineer’ contexts where it arguably easily and universally apply, to ‘socio-economic’ contexts where ‘manipulativity,’ ‘stability,’ faithfulness,’ ‘invariance’ and ‘modularity’ are not perhaps so universally at hand. In real-world settings, interventions may affect variables in complex and non-deterministic ways. In socio-economic contexts, complexity and lack of control often make it impossible to treat change — and causality — in terms of easily identifiable ‘interventions.’

The value of getting at precise and rigorous conclusions about causality based on ‘tractability’ conditions that are seldom met in real life, is difficult to assess. Testing and constructing models is one thing, but we do also need guidelines for how to evaluate in which situations and contexts they are applicable. Formalism may help us a bit down the road, but we have to make sure it somehow also fits the world if it is going to be really helpful in navigating that world. In all of science, conclusions are never more certain than the assumptions on which they are founded. Epistemically convenient methods and models that work in ‘well-behaved’ systems need not work in other contexts.

  1. Frank Salter
    October 25, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    Econometrics fits functional relationships to empirical data. The quantity calculus requires small integer exponents to be applied to quantities present in theoretically valid causal relationships. No production function meets this requirement. Therefore they can only be concrete representations of the empirical data.

    As production function forms are generally introduced as defining other fitted relationships, then these are also theoretically invalid.

    So-called “models” are merely representations of concrete data which can equally well be represented by arbitrary equations. Again no causal relationships and no valid theoretical relationships.

  2. October 25, 2018 at 3:31 pm

    “we have to make sure it somehow also fits the world if it is going to be really helpful in navigating that world.”

    I think we should also realise that just because a model fits all our preconceptions and data about ‘the world’ doesn’t mean that the world is necessarily stable enough for the model to be absolutely reliable enough to ensure simplistic navigation. Fitting a model to old or current data is one thing. Anticipating the future is quite another.

    Think of a SATNAV that shows you traffic and guides you around jams. This may be okay over a distance of a few miles, but there are many instances where it pays not to take the SATNAV at face value.

    Before the financial crash mainstream economists seemed to fall into two main camps. Either they had some ‘secret sauce’ which meant that their ECONNAV was perfect, or they had the best possible sauce, and it was futile for anyone to attempt to improve on it, no matter what happened. I think them wrong. (Although maybe ‘most people’ would be advised to just follow the best SATNAV they can find, and not try to be too clever.)

  3. Robert Arvanitis
    October 29, 2018 at 12:42 am

    To Mr. Marsay
    There are important challenges to the notion of anticipation.
    We already see the problem with WAZE. One driver takes a recommended detour and gains. But when more than a few take that same advice, congestion destroys the value of the alternative and locals change traffic rules to protect themselves.
    The issue is even worse when in the initial phase of a financial innovation, all agents trade to the same model. A mistaken flick of the leader’s wing and a flock of swallows follows down in disaster.

    • October 29, 2018 at 7:54 pm

      Sorry, I just meant ‘to contemplate the possibility of, allow for, be prepared for’ rather than ‘to expect’. As you say, there can be no optimal advice on detours that everyone follows, but it can be helpful to see what a SATNAV suggests. (I’d like to see a ‘causal model’ of that!)

      I have more on the challenges of navigation at https://djmarsay.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/metaphors-for-complexity-and-uncertainty/ . I would welcome comments, here or there.

  4. October 29, 2018 at 6:46 am

    “Formalism may help us a bit down the road, but we have to make sure it somehow also fits the world if it is going to be really helpful in navigating that world.” Which world are you referring to? You recognize there are multiple possible worlds and multiple possible observations of each of those?

    • October 29, 2018 at 12:03 pm

      I suggest that “we have to make sure it somehow also fits the world [as it is] if it is going to be really helpful in navigating that world.” In other words, an implicit – perhaps unintended – assumption of most approaches to probability, including Pearl’s, is that we judge our potential activity with respect to the status quo. This leaves open two issues:
      1. There is no consideration of whether or not candidate activities may – perhaps unintentionally – undermine the status quo.
      2. There is no consideration of whether or not the status quo is desirable or even sustainable, and what the alternatives might be.

      For a more strategic approach one needs to look elsewhere. (E.g., Keynes’ Treatise on Probability.)

      • October 29, 2018 at 1:01 pm

        But Dave there is no single “as it is.” When we do research and write up theories, our work consists of comparing the results of observations by humans. Earlier observations with later ones, observations with different kinds of tools, observations done in one setting with those done in another. Each group of observations is the world “as it is.” Observations is the foundation of human culture, including science. Observations are what humans use to make the decisions about things, such as those you mention.

      • October 29, 2018 at 8:08 pm

        Ken, Pearl talks of a singular world, and I was just following his lead, to avoid any metaphysics. To make sense of him you might suspend disbelief and go along with the hypothesis that there is some singular ‘real world’ that is the being observed, and that what you are treating as ‘the world’ is actually a set of observations ‘as they are observed’: a different thing. The relationship between the observations and ‘the real world’ is unknowable but the subject of hypothesis and hence causal modelling

        You may be able to avoid the hypothesis of a real world and just consider observations actually made, but this seems to me quite challenging. (Although I’m open to suggestions.)

        But my point, though, was is that if you have only ever observed the status quo and you limit yourself to thinking about possible futures that are consistent with your observations, then how are you to change things?

        In the SATNAV example, how are you to break free of the limitations of what you are provided with? In economics, how are you to avoid increasing inequality (if that is what you have only ever observed)? How are you to anticipate a novel ’cause’ for the next crisis?

      • October 30, 2018 at 7:01 am

        Marsay, I didn’t see any reference to one-world in Pearl-Chen. And this is not about metaphysics. More about humanistics. About what humans are capable of and not capable of. In planning and creating their lives humans have only observations, experiences. The worlds humans create from this are part the result of human creativity and part the result of what makes an impression on humans. And, yes humans create all kinds of artifacts from this seemingly simple approach. From simple to elaborate theories, to entire fields of study. AS to avoiding the hypothesis of a real world and just considering observations, it’s not difficult. Scientists do it every day, as do many artisans, poets, social scientists, mathematicians, etc. They assume, as do most of us that building observations upon observations will eventually allow us a clearer view of events and actions. Also, since humans’ greatest evolutionary gift is imagination, humans continually are imagining new possibilities, new ways of life, new certainties. Most will fall away over time, but some will stay with us, like science, art, writing, etc. Remember, at one time SATNAV did not exist. Humans imagined it. Then created it. Seems to be a useful addition to human tools.

        In saying all this, I admit up front I’m not including any metaphysical events in human life, such as interventions by an all-powerful god. It’s just material humanity living a material life.

  5. October 30, 2018 at 9:30 am


    Your “As to avoiding the hypothesis of a real world and just considering observations, it’s not difficult. Scientists do it every day, as do many artisans, poets, social scientists, mathematicians, etc. They assume, as do most of us that building observations upon observations will eventually allow us a clearer view of events and actions.” seems very insightful to me, and very pertinent to the topic of ‘economics and causality’.

    I agree that most of us most of the time seem to rely on the ideas and practices of our cultures rather than any deep (or mystical) metaphysics. And we mostly act ‘as if’ if we made an even stronger assumption than yours: that eventually we will get a clear enough view of event and actions. The difficulty for me is that, both in the theory and practice in my world of observations, the prevalent cultures, as in economics, seem not to be consistent with the assumption.

    For example, psychologists suppose that most people are uncomfortable with the idea of radical uncertainty, and will tend to avoid situations in which they may be forced to acknowledge it. I am not sure that this is the true ’cause’, but it does seem to me that an observation that, for example, Nobel-prize winning and mainstream economists deny the existence of radical uncertainty is no grounds for me to deny what I so frequently observe.

    The ‘deep’ question which your approach leaves me with, then, is to what extent I should privilege the reported observations of others over my own? My own approach is to use logic to try to clear the view. Otherwise we seem to be supposing that there is some social process that is leading to a clear enough view. Perhaps, but where is the evidence?

    (Or, to go back to my last post, perhaps we simply suppose that our current broad view is ‘as good as it can get’?)

    • October 30, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      Marsay, rather than examine the work of scientists to answer your question, let’s look at the work of artisans and mechanics. Such as auto mechanics, shoe makers, and in earlier days armorers and pottery makers. All depend on knowledge about how to do their work passed on from earlier generations of artisans and mechanics like themselves. But they also observe what they construct, either by testing themselves or by observing the results of their work used by others. In all instances, the work process can be changed, the materials used altered for several reasons. Including, poor performance, dissatisfaction by users, new experiences or observations, either directly or as described by others in person of via books and other media. How much will be changed and in what directions depends on the craftsman involved and the trust by that crafts person of new observations or reports of usage results. This process is complex. Social scientists who take it as the object of their study spend their entire careers working out the details of the information processed, observations made, and the changes made to the product or process. Only in instances where both crafts person and user find no reason to alter both or either do things remain fixed, durable for a time. And at the center of all this, the engine that makes it work is human judgement. The cultural skill nurtured within human communities. Can’t be reduced out by any equation or formula.

      • October 30, 2018 at 2:38 pm

        Ken, when you say that ‘Can’t be reduced out by any equation or formula.’ you seem to agree with my view, as against Pearl’s. But do you think that things necessarily tend to be ‘reduced out’ by normal social processes and if not, how do you differentiate between ‘normal processes’ and Kuhnian paradigm shifts?

        My own experience is that the notions of ‘pragmatism, ‘look before you leap’ and ‘regress to progress’ are key here, but I’m not a social scientist. Do you have a view that addresses some of these issues?

      • October 31, 2018 at 6:16 am

        Marsay, yes, I think your view and mine are close. This is where we need to emphasize the complexity of human communities, cultures, and thus human judgement. Andrew Pickering explains it well in his books, “Constructing Quarks” and “The Mangle of Practice: Agency and
        Emergence in the Sociology of Science.” Trained as a physicist and a specialist in high energy physics, Pickering later became also a sociologist. There are literally hundreds of possible theories that explain any set of observational data. Scientists must choose. They do this using their past experiences, rules of thumb, and local prejudices that favor one theory over another. This is human judgement in action. But when looking back on the choosing, scientists generally invent a more rule-based and logical description of this choosing process. They do this because it’s favored by science. And after all, they are scientists. An artist might say something like, the colors just seem to express the emotion of the painting. But no scientist can use such an explanation for picking one theory over another. The reasons must be based on clear scientific protocols, must be precise, logical, and mathematical if possible. In “Constructing Quarks” Pickering includes dozens of examples of this remaking of the past. In a scientific laboratory the process is more complex, involving dozens of scientists, machines, goals, mathematical equations, and often clients.

      • Craig
        October 31, 2018 at 7:35 am

        Kuhn correctly observed the slow process of paradigm change. My postulate is that what is required to greatly speed up paradigm change is Wisdom and its process of integrating the truths, workabilities and applicabilities of opposite perspectives and guided by the natural philosophical concept of grace which is just the western word hung on the goal and result of all of the world’s wisdom traditions which is higher self awareness. Science of course is good and necessary as a tool for discovering empirical truth and falsehood, but as its process is logic and one of the primary signatures of paradigm changes is the seeming illogic of conceptual opposition to the prevailing paradigm it stumbles, halts and generally its process does not lead to where we want to go. All the more reason to consult the process wisdom and ultimately its goal of a thirdness greater oneness.

        Wisdom tradition techniques are replete with ways of eliciting such an experience. For instance a zen master giving a novitiate the classic koan question of “What is the sound of one hand clapping?’ isn’t actually intended to be answered logically or rationally, but rather to have the novitiate puzzle over it trying to come up with a logical/rational answer until he/she either becomes so internalized that they experience their own self awareness much more intensely than normal and so experience satori, or to puzzle over it with such frustration that much like a form of ab-reaction therapy thoughts, emotions and even bodily somatics become so intense that they let go of the attempt to rationally resolve the koan and come more intensely into the present moment…which of course is the only place and time that satori which IS a new experience CAN be experienced by one’s self awareness/consciousness.

        As the human part of a genuine new paradigm is a personal NEW AWARENESS of a concept that changes an old temporal and/or mental pattern and creates a new one….it would seem that Wisdom is precisely the tool we need to….more rapidly reach that goal.

      • October 31, 2018 at 10:58 am

        Craig, we part company on some basics. First, you talk of paradigm change. But why change from one to another, unless the change brings something beneficial for your society? You say the goal and result of all the world’s wisdom traditions is higher self-awareness. But before one can be aware, at any level one must have something to aware of. And whatever that is, it is created as the person goes through living interacting with other humans and with nonhumans. In other words, the person is not born with it. Their “inside” life comes to them as they live, grow, and mature. It is one of the results of being born into and living within a human culture. You say science is logic. If there is one thing the social studies of science has demonstrated it is that science mostly is not logic, although humans engaged in science make great effort to depict it as such. In this regard, mostly logic is not logic. Can’t be really since it’s a human creation. Your description of paradigm creation and change is a moderately good description of most human life. I agree with you that disciplines like Zen have the potential to reveal much that is hidden by science and other forms of logical life performed by western cultures. Western science is one of those dubious trade-offs in which Westerners get more simple knowledge but give up any glimpse into the many unseen events underlying the knowledge. And above all this is humans as not rational. Imaginative and creative, but not rational.

      • Craig
        October 31, 2018 at 5:19 pm

        On a scale of self knowledge/Self awareness, right below the highest level, that is knowingness itself, is not knowingness-unknowingness. So a child is actually born into a very high level of awareness and as they navigate the temporal universe they must cycle back through lower levels of self awareness and become habituated to them. The biggest puzzle and challenge of Life is finding their way back…to themselves. The biblical self awareness truth “Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

        Science is our best tool for exploring and navigating the temporal universe, Wisdom is the tool for navigating consciousness and the integration of both disciplines is the route to grace as in a loving flow of action.

        As above, so below. The aspects of grace directly, reciprocally and strategically applied as monetary policy at scientifically significant points in time and the economic/productive process (retail sale) and directly to the most basic agent in the economy (the universal dividend to the individual) is the best integration of science and wisdom and will result in the expression and experience of the major aspects of grace as in abundance and free flowingness.

        Wisdomics-Gracenomics, the way out of the present onerous and balky paradigm, the way home to the new freeing and free flowing one.

      • November 1, 2018 at 10:08 am

        Craig haven’t seen stuff like this since the last time I read Fritjof Capra. Interesting stuff. Just don’t know how it helps us. Humans in terms of biology are one of the most helpless species in the history of the earth through the first five years of life. Other humans are essential to their survival. Humans 1-5 have no notion of who or what they are, no notion of self or personhood, and no awareness of their relationship to other humans and to nonhumans. This is created through the relationships humans go through in the first 5-7 years of life. It goes without saying, I think that during this period humans have no transcendental understandings or relationships. As my Lakota shaman friend reminds me, people often find it difficult to distinguish mysticism from bull shit. Which doesn’t speak hope for the future of the species.

      • November 1, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        Ken, in response to yours of October 31, 2018 at 6:16 am:

        Perhaps despite our differing “past experiences, rules of thumb, and local prejudices” we do seem to be close. Where you say “The reasons must be based on clear scientific protocols, must be precise, logical, and mathematical if possible” I would note that many people seem to privilege precision over logic in situations where I think there is radical uncertainty. Whether this is for biological, psychological or culture reasons, I think it sometimes matter.

        It seems to me that any human endeavour needs a sociological perspective to understand it, but perhaps sometimes also something more. In logic, mathematics and science, like everything else, the focus and presentation of results is heavily socially conditioned, but is there perhaps something about the content that is in some sense more objective? And perhaps more so for some social constructs than others?

        If we suppose that logic and mathematics (in so far as it is applied logic) have a substantive content (discounting presentation) that is more stable and reliable than that of other disciplines, then where economics (and even science) conflict (e.g. by denying radical uncertainty, as Pearl seems to) should we should favour the maths?

        If we purge logic and maths with everything that is ‘only’ a social construct, is there anything significant left? (And how could we identify it?)

      • November 2, 2018 at 10:22 am

        Marsay, the protocols of science emerged over the last 500 years. They define a way of life focused on study, precise description (mathematical if possible), and logical cause-effect relationships. None of this is possible for humans. But we do the best we can. Which ends with us seeing what happens in science ambiguously, muddled, and as if through “a glass darkly.” But even with all this science is useful for humans, so long as humans remain humble about its capabilities and theirs. Humans create culture to guide their lives. They build societies around these cultures. These activities have always been collective, since for pragmatic and evolutionary reasons Sapiens is a communal species. Beginning a thousand years ago or so, humans began the process of inventing science. Building on existing cultures and societies. But science doesn’t change the ways humans exist or how they image and create. Amazing as human imagination and creativity are, they have not thus far allowed Sapiens to transcend its place. We’re still the species that evolved on earth over the past 2,000,000 years. I’m not suggesting eradicating math and logic from human culture and society. Humans have found both useful. I am strongly suggesting we remove the notion that these provide knowledge and understanding that transcends the history and evolution of our species. If this seems to set us adrift in a frightening and ambiguous world, I say consider the profound things Sapiens has accomplished in the uncertain and unclear world we are given. All this is the result of human uncertainty and haziness. These define our species. They’re not something humans can jettison.

      • Craig
        November 1, 2018 at 10:40 pm

        It’s the realization that humans are actually born in a state of oneness with the cosmos, unknowingness of culture and any concept of self. It’s the inverse of and yet essentially same state of what has been referred to as cosmic consciousness that the world’s greatest sages have worked their way back to after learning to navigate the temporal universe with culture and science.

        It is a state of grace utterly uneducated, and helps us to realize the importance of creating a culture of grace as in love in action in order to enable, amongst the many other positive and constructive purposes available in the temporal universe, the process that such sages have navigated back to.

        And as economics and money systems at the present time affect virtually every moment of nearly everyone’s life in an increasingly stressful way, the application of policies aligned with the relevant aspects of the concept of grace and effecting same in those systems….is an extremely important pursuit and likely the greatest paradigm change since humans evolved into consciousness.

  6. November 3, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Ken, I’m not entirely clear about what you are saying. Your “Humans create culture to guide their lives. They build societies around these cultures” makes me think of Bayesians who are building societies around there culture, which holds radical uncertainty to be non-existent or ignorable. Within these influential cultures it seems to me not entirely correct to say, as you do, that “science doesn’t change the ways humans exist or how they image and create.”

    You are “not suggesting eradicating math and logic from human culture and society. Humans have found both useful.” But it seems to me that many mainstream ‘humans’ have eradicated the notion of radical uncertainty from their socially acceptable logics and have found this ‘useful’, at least in the short term. You are “strongly suggesting we remove the notion that these [logic and mathematics] provide knowledge and understanding that transcends the history and evolution of our species.” But what do you mean?

    Do you mean logic and mathematics interpreted in the socially constructed way of mainstream economists, or by the society of engaged mathematicians (including, e.g., Keynes and Turing)? By ‘history and evolution’ do you mean something real, or just the current (socially constructed theories)? (I am genuinely uncertain.)

    My own view is that if anything is defensible, it ought to be logic, which we ought to subject to the closest scrutiny. If we don’t trust our logics, how can we trust our sense of history, evolution, culture, economics , … ? I don’t see how relying on social constructs not underpinned by any plausible logic would help us face a “frightening and ambiguous world” except in the short-term sense that getting drunk does. But then we may end up agreeing to differ. But do we at least agree that mainstream economics shares with Pearl an inappropriate notion of uncertainty? If so, we might agree to be uncertain and accept our differences of views as complementary reflections of our different cultures, and celebrate such differences.;-)

    • November 4, 2018 at 4:50 am

      Marsay, humans are the result of their cultural history and genetic evolution. Within this process the outlines of human existence are set. In its earliest history the outline was mostly fixed, as there were few group conflicts and few great threats to stimulate change. That’s not been the case for the last 7,000 years. More groups lead to more conflict, along with the conflicts from the results of the varying cultures these groups created. Something considered basic helps to illustrate how these cultures work their way through human history. There are hosts of competing assertions on such questions as to what constitutes truth: what things are truthbearers capable of being true or false; how to define, identify, and distinguish truth; the roles that faith-based and empirically based knowledge play; and whether truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute. Testing the extremes, Friedrich Nietzsche suggested that an ancient, metaphysical belief in the divinity of Truth lies at the heart of and has served as the foundation for the entire subsequent Western intellectual tradition: “But you will have gathered what I am getting at, namely, that it is still a metaphysical faith on which our faith in science rests—that even we knowers of today, we godless anti-metaphysicians still take our fire too, from the flame lit by the thousand-year old faith, the Christian faith which was also Plato’s faith, that God is Truth; that Truth is ‘Divine’.” Nietzsche’s point seems perceptive, since we in the west are the only cultures on earth that place so much emphasis on truth. Substitute logic, mathematics, or science for truth. I hope you see my point. Like truth, these are human constructions; they do not, cannot transcend human history and evolution. But the imagination it took to create them is amazing for any species.

      Economists use such constructs to construct their ways of life as economists. That some of their constructions are controversial is a topic of heated discussion across western societies. But physicists and other physical and social scientists use these constructs as well. Each in ways that suit their needs. Historians, being a great deal more skeptical than scientists, don’t use any of these terms with finality. For historians everything has a history, including logic, mathematics, science, and truth that make it what it is. If the history changes, then logic, truth, mathematics, and science change. Some suggest historians are both a cultural and evolutionary aberration.

      I’m sorry everything is wrapped up within the human experience. But that’s the only experience humans have.

      • November 7, 2018 at 5:23 pm

        Ken, two comments on yours.

        First, you end with “If the history changes, then logic, truth, mathematics, and science change.” My experience is that history does change, and I expect this to continue, so there can be no logical reason for me to pay any attention to you when thinking beyond the present: I should certainly have more regard to my own ‘human experience’, which seems quite different from yours.

        On a more positive note, you start with “the outlines of human existence are set. In its earliest history the outline was mostly fixed, as there were few group conflicts and few great threats to stimulate change. That’s not been the case for the last 7,000 years.” This seems entirely consistent with Whitehead et al, and entirely inconsistent with Pearl et al. So while we may be coming from completely different places, let us at least agree on that, which is, I think, far more important than our own particular reasonings. My suggestion, then, is that we agree that almost everything about our understanding of logic etc is heavily influenced by our culture and thus subject to change, but we might agree to disagree on whether or not there is nevertheless some credible core mathematics etc that is worth considering, even if only ‘pragmatically’.

        If you had in mind any credible principled basis for policy-making I’d be interested to know what it was, and how it might be inconsistent with Whitehead et al.

        On a slight digression, I was stuck by your “we in the west are the only cultures on earth that place so much emphasis on truth. Substitute logic, mathematics, or science for truth. I hope you see my point.” I was under the impression that many in the west substituted pseudo-logic, pseudo-mathematics and pseudo-science for the real deal. In this sense, we seem to place great emphasis on a pretence of truth, but less concern for the real deal. But maybe ‘we’ don’t get the distinction. I wish you could see my point.

        (Basically, I agree that there is a serious problem with the use of mathematics etc, but think the solution is to take more thoughtful account of ‘human experience’ in using mathematics etc rather than to abandon it altogether.)

      • November 8, 2018 at 11:12 am

        Marsay, if I wanted to understand your history, I would need a lot more time and work than these few comments on this blog. I’m making no effort to do that. Although that is how my work usually moves along.

        Thanks for the references to Whitehead, who I haven’t read since graduate school. You’ll need to enlighten me as who you reference with Pearl. I have no concern for any so-called core (mathematical or otherwise). My only concern in my work is to follow what the actors (human and nonhuman agents) create and the actions they take. They create the ways of life I want to understand. I also have no interest in “credible basis for policy-making.” Humans in groups create things, they create everything. Among those is what you term policy-making. I study this creative historical process in the attempt to understand how it was done and why. My own preferences, if I have any I try to keep out of this process.

        Finally, Marsay you have no notion of the “real deal” about truth, logic, etc. until you learn that, either as part of socialization or as part of study of specific groups and their specific histories. You don’t pop out of the womb with any of this. It’s also against these specifics that you define pseudo-truth, etc. As I said I’m not abandoning mathematics or logic. Rather I try to understand how each is created and the variations form one culture to another over time. I try not to define them as I prefer, and flatly reject any alternatives. This is in my view how science works, and the only thing that distinguishes it from what people do in everyday life.

  7. Satoshi Nakamoto
    November 3, 2018 at 3:22 pm

    @Craig It’s fine that you believe this mysticism, I don’t (or can’t) disagree that it is valid and true according to your own experiences, but how are you going to prove it to me? You can believe whatever you want to, but in order to persuade other people to your point of view, it requires passing other people’s “rule of thumb” wisdom we have acquired over our own subjective experiences. My subjective experiences do not comport with your mystic views, so you’re either going to have to find a way to pass this along to me through our shared logical axioms, or be content not being able to prove or persuade others to believe your own truths. You then have a belief that isn’t useful to the community you belong. You can choose to abandon it in favor of a belief society can agree on, to become a more productive and fulfilled member of a larger community, or stubbornly cling to the “objective truth” that makes sense to you, the choice is entirely yours.

    I choose to only believe in things I contend I can persuade others to also believe, regardless of any notion of “objective truth”. I seek objectivity through colloquial *subjectivity*, and perhaps the confusing of how societal “objectivity” is or should be determined is what causes too much frustration and debate in society and amateur philosophizing. Societal objectivity is / can only be only determined through societal consensus. Ideas / thoughts / theories that are objective to you has to be validated by society if that is your goal. So you can’t expect others to believe what you believe to be an objective truth all of us can come to independently of reason or experience, because it’s *always* going to be possible that we are incapable of doing that. You can only expect others to believe something they have already agreed to believing (such as how arithmetic and logic works, which the vast majority of us agree to).

    I think of each individual as an independent hub (a visual aid could be a “bucket”) with spokes that connect us to other individuals. These spokes (or “channels”) are axioms that have to be agreed to by both individuals in order to be opened. Once opened, information (let’s say “water”) has the capacity to flow freely between individuals which can be used to benefit (or “grow”) each individual’s own hub. That doesn’t necessarily happen, due to cognitive fallacies (or “clogs”) that prevent us from seeing the channel is actually open, and not closed, but the capacity is there. If our objective is to benefit and grow our bucket, our sub-objective should be to make as many connections as possible and unclog our channels so that as much water seeps in as technically possible.

    This means internally understanding what our own axioms are, sharing that with others, and finding consensus. Even if our channels are clogged, we can use what little leeway there is to pass along tools to aid in an individual unclogging the channel from their end, and vice versa, through logical coherence. Again, I believe an explanation for much of today’s (and yesterday’s) societal strife is that people are unaware of this concept and therefore can’t put it to good use, or is otherwise cognitively incapable of doing so, whatever the case, it is within our best interest to advocate for the free flow of water, including spreading this understanding itself.

    At least that is what my subjective experience tells me, and it is up to you to agree or disagree.

    • Craig
      November 3, 2018 at 7:59 pm


      What is the empirical temporal universe purchasing power result of a 50% discount to consumers at retail sale?

      Is that “mysticism” or simply an understanding of the digital natures of the money, pricing and accounting systems?

      It was logical to assume the earth was the center of the universe when the sun, the stars and the planets “obviously” moved across the sky around it every night. However, transcending logic is a primary signature and necessity of impending paradigm change.

      Is it mysticism or deeper understanding and logic that money is not the operant factor in “monetary” inflation, but rather, given a system of individual monetary scarcity and hence potential business revenue, that commercial agents do not presently have a better alternative than raising their prices when they perceive more money coming into the system?

      What is the difference between faith IN the grace of god and the individual/personal experience of grace?

      Answer: Too often the first is a mere abstraction/mental data point attended by supernatural and pre-scientific notions that has no further positive psychological effect on one’s life, and the second is a truly profound life changing experience of human potentials and simply a closer look at the natural/physical cosmos which is a titanic integrated/integrative swirl of quantum/electro-magnetic radiation in continually GRACEFUL process and flow.

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