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Radically misleading calculations

from Geoff Davies

The point of a theory or model is to provide a useful guide to understanding the world. People like Paul Krugman are fond of claiming simple equilibrium models provide a useful first cut or first approximation to understanding. Others put their faith in more elaborate equilibrium models. But do equilibrium models, simple or elaborate, offer any useful guidance to actual economies, or are they perhaps radically misleading? Is this

a useful guide to this?


Or this?


The difference between these examples is feedback. Feedback is powerful. It can generate exponential growth, which can take over the world (or try to). In special circumstances, feedback can generate a steady state, an equilibrium. Some living systems begin their life undergoing exponential growth but then their growth slows and levels off. Other living systems just keep growing until external factors intervene, as happens when a plague of locusts eats all available vegetation and they starve to death. When feedback depends nonlinearly on growth then more complicated things can happen. The system may go into oscillations, and the oscillations may be simple or complicated. In extreme cases the system can go into chaotic fluctuations. Nonlinear relationships are common in economies, in the physical world and in living systems. Increasing or diminishing returns to scale provide but one example from economies. We should thus not be surprised if the behaviour of economies is complicated, perhaps extremely complicated, perhaps even chaotic.
This is an edited extract from Economy, Society, Nature: An introduction to the new systems-based, life-friendly economics. 

  1. Herbert
    October 12, 2019 at 3:55 pm

    The economic balance is not complicated and not simple, it is dynamic, like a pendulum or a bicycle. All fluctuations in the economy are a way to maintain a dynamic equilibrium, and not its violation. The economy can maintain steady fluctuations or not. But until a real economic model is adopted (which I spoke about many times), until truly economic indicators are analyzed, there will be no results. The theory of theory is a very exciting experience, but to no avail.

  2. October 13, 2019 at 1:17 am

    Herbert, if you mean a system can maintain a dynamic metastable state, as in homeostasis, then yes. And complex self-organising systems are prone to sudden shifts into a different state. Quite different behaviour from the neoclassical fictional unique equilibrium.

    • Charlie Thomas
      October 13, 2019 at 2:19 am

      the title of your book is interesting. I was a forester, biometrician. Forestry science is based on long term economics. A tree matures in 30 -300 years. Economics is so near sighted that it is useless especially in the face of rapid population growth or global warming or inconstant money value. I will look into reading your volume.

    • October 20, 2019 at 1:59 pm

      In such cases, the economic system is a simple system consisting of three elements and not able to change its behavior, as well as its composition. Over the past 200 years after the formation of the economic system, it has maintained its composition unchanged. Productivity and the proportion of elements change slightly, and we call these changes the economic cycle.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    October 19, 2019 at 3:59 am

    It’s my view that this posting begins from the same erroneous starting point that underlies mainstream economics generally. “The point of a theory or model is to provide a useful guide to understanding the world.” This is incorrect, in my view. My rewording of the statement is, ‘The point of a scenario is to provide a useful starting point for examining data.’ For data is really all we have, all we ever have. There are a nearly limitless number of theories that might be used to “explain” the data. Human judgment is the deciding factor in choosing a theory or a group of theories that fit. Scenarios is one of the tools humans use to exercise their judgment. Scenario analysis is a process of analyzing possible future events by considering alternative possible outcomes (sometimes called ’alternative worlds’). Thus, scenario analysis, which is one of the main forms of projection, does not try to show one exact picture of the future. Instead, it presents several alternative future developments. Consequently, a scope of possible future outcomes is observable. Not only are the outcomes observable, also the development paths leading to the outcomes. In contrast to prognoses, the scenario analysis is not based on extrapolation of the past or the extension of past trends. It does not rely on historical data and does not expect past observations to remain valid in the future. Instead, it tries to consider possible developments and turning points, which may only be connected to the past. In short, several scenarios are fleshed out in a scenario analysis to show possible future outcomes. Each scenario normally combines optimistic, pessimistic, and more and less probable developments. However, all aspects of scenarios should be plausible. Although highly discussed, experience has shown that around three scenarios are most appropriate for further discussion and selection. More scenarios risks making the analysis overly complicated. Scenarios are often confused with other tools and approaches to planning. Scenario analysis is virtually unknown to economists, but is popular with business analysts, particularly large international energy corporations and banks. I learned scenario analysis working in the energy sector and have used it for over 30 years. For a relatively simple introduction to scenario analysis see: Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation. Kees van der Heijden, Wiley.

    Historians use a similar tool, called ‘Counterfactual History.’ British historian Niall Ferguson describes counterfactual history as asking ‘what if” questions. What if there had been no English Civil War? What if there had been no American War of Independence? What if Ireland had never been divided? What if Britain had stayed out of the First World War? What if Hitler had invaded Britain? What if he had defeated the Soviet Union? What if the Russians had won the Cold War? What if Kennedy had lived? What if there had been no Gorbachev? The obvious objection to such hypothetical or `counterfactual’ questions is simple: why bother asking them? Why concern ourselves with what didn’t happen? Just as there is no use crying over spilt milk, runs the argument, so there is no use in wondering how the spillage might have been averted. (Even more futile to speculate what would have happened if we had spilt milk that’s still safe in the bottle.) But following Einstein’s definition of science once more, asking counterfactuals is something humans do frequently. What if I had observed the speed limit, or refused that last drink? What if I had never met my wife or husband? What if I had bet on Red Rum instead of Also Ran? It seems we cannot resist imagining the alternative scenarios: what might have happened, if only we had or had not … We picture ourselves avoiding past blunders or committing blunders we narrowly avoided. Nor are such thoughts mere daydreams. Of course, we know perfectly well that we cannot travel back in time and do these things differently. But the business of imagining such counterfactuals is a vital part of the way in which we learn. Because decisions about the future are – usually – based on weighing up the potential consequences of alternative courses of action (scenarios), it makes sense to compare the actual outcomes of what we did in the past with the conceivable outcomes of what we might have done. And use those comparisons to make decisions about possible future actions. Some suggested reading for counterfactual history. What if the Cold War had been avoided? PONTIUS PILATE SPARES JESUS, Christianity without the Crucifixion. THE CHINESE DISCOVERY OF THE NEW WORLD, 15th CENTURY, What the expeditions of a eunuch admiral might have led to? IF LINCOLN HADNOT FREED THE SLAVES, The inevitable results of no Emancipation Proclamation. THE ELECTION OF THEODORE ROOSEVELT, 1912, Brokering an earlier end to World War I. Historians who object to counterfactual history should read Thomas Carlyle again. “Acted history … is an ever-living, ever-working Chaos of Being, wherein shape after shape bodies itself forth from innumerable elements. And this Chaos … is what the historian will depict, and scientifically gauge!”

    • October 20, 2019 at 1:40 am

      Ken,

      I used shorthand “understanding the world” but what I really mean is “making some sense of our sensory perceptions”: observations for short. I don’t worry about whether there’s anything
      ‘behind’ what we observe, I leave that to theologians and metaphysicians and it’s not part of science in my view.

      As to scenarios, they have their uses but a theory/model/hypothesis is a particular story whose implications you try to develop and compare with more observations. One such hypothesis does not rule out other possibilities, as Newton’s did not preclude Einstein’s. But could Newton have brain-stormed Einstein’s theory as an alternative scenario. No because key observations and concepts did not exist in Newton’s day.

      Also, scenarios, as you portray them, are about possible futures. Science is not limited to ‘predicting’ the future, it is about finding/creating a story that makes sense of something – in retrospect or in prospect. My career was in trying to figure out how the Earth has been working deep inside and through long past aeons, which is not about predicting what it will do next year.

      So I see scenarios as an adjunct, perhaps somewhat useful in studies of human affairs, but not the same thing as a model, which is more specific.

      And please don’t assume that because this post and parts of my book address the role of models that I am oblivious to the complications of human affairs. On the contrary, the point of the book is to provide a framework (in self-organising complex systems) that can accommodate living things, including people, in all their complexity.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 20, 2019 at 11:07 am

        Geoff, “understanding” or “explaining” their experiences is what humans do. They do it by making up stories. They did this long before science was invented. Again, in the words of Einstein, “The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.”

        Scenarios are the direct extension of the stories humans have created for 30,000 years to explain their experiences today and tomorrow. The only significant difference between hypotheses (grouped and singular) and scenarios is that the former is supposedly falsifiable (as if there was a way to accomplish this goal). Scenarios can be compared and extended without end. And as stated in my last comment can be used for both past observations and expected future observations. Almost all forecasting and policy analysis today uses scenarios.

        Now it gets complicated. “Science is not limited to ‘predicting’ the future, it is about finding/creating a story that makes sense of something – in retrospect or in prospect.” I emphasize this is not unique to science, or even the result of scientific work. Most scientific stories are based on everyday stories. How the two are mixed in any situation is an empirical question.

        All the above aside, my biggest concern is your starting point. I always begin with people, since people’s perceptions are the source of all knowledge. The study of human perception and creation of stories around these perceptions are the only “reality” there is for humans. What is your starting point, Geoff?

      • October 22, 2019 at 1:01 am

        The opening sentence of a comment and the starting point of a theory are not the same thing Ken. The comment here is a teaser. The book has a systematic presentation. Try that, so you know what it is you’re criticising.

      • Rob
        October 22, 2019 at 2:08 am

        The opening sentence of a comment and the starting point of a theory are not the same thing Ken. The comment here is a teaser. The book has a systematic presentation. Try that, so you know what it is you’re criticizing ~ Geoff

        .
        I honestly don’t think Ken Zimmerman has read a single book in the WEA series and would be interested in knowing if he has and which ones he has read. But he is not alone; neither has Shiozawa, Salter, and possibly even Holtham, etc. I am not even sure the authors read each others works, but I suspect they do as there seems to be some degree of consistency in their critiques mainstream economics.
        .
        When I consider that someone doesn’t even bother to read the works published on this site, i.e., World Economics Association Book Series, I surmise this is the reason for a “cacophony of a [probably not] well-paid, narrowly focussed commentariat parroting common misconceptions. (Davies 2018, Kindle Locations 64-65, BetterNature Books.)” and their own narrow pet theories.
        .
        Reading your book now Geoff, after completing Mirowski’s More Heat than Light.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 22, 2019 at 12:22 pm

        Geoff, I did read your book, albeit very quickly. The questions you ask and the goals you pursue seem standard for many heterodox economists. Fundamental reworking of the study of economies, making economics a science. To do this we need to begin from fundamental questions. Nature and purpose of an economy. How economies fit within the larger society and culture. And replacement of neoclassical economies and free markets as soon as possible, as these are incompatible with all living things on earth. I agree with all these goals. But as I stated, there are hundreds of ways for economics to change, to pursue becoming a science, and to change its fundamental premises about the goals you list. And hundreds of ways to organize an economy. Some I think you would find interesting and satisfying. Others less so. You begin your proposals from complexity and self-organizing systems, away from the equilibrium assumed by today’s mainstream economics. But you need to test other starting points, if for no other reason than to test your initial assumptions of complexity and self-organization. I give you full credit for a robust effort to fix economics. I’d feel more inspired, however, if you spent some pages to assess how what you propose might fail and/or have unexpected results.

      • Meta Capitalism
        October 23, 2019 at 10:10 am

        To the editors. You, who claim to be offering a honest critique of mainstream economics, by allowing this forum’s comments to be dominated by trolls who don’t even bother to read the authors works held up to be the best we can offer our children for going forward, are absolutely no different than the mainstream economists who use cowardly sophistry to engage in meaningless rhetoric pretending to be speaking with the authority of science. Ken did not read Geoff’s book. He reads reviews and blurbs and then intellectually parrots the the same dogma over and over. You essentially allow the blogs comment section to be fine dominated by trolls who care not about the truth, reality, or really discerning our way forward for our children’s sake. It is mere intellectual masturbation, the vary thing Lars, Geoff, Ruccio, Soderbaugm, et. al. are trying to transcend. Sad, truly sad.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 23, 2019 at 12:47 pm

        Meta, I read Geoff’s book along with 10 others that week. Geoff’s did not stand out to me as anything of particular note. The one thing I’m not attempting is to put out useless rhetoric. I care a great deal about “the truth, reality, or really discerning our way forward for our children’s sake” but clearly not in the sense you use these terms. These terms are defined by the history of their use. And part of that is the history of disputes about there use. This is the only truth and facts humans have or can have. They’re not fixed and are never certain. You seem to actually believe there is a “truth” that will set the world on the path to a “wonderful life.” If the truth is to set us free, you’ll have to be clear about which truth that is. All this crap is masturbation and useless besides. Take what is possible and use it. Don’t place your bets on things that are clearly impossible, for humans.

      • October 22, 2019 at 12:31 pm

        Geoff, as a fellow scientist (if thinking physically of communications rather than geology) I found your comments on theories, scenarios and models very helpful, though I think you are missing a key point. What I see is all of these tuning our minds into particular ways of looking at things so that we can (as you say) “make sense” out of the chaotic signals we receive. Some ways (notably algebraic mathematics) have to be dis-encrypted before they trigger the making of sense by anyone not already an expert. (Cf. the gestalt example in which, having once seen the young lady in the face of the old, thereafter we continue able to do so). Ways of looking can be generated much more directly by iconic models and even appropriate scenarios, though many still have to learn the art of seeing the young lady in real life rather than the old model.

      • October 23, 2019 at 1:32 am

        Ken,

        I did not choose to start with complexity by throwing a dart at a board. I’ll leave that approach to you.

        If you read more slowly (and putting aside what you would like me to say) you might perceive a logical development. First, a system of interacting components, with two kinds of interaction (Chapter 2). Later, how feedbacks can destabilise a system and yield complicated behaviour (Chapters 5 and 6). There are plenty of destabilising feedbacks easily discernible in real economies to indicate this is the kind of system we are dealing with. It can all be tested, forever more, but this is the exposition and initial justification.

        I have perceived a tendency on this site to presume that by advocating self-organising systems (as I have done several times) I am simply starting another ‘school’ of economics. No, I am proposing an essential form of economies inferred from observations, but inferred a little more insightfully than Walras I think and hope.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 23, 2019 at 1:05 pm

        Geoff, what I see is a mostly standard system dynamics study of economies and economics. Nothing wrong with approaching it this way. But it’s not new. My suggestion, and only a suggestion is look at these same questions using evolutionary, organic, and anthropological perspectives. That’s the way, in my view science works. One of the great sins of too many scientists is favoring one perspective in their work. Starting another “school of economics” just adds to the confusion in economics. But comparative perspectives might actually clean up some of that confusion.

      • October 23, 2019 at 1:44 am

        Dave, I’m not sure I follow, but by ‘making sense’ I don’t mean using algebra, I mean a raw act of cognition in which our clever brains perceive a pattern. We might use algebra to draw out implications of the pattern we perceive, but mathematics is a tool in the deductive phase of science (after the ‘inductive’ phase of perception and formulation, and before the ‘testing’ phase of comparing with observations) – a point that neoclassicists have utterly failed to understand. There’s a chapter on scientific method in the book.

      • October 24, 2019 at 1:41 am

        Ken, the system dynamics approach, which you lightly dismiss, is quite capable of accommodating “evolutionary, organic, and anthropological perspectives”. That’s why I think it’s useful, as well as being motivated by observations as I noted above. Perhaps you think I ‘favour one perspective’ because you haven’t really understood what I’m saying. That’s my impression.

        It’s true system dynamics has been around for a while, that doesn’t invalidate it. I want to displace the simplistic and destructive neoclassical version with something compatible with living things, and resembling the observable world.

        Your notion of how science works seems to be very different from mine and I don’t get it. I’ve written my book, you can write yours. I don’t think this is a useful exchange any more.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 24, 2019 at 11:42 am

        Geoff, I do not and would never dismiss system dynamics, lightly or otherwise. I’ve worked in system dynamics since the 1980s. I know its strengths and its weakness. It was constructed as an engineering-servo control model. Later feedback was added which allowed it to deal with non-linearity (complexity). There have been efforts to use in social research. However, feedback still does not make SD responsive enough to deal with organic relationships. SD simply can not encompass the spontaneity and multi-directional emergences of such relationships. Some social scientists have used what’s called the organic analogy. Societies that are more complex can be compared to complex life-like mammals or the human body, while societies that are simple can be compared to single-celled organisms or cute little amoebas. Chaotic modeling is preferable here. The equations leading to chaotic results are often surprisingly simple, but modeling future results has proven very difficult. And since SD includes no people in its models, anthropological modeling is out of the question. The biggest problem with chaotic modeling is it does not lead to results that most social scientists can understand. In other words, the results don’t fit within the assumptions of current mainstream social science.

        My notions about how science works really aren’t mine. They are those of the many scientists, physical and social I’ve talked and worked with over the last 40 years. They explain science to me; I don’t explain science to them. Although I do challenge them to give full and thoughtful answers.

        But you do make a good point that SD, even with it limitations provides a more subtle and nuanced model of economic actions and economies than can ever be provided by following the assumptions of neoclassical economics. It’s a step in the right direction, in this sense.

        This is my final comment if ending the conversation suits you.

      • October 24, 2019 at 2:31 pm

        Ken says “[System Dynamics] was constructed as an engineering-servo control model. Later, feedback was added which allowed it to deal with non-linearity (complexity). There have been efforts to use in social research. However, feedback still does not make SD responsive enough to deal with organic relationships. … And since SD includes no people in its models, anthropological modelling is out of the question”.

        It appears from this that what Ken understands by Systems Dynamics is a MATHEMATICAL model of the engineering servo control systems I have worked with since 1960, which are not models but, like cybernetics (navigation), paradigmatic examples of a way of controlling other things by means of information feed-backs. The maths allows generation of graphical points comparable in specific cases to observations of relationships in time, but it doesn’t apply to anything not specific, like ever-changing people or social anthropology. If one wants to model those one needs to consider a computer program version of the servo which can be applied by switching logic (as required) to the control of any current activity of a person and (via the internet) that of any person in the anthropologist’s ‘society’. In short, as Geoff says, it is then “quite capable of accommodating “evolutionary, organic, and anthropological perspectives”.

        I’ve explained all this before, and its demonstrability in our own self-control, along with the unsustainability of the Humean scientific method that most of the scientists and academics he has been talking to over the last 40 years will have imbibed, i.e. taken in uncritically, like babies do, just copying their elders. (Hence 275 years of people like Kant, Hegel, Poincare, Whitehead, Popper, Kuhn, Lakatos, Bhaskar and myself trying to improve on it). So if this was Ken’s final comment, “Good”.

      • October 25, 2019 at 2:05 am

        OK Ken, a key point has arisen. Living systems are complex self-organising systems par excellence. They are full of positive and negative feedbacks and their behaviour is not predictable in detail, though the broad development of their behaviour is often regular, for a time.

        By identifying economies as self-organising systems far from equilibrium one identifies them as of the same general kind as living systems, though with many fewer levels of emergence. Hence my conclusion that a theory of economies as complex systems (i.e. far-from-equilibrium self-organising systems) can be compatible with living systems, and might, with a little wisdom, allow us to return to being good non-destructive citizens of the biosphere.

        So my understanding of ‘dynamical systems’ seems to be much broader than yours.

        Kauffman, S., The Origins of Order. 1993, New York: Oxford University Press
        Beinhocker, E.D., The Origin of Wealth. 2006, Boston: Harvard Business School Press. (complexity economics)
        The potential synergy between natural selection and complexity is a notion I developed in my Economia (2004)
        A lot of the key ideas are in Waldrop’s Complexity (1992).

        All these references are in my recent book, so as I have said perhaps it would repay a closer reading.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        October 25, 2019 at 3:59 am

        Geoff, right you are. Mess up on my end. Bit of a screw up in record keeping. Hopefully, we can do better next time.

  4. Meta Capitalism
    October 23, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    No doubt you read Geoff’s book with the same care you read Andreski’s Social Science as Sorcery — a cursory book review and few blurbs and good enough to use his post as a podium for your favorite parroted dogmas and pet theory. Just enough just so adaptationist evolutionary rhetoric to sound scientific to the uninitiated laymen, but not enough to say anything of any real value.

    That’s ludicrous you care about the truth. You are the one who pontificates there is no truth, only a potpourri of relative cultural imaginations each imprisoned in their own culture with no way to transcend their relative cultural blinders to reach any kind of transcultural understanding.

    Consistency is not one of your strong points obviously.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      October 23, 2019 at 3:20 pm

      Let’s go through this one step at a time, for ease of your understanding. First, I said when I commented on Andreski’s book that I had not read it in years. But I did review it quickly for this blog. A blog, not a literary society. Like everyone who comments or posts on this blog and many others, I post what I consider relevant and useful. I post it as many times as necessary, as do the others. If you disagree with my postings you are free to write as much. But you’ve provided no basis for anything you’ve written other than accusations. And as I’ve repeatedly written here, culture is not an iron cage but it is a strong, and mostly implicit (tacit) control on actions and beliefs of people who lives play out within that culture. And I’ve given many examples of just how this works. Most of what I’ve written you’ll find in Anthropology 101 textbooks and courses. Don’t blame me for your lack of familiarity with Anthropology. And as I’ve written repeatedly, I do not consider myself a scientist. But I am an empiricist,

    • October 25, 2019 at 5:23 am

      Meta, you might be interested in this article. I will be glad to receive a comment from you. https://globaljournals.org/GJMBR_Volume19/5-Social-System-as-the-Environment.pdf avrilakskyherbert@gmail.com

      • Meta Capitalism
        October 25, 2019 at 12:04 pm

        Looks interesting. Will check it out.

  5. October 23, 2019 at 2:58 pm

    Geoff, I was saying algebra was the problem. The ‘gestalt’ demonstration shows how our clever brains nevertheless have to LEARN how to see a pattern, and it takes a lot longer learning how to see it through algebraic language than through an outline diagram. What may be obvious to an expert is not obvious to lay folk with no idea what they are looking for.

    Let me spell this out while (at 82) I still can, so we can try and get our act together.

    I doubt we disagree on what scientific method is, but we probably differ on why it is what it is, and the labels we give to its successive phases. In light of the way the brain is two-sided (the right side dominantly visual and the left side predominantly aural), what you call Induction I call Reduction (to one out of many possibilities), and what you call testing I call Induction (with statistics reliable enough to be induced into the ranks of at least locally usable knowledge).

    Left brain aural logic is deductive (sequential); right brain logic is cybernetic, homing in to (simultaneously) focus the parts of two-dimensional images. There are two other basic parts of the brain, a chemical subsystem energising it and one directing muscular output, which includes directing and “tuning in” the senses until they can perceive what they are looking for (or else something emotively dangerous or interesting). I learned the basics of this at Bristol University back in 1980, but since then lots of books, TV documentaries and “split brain” news stories have confirmed it. I have Springer and Deutsch on “Left Brain, Right Brain” (also 1980), but artists tend to be more conscious of this than academics. I’m thinking of G K Chesterton in “G F Watts” and the finale of “The Napolean of Notting Hill (1904), also Betty Edwards’ on “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” (1992).

    What anyway this leads to is Induction/testing leaving residual problems, research deductively Reducing a problem until it implies a solution, so Experiments can generate statistics and Induction evaluate them. This is Kuhn’s ‘normal’ science. His ‘revolutionary’ science occurs when the research results in a gestalt: an intuitive mind Retroducing [the term comes from C S Peirce by way of Roy Bhaskar] to a more basic pattern, of which the immediate problem is just one instance. This widens the field of view [as in two-dimensional Keynesian vs one-dimensional mainstream economics], allowing Deduction of a different statistic: not whether the hypothesis works reliably when repeating one instance, but whether or not it works across all the different instances implied by its wider range.

    Back on language, an oral message is decoded by neurons triggering a visual memory, which which is decoded by tuning in the senses so they are able to detect (if present) the memories equivalent in incoming data. If the incoming message is visual symbols, then the linkage triggers aural interpretations, which have to go back to trigger visual and sense-directing memories. Hence an expert’s intuition when these linkage have become established through learning, and a novices’ incomprehension until they have.

  6. ghholtham
    October 23, 2019 at 5:35 pm

    Rob,
    Not guilty m’lud. I’ve read a number. Still struggling with Fullbrook’s “Market Value” for example.
    I’m astonished you find the commentary on these threads “narrowly focused”. My problem is the opposite: people start talking about one thing and then everything from anthropology to zoology via quantum physics gets pulled in. I’m all for discussing varied topics but not all at once!

    • Ken Zimmerman
      October 24, 2019 at 11:00 am

      ghholtham, I understand the difficulties such discussions create. But I don’t see these as out of bounds. There really is no other option. Before humans created the social sciences, everything that was parceled out to the social sciences was encompassed within moral philosophy. These philosophers chose their own topics and approaches. They weren’t controlled by the boundaries of any one or even several sciences. I’m not certain one is preferable over the other. But it seems an integrated approach to knowledge rather than searching for knowledge only within the boundaries of each science would provide better results.

  7. gerald holtham
    October 26, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    I entirely agree that an inter-disciplinary approach is needed for any important problem. It aids clarity, however. to use such an approach for one problem at a time. Everything is linked to everything of course but if we can’t compartmentalise we just can’t cope.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      October 27, 2019 at 12:22 am

      Gerald, agree, so long as the compartmentalization doesn’t create walls that prevent us seeing how the people we’re investigating divide up their lives.

  8. Craig
    October 27, 2019 at 2:17 am

    This thread affirms what I have been trying to break through the sound barrier with other posters here. The Interdisciplinary-integrative approach is always wisdom. It is in fact the very process of wisdom itself. The world’s major wisdom traditions, despite most of their adherents, have given us the contemplative, ab-reactive and consciousness raising techniques to self actualize the higher concepts necessary to qualify for what defines the word wisdom. Wisdom in its highest form is not religion, but rather deeper insight and the development of the integrative mindset.

    Economics has been analyzed and critiqued fifteen ways from the middle and most of us here agree with the various heterodox perspectives that have resulted from that work. What remains to be done is to analyze the most important and influential aspect of the economy on the integrative level of the paradigm, namely the money system, whose paradigm has not changed for the entire course of human history.

    Two of the techniques used by various wisdom traditions is to repetitively ask the novitiate to contemplate an absurdity until they have a deep cognition about a problem or their own moment to moment consciousness, or to ask them to look at their immediate environment until they discover that they have not actually looked DIRECTLY at things there since early childhood but rather relate to it via an abstraction instead.

    Repetition is not always appreciated, but it is a very workable technique.

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