Home > Uncategorized > The drunk looking for the key

The drunk looking for the key

from Yoshinori Shiozawa  (originally a comment)

This is a part of my essay “Between Math and the Occult” written in 2002 for a journal named “The pleasures of mathematics” (in Japanese) No. 30.

There is an interesting parable that points out this. Originally of Arab origin, it was introduced and disseminated in economics by writers like Martin Shubik and Thierry de Montbrial.

At midnight, a drunken person was wandering under a lonely streetlight. He seemed to be looking for something. When a passerby asked, the drunken person said he was looking for a key. The passersby joined in the key hunt, saying it would be a problem. But they couldn’t find the key. After a while, the passerby asked for the drunkard. “Did you really drop the key here?” The drunkard replied calmly. “No, it’s over there where I dropped the key, but it is pitch-dark there and I can’t see anything. That’s why I’m looking for the key in the light.”

Mathematics is a strong light. But, if we consider mathematics as the only tool of theory, it can be the same as the above drunkard. Only problems on which mathematics can spot the light are prone to be studied, leaving other, more important tasks untouched. For 100 years until 1970, theoretical economics was mostly advanced by the light of mathematics. Mathematics is not to be blamed by that fact. However, there are some frameworks that are easy to shed light of mathematics and others that are not. Optimization and equilibrium is such a framework. As a result, huge progress has been made in the logical level. But it was also the cause that economics began to wander in a wrong direction. Ironically, the mistake was hidden as long as light of mathematics continued to shed light on economics. This is also one of the dangerous paths hidden in economics.

Those who can read Japanese can read the whole text here.

 

  1. Craig
    October 30, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    The parable is actually most apt regarding the mindset and utilization of analysis itself. If one will only look with the reductionist mindset of science while neglecting or ignoring philosophy, which by the way also includes the set of science, they will be prone to at best palliatives and at worst missing the pattern solution altogether.

    The word philosophy means the love of ideas/concepts, and paradigms are single and singularly defining pattern concepts like terra-centrism, nomadism and Debt Only.

    New paradigms are the ultimate integrative mental and temporal phenomena that replace the old/present ones…. like for instance helio-centrism, agriculture/homesteading/urbanization and Monetary Gifting.

    Let us be aware of and not be afraid to use all of the tools of analysis, lest we stumble around in the light in the corner of a room and never consider that solutions may exist in the unexplored darkness of its entirety.

  2. November 1, 2020 at 5:21 pm

    An excellent analogy, no doubt. It would be nice to shine a light on the place where the keys were lost. A drunk man knows where they are lost, but anybody won’t listen to him because he is drunk. The one who lights the lanterns suggests looking where it is light and he has a chance that the keys will be found the same as a pocket torch to send a signal to another galaxy.

  3. Ken Zimmerman
    December 4, 2020 at 5:28 pm

    Your starting point seems necessary and appropriate. But the basic question before us is, in my view, what is mathematics? Mathematics is partly familiar to all humans, even those with little formal education. But mathematics also remains uncertain and contradictory. An enigma and a mystery at the heart of human culture. It is both the language of the everyday world of commercial life and that of an unseen and perfect virtual reality. It includes both free-ranging ethereal speculation and what humans take as rock-hard certainty. How can this mystery be explained? How can it be unraveled? Or can it?

    In the history and philosophy of mathematics a number of voices are heard calling for a more naturalistic account of mathematics. In differing ways Davis and Hersh (1980), Kitcher (1984), Lakatos (1976), Tymoczko (1986a), Tiles (1991), Wittgenstein (1956), and others have argued for a critical re-examination of traditional presuppositions about the certainty of mathematical knowledge. Kitcher and Aspray (1988) suggest that these voices make up a new “maverick” tradition in the philosophy of mathematics which is concerned to accommodate current and past mathematical practices in a philosophical account of mathematics.

    In the broader sphere of human culture there has been more success in breaking the hold of philosophy on the study of mathematics outside the field itself. First, a number of different traditions of thought in sociology, psychology, history and philosophy have been drawing on the central idea of the social construction of knowledge as a way of accounting for science and mathematics naturalistically. That is, in removing the exceptional status in terms of ‘truth’ too often splattered onto mathematics. Second, a growing number of researchers have been drawing on other disciplines to account for the nature of mathematics, including Bloor (1976), Livingston (1986) and Restivo (1992), from sociology; Ascher (1991), D’Ambrosio (1985), Wilder (1981) and Zaslavsky (1973) from cultural studies and ethnomathematics; Rotman (1987, 1993) from semiotics, Aspray and Kitcher (1988), Joseph (1991) and Gillies (1992) from the history of mathematics, and Bishop (1988), Ernest (1991, 1998) and Skovsmose (1994) from education. The starting point here is that mathematics, like all other parts of human existence is cultural (founded in social relationships constructed from cultural norms and values). From a naturalistic (realistic) perspective there are no other options. If not here, then mathematics is left to the realm of magic and religion. Which is no change since these too rest on the foundation of cultures.

    It is in these emerging studies of mathematics that my explanatory scheme rests. Mostly in the interdisciplinary social constructionist approaches currently burgeoning in the human sciences. Emerging in parallel with similar claims in multidisciplinary and multidimensional accounts of mathematics.

    • Yoshinori Shiozawa
      December 5, 2020 at 4:55 pm

      Ken, I have no real intention to argue about mathematics with you, but let me add some words in order to pay respect for your efforts to write this short article.

      What is mathematics? Of course, it depend on the definition. But, as you may know, there is no well established definition of mathematics. Mathematicians often joke that mathematics is what mathematicians are doing. A more plausible definition or characterization was given by Henri Poincare. In Chapter 1 of his Science and Hypothesis, he emphasized that
      “The theory of mathematical magnitude presupposes the possibility of indefinite repetition, and therefore something like mathematical induction” (Gerhard Heinzmann and David Stump 2017 Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). It is sometimes explained that Euclid used mathematical induction when he proved that the number of primes is infinite, but more explicit formulation was given as late as the 17th century by Blaise Pascal in his Traité du triangle arithmétique (1665) (See “Mathematical induction” on Wikipedia). So, the date of emergence of mathematics is quite blurred, that is not the problem.

      I once read, when I was a perhaps junior high school student, that there is/was an ethnic group whose counting system is composed of four: one, two, three, and many. Ken may insist that those people also possess their own mathematics and I do not oppose it, but it is not mathematics that we mean in speaking of sciences, natural or social. There is clear rupture between what Ken calls mathematics and mathematics that works in sciences.

      The following is the result of Google translation of the preamble of Wikipedia article “Rupture épistémologique” in French:

      The epistemological break designates, in the approach to knowledge, the passage that allows one to really know by rejecting certain previous knowledge that it would be necessary to destroy for the new knowledge to be revealed. In this perspective, the epistemological obstacle that may constitute the knowledge of the past, although natural, as well as “common sense”, should be overcome in order for a “real science” to emerge. This notion, forged by Gaston Bachelard in his work The Formation of the Scientific Spirit, is central in the fields of science and technology.

      Louis Althusser also uses it in the human and social sciences. Already approached by Émile Durkheim or Max Weber, the notion of epistemological rupture is similar in this respect to the axiological neutrality mentioned by Weber in Le Savant et le politique or to the rupture with Durkheimian prenotions in The Rules of the Sociological Method.

      Althusser thought that a continent of Mathematics emerged in the classical Greek era. The second continent Natural science started at the time of Galileo Galilei. At each emergence of new continent of sciences, there was an epistemological rupture. If you do not under stand these ruptures, you cannot understand nor mathematics or natural sciences. (I do not speak of (the continent) of social sciences. Althusser had his own thesis on its emergence and its rupture, but I have a bit different understanding on this point.)

      What is discovered after each rupture is not a simple addition of new knowledge or experience. We can interpreted them as such as Ken does, but it brings something that transcends our experience. Mathematical truth transcends our empirical world. It is outside of time and space. In the same way, physical laws are true in the world in which the physics theory stipulates their validity. So the physics laws are valid beyond the age and space of our observations and human existence. But Ken does not understand this.

      Ken and I have argued on this theme in November in a thread of this blog. It was done as comments to Limits of mainstream economics today by David F. Ruccio posted on on October 12, 2020. The concerned comments were as follow:

      Yoshinori Shiozawa November on 12, 2020 at 3:37 pm
      Ken Zimmerman November on 13, 2020 at 2:59 pm
      Yoshinori Shiozawa on November 14, 2020 at 1:35 pm
      Ken Zimmerman on November 14, 2020 at 3:37 pm
      Yoshinori Shiozawa on November 15, 2020 at 2:59 am
      Ken Zimmerman on November 15, 2020 at 7:34 am
      Yoshinori Shiozawa on November 15, 2020 at 3:46 pm
      Ken Zimmerman on November 15, 2020 at 4:27 pm
      Yoshinori Shiozawa on November 17, 2020 at 2:41 am
      Ken Zimmerman on November 17, 2020 at 6:22 am

      N.B. The first sentence of my comment on November 15, 2020 at 2:59 am should be be read “It would not be fruitful to continue our discussion.”

      Ken did not (or could not) understand that “electro-magnetic field existed before physicists discovered it. Once the electro-magnentic field is discovered, we can talk about it without any reference to the history of its discovery” (Shiozawa on November 15, 2020 at 2:59 am). I have given an example that change of geomagnetic field “may have triggered an abrupt societal change in the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia.” (Shiozawa on November 15, 2020 at 3:46 pm) by citing a paper from Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The fact that the theory of electromagnetics was discovered in the 19th century by Maxwell and others does not change the validity of the theory and the possibility that electromagnetic power may have influenced the life of the people who live in the second millennium BC. In this case, the theory (theory of electromagnetics) transcends human experiences and we can argue that electromagnetic power may have influenced the life of the people far before the discovery of the theory.

      Ken is so deeply stained by empiricism, he cannot distinguish history and the contents of a science. I voluntarily admit that what we think or imagine as reality is constructed, but the constructed contents (truth or laws or causalities) is valid from the history of the discovery.

      • December 6, 2020 at 1:15 pm

        I’m glad to be largely in agreement with Yoshinori here. I will comment only that I got his argument from Francis Bacon’s “Advancement of Learning” (1604) rather than Bachelard et al, and that electromagnetism in the form of light had long been known of and used for visual communication (e.g. with flags, beacons and smoke signals) long before Maxwell discovered how to visualise it mathematically.

  4. December 5, 2020 at 6:13 am

    Does this heartfelt article mean that the lantern itself will find the place where the key is and illuminate it?

    • December 6, 2020 at 1:17 pm

      Perhaps that economics needs to wander round with a lantern rather than stand under a lamp-post?

    • Yoshinori Shiozawa
      December 6, 2020 at 3:50 pm

      Herbert, the original meaning (in which I understand) is that the key is lost somewhere but the drunken is searching his key under the street light, because he can see something there. In other words, it is an allegory or aphorism that many economists know where the true problems lie, but, as there is no light (tool of analyses) there, they are searching problems that can be treated under the light (some mathematical formulations).

      • December 6, 2020 at 5:24 pm

        Dear Yoshinori Shiozawa! It’s not about mathematics, if economists had even the slightest idea of the nature of economics they would not have to look for a mathematical tool to explain it. If we tried to understand the wheel in terms of a mathematical model, we would still be walking. If you wanted to understand economics as I understand it, you would regret having spent so much time studying it.

      • Yoshinori Shiozawa
        December 7, 2020 at 5:05 pm

        Herbert > you would regret having spent so much time studying it.

        On that point, i do not regret having studied mathematics. Mathematics has helped me to know many hidden structures under the surface.

        I do not know if you have been following comments in various threads. I have made a number of comments referring to our book and its significance. For example, my first comment to “Testing game theory” December 4, 2020 at 7:17 am, my comment on October 29, 2020 at 2:26 pm to “Economists have no ears” October 28, 2020, and my comment on October 15, 2020 at 6:00 am to “Studying economics — a total waste of time” October 14, 2020.

        But, please read at first two book reviews by Marc Lavoie and Yoshio Inoue (read I.no.u.e). You will understand the significance of our book

        As I have noted it in the above post, it is only a part of my essay that I wrote about 20 years ago. I fully admit that many economists are doing something very similar to the story of the drunken, but we should also know that there are many important problems that cannot be analyzed without a good use of mathematics.

        Please read Inoue’s book review (later half in particular). Those who argue that mathematics is the vice do not understand that there are many themes and problems that cannot be solved by literal or purely conceptual considerations. Those who think that they can do more without mathematics than with mathematics are simply romanticists in the meaning that Inoue given.

        Please note what I have claimed does not exclude that we can do good economics without mathematics. The economy is multi-faceted. We should admit various methods in order to understand it better. I am only opposing to those people who argue that economics went wrong because we use mathematics. They can rightly accuse those economists who are salves of mathematics. But, it is not the problem of mathematics. It is the problem of those economists who slavishly obey traditional mathematical framework even if it is now evident for many that the maximization and equilibrium are bad formulation to understand what the economy is and how it works.

      • Yoshinori Shiozawa
        December 8, 2020 at 4:17 am

        As for optimization and equilibrium, please read also my comment on December 7, 2020 at 6:52 pm to Asad Zaman’s Complexity Economics on December 4, 2020..

  5. Ken Zimmerman
    December 6, 2020 at 1:31 pm

    Yoshinori and Dave. The scientific study of knowledge (scientific, mathematical, and otherwise) if it is be a science must accept the same framework as any other science. How and why is this knowledge created, changed, fitted into lives of people? For social scientists, these topics call for investigation and explanation and they try to distinguish knowledge in a way which accords with the scientific perspective. Their ideas are therefore in the same causal idiom as those of any other scientist. Their concern is to locate the regularities and general principles or processes which appear to be at work within the field of their data. The aim is to build theories to explain these regularities. If these theories are to satisfy the requirement of maximum generality they will have to apply to both true and false beliefs, and as far as possible the same type of explanation will have to apply in both cases. The aim of physiology is to explain the organism in health and disease; the aim of mechanics is to understand machines which work and machines which fail; bridges which stand as well as those which fall. Similarly, the social scientist seeks theories which explain the beliefs which are in fact found, regardless of how the investigator evaluates them. Even early on, some concerns in this area yielded interesting findings. For example, the connections between the gross social structure of groups and their cosmologies, social correlates of anthropomorphic and magical worldviews as distinct from impersonal and naturalistic ones. The impact of practical developments in water and steam technology on the content of theories in thermodynamics. Eugenic concerns have been shown to underlie and explain Francis Galton’s creation of the concept of the coefficient of correlation in statistics. The importance that processes of training and socialization have in the conduct of science has been extensively documented. There are many others.

    In sum, the scientific study of scientific and mathematical knowledge should adhere to the following four tenets. In this way it will embody the same values which are taken for granted in other scientific disciplines. These are:
    1. It would be causal, that is, concerned with the conditions which bring about belief or states of knowledge. Naturally, there will be other types of causes apart from social ones which will cooperate in bringing about belief.
    2. It would be impartial with respect to truth and falsity, rationality or irrationality, success or failure. Both sides of these dichotomies will require explanation.
    3. It would be symmetrical in its style of explanation. The same types of cause would explain, say, true and false beliefs.
    4. It would be reflexive. In principle its patterns of explanation would have to be applicable to social science itself. Like the requirement of symmetry this is a response to the need to seek for general explanations. It is an obvious requirement of principle because otherwise social science would be a standing refutation of its own theories.

    • December 6, 2020 at 3:43 pm

      You are missing the point, Ken. Scientists not only have to make discoveries but they have to communicate them and therefore find ways in which they can be communicated. This last is extraordinarily difficult, because it take two to tango and the audience does not always recognise or even want to hear new language or uses of existing language. (Sometimes to the point of perversely misrepresenting it, to sustain their own pet usage or to confuse others). Your four tenets are met by deductive logic, not epistemology, where linguistic axioms enable one to form true propositions of the form ‘set B is [or is not] a member of set A’. Logic is about word formations. Irrationality is a commonplace in mathematics, where pi and the square root of 2 are not derivable from the axioms underlying linear numbers. Arguably, then, social science is not a science but mere assertion, because its axioms are propositional, not logical.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 6, 2020 at 4:10 pm

        Dave, science is whatever people and society say it is. The purpose of the scientific study of knowledge, including scientific and mathematical knowledge is to reveal how humans reach that conclusion, how and why it changes, and what are the conclusion’s consequences. Yes, writing up the results of this work is important. And the writeups may not have the result anticipated. Another issue for the scientific study of knowledge to consider. And lest we forget, the scientific study of knowledge also includes examination of knowledge that is not scientific in terms of principles I list.

      • December 6, 2020 at 8:20 pm

        Ken, that is not a scientific way of looking at what science is.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 7, 2020 at 3:50 pm

        What is science, Dave?

        I always liked this story Richard Feynman told in 1964 to answer this question.

        What science is, I think, may be something like this: There was on this planet an evolution of life to a stage that there were evolved animals, which are intelligent. I don’t mean just human beings, but animals which play and which can learn something from experience—like cats. But at this stage each animal would have to learn from its own experience. They gradually develop, until some animal [primates?] could learn from experience more rapidly and could even learn from another’s experience by watching, or one could show the other, or he saw what the other one did. So there came a possibility that all might learn it, but the transmission was inefficient and they would die, and maybe the one who learned it died, too, before he could pass it on to others.

        The question is: is it possible to learn more rapidly what somebody learned from some accident than the rate at which the thing is being forgotten, either because of bad memory or because of the death of the learner or inventors?

        So there came a time, perhaps, when for some species [humans?] the rate at which learning was increased, reached such a pitch that suddenly a completely new thing happened: things could be learned by one individual animal, passed on to another, and another fast enough that it was not lost to the race. Thus became possible an accumulation of knowledge of the race.

        This has been called time-binding. I don’t know who first called it this. At any rate, we have here [in this hall] some samples of those animals, sitting here trying to bind one experience to another, each one trying to learn from the other.

        This phenomenon of having a memory for the race, of having an accumulated knowledge passable from one generation to another, was new in the world–but it had a disease in it: it was possible to pass on ideas which were not profitable for the race. The race has ideas, but they are not necessarily profitable.

        So there came a time in which the ideas, although accumulated very slowly, were all accumulations not only of practical and useful things, but great accumulations of all types of prejudices, and strange and odd beliefs.

        Then a way of avoiding the disease was discovered. This is to doubt that what is being passed from the past is in fact true, and to try to find out ab initio again from experience what the situation is, rather than trusting the experience of the past in the form in which it is passed down. And that is what science is: the result of the discovery that it is worthwhile rechecking by new direct experience, and not necessarily trusting the [human] race[‘s] experience from the past. I see it that way. That is my best definition.

        I would like to remind you all of things that you know very well in order to give you a little enthusiasm. In religion, the moral lessons are taught, but they are not just taught once, you are inspired again and again, and I think it is necessary to inspire again and again, and to remember the value of science for children, for grown-ups, and everybody else, in several ways; not only [so] that we will become better citizens, more able to control nature and so on.

        There are other things.

        There is the value of the worldview created by science. There is the beauty and the wonder of the world that is discovered through the results of these new experiences. That is to say, the wonders of the content which I just reminded you of; that things move because the sun is shining. (Yet, not everything moves because the sun is shining. The earth rotates independent of the sun shining, and the nuclear reaction recently produced energy on the earth, a new source. Probably volcanoes are generally moved from a source different from the shining sun.)

        The world looks so different after learning science. For example, trees are made of air, primarily. When they are burned, they go back to air, and in the flaming heat is released the flaming heat of the sun which was bound in to convert the air into tree, and in the ash is the small remnant of the part which did not come from air that came from the solid earth, instead. These are beautiful things, and the content of science is wonderfully full of them. They are very inspiring, and they can be used to inspire others.

        Another of the qualities of science is that it teaches the value of rational thought as well as the importance of freedom of thought; the positive results that come from doubting that the lessons are all true. You must here distinguish–especially in teaching–the science from the forms or procedures that are sometimes used in developing science. It is easy to say, “We write, experiment, and observe, and do this or that.” You can copy that form exactly. But great religions are dissipated by following form without remembering the direct content of the teaching of the great leaders. In the same way, it is possible to follow form and call it science, but that is pseudo-science. In this way, we all suffer from the kind of tyranny we have today in the many institutions that have come under the influence of pseudoscientific advisers.
        We have many studies in teaching, for example, in which people make observations, make lists, do statistics, and so on, but these do not thereby become established science, established knowledge. They are merely an imitative form of science analogous to the South Sea Islanders’ airfields–radio towers, etc., made out of wood. The islanders expect a great airplane to arrive. They even build wooden airplanes of the same shape as they see in the foreigners’ airfields around them, but strangely enough, their wood planes do not fly. The result of this pseudoscientific imitation is to produce experts, which many of you are. [But] you teachers, who are really teaching children at the bottom of the heap, can maybe doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts.

        When someone says, “Science teaches such and such,” he is using the word incorrectly. Science doesn’t teach anything; experience teaches it. If they say to you, “Science has shown such and such,” you might ask, “How does science show it? How did the scientists find out? How? What? Where?”

        It should not be “science has shown” but “this experiment, this effect, has shown.” And you have as much right as anyone else, upon hearing about the experiments–but be patient and listen to all the evidence–to judge whether a sensible conclusion has been arrived at.

        In a field which is so complicated [as education] that true science is not yet able to get anywhere, we have to rely on a kind of old-fashioned wisdom, a kind of definite straightforwardness. I am trying to inspire the teacher at the bottom to have some hope and some self-confidence in common sense and natural intelligence. The experts who are leading you may be wrong.

        I have probably ruined the system, and the students that are coming into Caltech no longer will be any good. I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television–words, books, and so on–are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.

        Finally, with regard to this time-binding, a man cannot live beyond the grave. Each generation that discovers something from its experience must pass that on, but it must pass that on with a delicate balance of respect and disrespect, so that the [human] race–now that it is aware of the disease to which it is liable–does not inflict its errors too rigidly on its youth, but it does pass on the accumulated wisdom, plus the wisdom that it may not be wisdom.

        It is necessary to teach both to accept and to reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation.

        And Feynman’s views are entirely consistent with those of Albert Einstein.

        Also consistent with Feynman is what Clifford Conner tells us in ‘A People’s History of Science.’ There have been several attempts by scientists to define science. None were successful. Considering this situation Conner falls back on J. D. Bernal’s ‘Science in History,’ which begins with, “Science throughout is taken in a very broad sense and nowhere do I attempt to cramp it into a definition.” According to Bernal, “This nondogmatic approach is necessary because in the last resort it is the people who are the ultimate judges of the meaning and value of science. Where science has been kept a mystery in the hands of a selected few, it is inevitably linked with the interests of the ruling classes and is cut off from the understanding and inspiration that arise from the needs and capacities of the people.”

      • December 7, 2020 at 9:32 pm

        Ken, science is knowledge which can be reproduced and passed on, which reduces to mere opinion if people keep changing the meaning of scientific words. As a scientist I have a great respect for Feynman and his diagrams, having seven books by him and others about him, but in the story here the only mention of language is this:

        “I think we live in an unscientific age in which almost all the buffeting of communications and television–words, books, and so on–are unscientific. As a result, there is a considerable amount of intellectual tyranny in the name of science.”

        When I started working with Algol68 I was told that the rationale behind its structure was to require scientists to define their terms and not to permit their use until their concepts and procedures for using them had been defined and translated into the language of the particular computer. If data could exist in different forms, e.g. as whole numbers or decimals, then how to add them, say, had to be defined both ways. The database memory was so initialised that if you addressed an area which had not been written to the data spelled out the word ‘Fool’. I later had experience of using a language incapable of defining the required program, and also of a computer being changed and the revised translator not reproducing the original. In short I acquired good reason to appreciate the original rationale.

        In libraries there is a particular problem of overlap of classes which is dealt with by S R Ranganathan’s method of forming them from five fundamental concepts, analogous to mapping the world in terms of a pole and “the four winds”. I also have a curious 1972 book by McGarry and Burrell which one way up is about semantics and the other about logic. This says logic is about the formation and manipulation of concepts, which is the computer systems programmer’s job. On semantics it is agreeing with me in objecting to what you take for granted: it is “mainly linear, but having revision frames to correct the student’s misconceptions and halt any process of ‘mutation’ in the concepts already established by the program”.

        You ask me, “What is science”? I say the question is loaded. There are two sorts of science: the fundamental sort trying to define [at least more] fundamental concepts because the existing ones don’t work, and the applied sort programming the world in terms of concepts already defined. Remember the UK’s Covid “search, trace and report” system which didn’t work because it used an inadequate spread sheet program? Let Feynman have the last word:

        “It is necessary to teach both to accept and to reject the past with a kind of balance that takes considerable skill. Science alone of all the subjects contains within itself the lesson of the danger of belief in the infallibility of the greatest teachers of the preceding generation”.

      • December 8, 2020 at 10:05 am

        Ken, your asking me a question has been more illuminating than your telling me your answer, for it has freed my mind to recall how I have answered it in my own words instead of trying to answer it in yours.

        So what is [basic] science? What was Einstein looking for? Mathematical invariants! He found them to be tensors rather than vectors: not the straight line between two points being the shortest distance but that light curved, hence our expanding universe and flying from Britain to Los Angeles over the North Pole. The invariants I found to be relevant to economics were not equilibrium but the four colour theorem, topological order and the continuity not only of circuits but of skins. What the mathematician Descartes expressed in the Platonic 1650 Christian language of body and soul, is what I’ve been arguing in the 1950 secular terms of physical and information science.

        To explain our differences in terms of these, and how they are relevant to economics, let us start with Adam Smith’s mentor David Hume arguing about probabilities as he pulled billiard balls (events assumed to be completely separate) out of a bag. Mathematical “rubber” topology permits me to deform these billiard balls into pieces of jigsaw puzzles, which the four colour theorem assures me will have at most four interlocks. You are seeing science trying to piece together an infinite variety of pictures; I am seeing these upside down so I invariably have only the shape of the pieces to guide me. You, like Hume, see yourself pulling a billiard ball out of a bag, and I see this as only being possible if you can move the other balls out of the way. I see the billiard balls as humans trying to get themselves out of the bag, and Shannon showing us we have enough slack (redundant information capacity) to be able to do so. Where Humeans are seeking to impose free trade, I propose our making that possible for everyone by committing to “rules of the road”: i.e. conventions on giving way.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 8, 2020 at 4:29 pm

        See my response to Yoshinori in this thread.

    • Yoshinori Shiozawa
      December 7, 2020 at 6:09 pm

      Ken and Dave,

      I feel we lack a good set of concepts to argue the topic we are discussing. Have you read Roy Bhaskar? For example, A realist theory of science or The possibility of naturalism: A philosophical critiques of the contemporary human sciences. His philosophy may give us a good system to consider our problem. I am now reading it. It is a book quite difficult to read and to understand. It may take me several weeks to grasp the total picture.

      Dave, have you read one of them? I don’t remember that you have cited him. Comments you often make do not seem to reflect his idea. But, as you know it very well, Bhaskar is the philosophical basis of Tony Lawson.

      Ken, if you want to continue our discussion, please read one of these books. If not, we have very few common words and concepts. Our discussion is like a dialog in which you talk Sanscrit and I talk Classic Chinese.

      NB. I could not distinguish which part is your own text and which part is a quotation. If you quote a long paragraph or many paragraphs, please sandwich that part by <blockquote> and </blockquote>. Here I wrote < and > in double-byte characters but you should change them in one-byte characters.

      • December 7, 2020 at 9:53 pm

        Yoshinori, yes, I have several books by Bhaskar, who Tony Lawson introduced me to and encouraged me to read; I also met him several times at conferences and seminars. I have developed the ideas in “A Realist Theory of Science” in a presentation I gave at a critical realist conference in 2005,
        having been most influenced by his later book, “Dialectic: the Pulse of Freedom”, which more clearly distinguishes basic and applied science. If you think “The realist theory” is difficult you should try that! Hartwig’s “Dictionary of Critical Realism” does help.

      • Yoshinori Shiozawa
        December 8, 2020 at 8:00 am

        Dave, thank you for the information. I will try to consult Hartwig’s Dictionary. Even if Bhaskar is really an original thinker, his style of writing is too difficult and asks us big burden.

      • December 8, 2020 at 10:22 am

        Yoshinori, I agree on Bhaskar being too difficult, especially when read with a foreign or primarily practical command of language. Let me point you to the General Abbreviations on p.6-7 of Hartwig’s dictionary, specifically the definitions of DREI(c) and RRREI(c).

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 8, 2020 at 4:14 pm

        This is from ‘Qualitative Research Design, An Interactive Approach’ by Joseph A. Maxwell.

        As I described in the Preface to this edition, my approach to qualitative research has increasingly been informed by the philosophical position generally called critical realism. This position, which has gained widespread acceptance in the philosophy of science, can itself be seen as an example of bricolage, since it combines two commonsense perspectives that have often been seen as logically incompatible. The first of these perspectives is ontological realism: the belief that there is a real world that exists independently of our perceptions and theories. This world doesn’t accommodate to our beliefs; believing that global warming is a hoax will not keep the Earth from warming. (For some powerful cautionary examples of how a society’s ignorance of, or false beliefs about, the environmental consequences of its actions can lead to its demise, see Jared Diamond’s 2011 book Collapse.)

        The second perspective is epistemological constructivism: Our understanding of this world is inevitably our construction, rather than a purely objective perception of reality, and no such construction can claim absolute truth. This is widely recognized both in science (Shadish, Cook, & Campbell, 2002, p. 29) and in our everyday lives; we recognize that what people perceive and believe is shaped by their assumptions and prior experiences as well as by the reality that they interact with. From this perspective, every theory, model, or conclusion (including the model of qualitative research design presented here) is necessarily a simplified and incomplete attempt to grasp something about a complex reality. I have found this combination of perspectives extremely useful in thinking about a wide range of issues in qualitative research (for a detailed exploration of this view and its implications for qualitative research, see Maxwell, 2011b), but have also combined this perspective with insights from additional diverse philosophical positions, including pragmatism and postmodernism. I have done so, not to create a unified super theory of qualitative research, but to benefit from a dialogue between the different perspectives, taking what Greene (2007; see also Koro-Ljungberg, 2004) has called a dialectical approach, one that combines divergent mental models to expand and deepen, rather than simply confirm, one’s understanding.

        All well and good. But this misses so much of what science is and how people invent and use it. Until the last century or two, the process of gaining knowledge of nature and what humans do to build their lives has generally been more a product of hands than brains; that is, of empirical trial-and-error procedures rather than theoretical application. “Science,” archaeologist V. Gordon Childe declared, “originated in, and was at first identical with, the practical crafts.” And even today outside of ‘formal’ (elite) science, science is still that. Social anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss dismissed the notion that any of the “great arts of civilization” -pottery, weaving, metallurgy, agriculture, and the domestication of animals—could have come about as a “fortuitous accumulation of a series of chance discoveries.” They provide evidence, he argued, that “Neolithic man” was “the heir of a long scientific tradition:”

        Each of these techniques assumes centuries of active and methodical observation, of bold hypotheses tested by means of endlessly repeated experiments …. There is no doubt that all these achievements required a genuinely scientific attitude, sustained and watchful interest and a desire for knowledge for its own sake. For only a small proportion of observations and experiments (which must be assumed to have been primarily inspired by a desire for knowledge) could have yielded practical and immediately useful results. An inquisitive attitude. But not formal ontologies, epistemologies, or the need for bricolage (something constructed or created from a diverse range of available things). Humans are bricolage. What Bhaskar and others do here is break apart for the purpose of reassembling that which is already together. Everyday humans put it together millennia ago. I see no purpose in this except to feed the egos of elite philosophers. It is certainly not useful or beneficial for ordinary people or everyday life. In fact, that Bhaskar can do what he does is only due to the foundations built in ordinary science of the last 10 millennia. Something of which Bhaskar, etc. seem unaware. What is called ‘science’ today is not special. It is something people chose to do over 12,000 years ago. And continue to do today.

      • Yoshinori Shiozawa
        December 9, 2020 at 2:44 am

        Ken, is it your response that you do not want to read Bhaskar? It is your freedom. In that case, there will be no use to continue our discussion. Let us stop our discussion here.
        It is simply a “no side”. No one is victorious nor defeated.

        My comment on Feynman’s citation of yours on December 7, 2020 at 3:50 pm:
        He simply told there were continuous efforts in the history of human kind. Their essence may not have been changed. But that does not prove that there were ruptures at some points of history. In everything, there are invariable aspects, but also changing aspects. Some change is so important that ignoring it we miss the true meaning of specific events such as obtaining sciences. If you do not admit it, there is no common base to discuss. There is no other way to discontinue.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 9, 2020 at 3:05 pm

        Yoshinori, I have read some but not all of Bhaskar’s works. Far as I can tell he is a typical modern philosopher. Believing he is seeing the world as it is. And giving out advice accordingly. He clearly ‘has a side.’ Ontology, epistemology, etc. He clearly lays out the ‘philosophical’ issues facing social sciences. The positivist-hermeneutic clash evolving into the quantitative vs. qualitative approach struggle that came to dominate social sciences in the 1980s and later. Bhaskar writes in ‘The Possibility of Naturalism,’

        As already indicated, over the last hundred years or so two broad positions in the philosophy of social science have dominated the scene: the one naturalist, the other anti-naturalist. But the dominant naturalist tradition has been based on a very different conception of science (and philosophy) from that advocated in this chapter. It has seen science as consisting essentially in the registration of (or refutation of claims about) empirical invariances between discrete events, states of affairs and the like. The hermeneutical tradition has accepted this account of natural science (or at least its implicit ontology), subjecting it at best to relatively minor qualifications. But it contends that social science is (or should be) concerned with the elucidation of meaning and the tracing of conceptual connections—activities clearly lacking counterparts in the study of the inanimate world of nature. Besides this positive claim, defenders of Verstehen can point, with justice, to the complete absence of explanations in social science conforming to positivist prescriptions, and in particular to the absence of universal empirical regularities of a significant kind. In response to this, positivists tend to argue that the social world is much more complex than the natural world (‘interactionism’, already prefigured by Mill36) or that the regularities that govern it can only be identified at a more basic level (‘reductionism’, prefigured by Comte), and that, in any event, concepts (or meanings), to the extent that they are explanatorily relevant at all, can only be identified, or hypotheses about them tested, empirically (i.e., behaviourally). Neither party doubts for a moment that empirical invariances are necessary for laws, or that the conceptual and the empirical jointly exhaust the real.

        A fair representation of the issues facing social scientists and philosophers of social science. But not a fair picture of the decisions and ways of life of the subjects of social science. And when scientists study social science, it is not a fair representation of how that works either. What Bhaskar misses, and he is not alone in this is that neither ‘ordinary’ subjects of social science nor social scientists make these fine and beautiful philosophical distinctions in living their lives. They do not have these ontological and epistemological backs and forths with themselves except when following the protocols of ‘their’ science. Like all humans they live their lives as totalities. As I prior noted part of that totality is active and methodological observation and hypothesis testing. A genuinely scientific attitude you might call it, along with a sustained and watchful interest and a desire for knowledge for its own sake. This is not science in the sense of a disciplinary or ‘professional’ activity. It preceded these by millennia. It does not focus on picking apart ontologies or epistemologies but only on these items. Philosophers of science and other so called ‘science scholars’ overlay the ordinary practices of people with all this superfluous ‘analysis.’ It seems because disciplinary scientists are compelled to perform analysis on whatever falls within their net. But if the purpose of the work of social scientists is to reveal how and why people make themselves as they do, analysis is useless. Reality is whatever people say it is. And people make this reality in whatever fashion they do. Social scientists must follow down every rabbit hole in this process.

      • December 9, 2020 at 2:57 am

        It is not clear how much of this is due to Maxwell and how much to Ken, but presumably Ken agrees with it. It is in any case full of unverifiable assertions about how how scientists thought ten thousand years ago, despite the historical and current evidence of radical as against traditional thinking – real world ontology – being persecuted as “sinister” by authoritarian epistemologists. (That word derives from the French for left-handed, which has also been related to our human brains being two-sided, with one side or the other dominant). This opinionated dismissal of Bhaskar is that of traditionalist minds.

        Yoshinori seems to have expected me to quote Bhaskar rather than to think like him. Let me make it quite clear (having reminded myself of what Bhaskar says in “The Possibility of Naturalism”) that I have not accepted him as my authority but understood and agreed with him in 2000 because I had come to similar conclusions forty years earlier when taught Hume’s philosophy of science in 1958, primed by J H Newman’s “Apologia” for his infamous religious conversion and pre-Darwinian book on the evolution of ideas: “The Development of Christian Doctrine”. (I later acquired Newman’s “Idea of a University” and “Grammar of Assent”, both relevant here. Traditionalists rejecting his Irish university, he famously founded schools in industrial Birmingham).

        If Ken can rifle his opposition, it is only fair to let Bhaskar speak for himself. This from p.6 of “The Possibility of Naturalism”:

        “What is the relation between science and philosophy? Do they compete with one another or speak of different worlds? Neither position is acceptable. To ignore the historical links between them would be folly. Indeed, no distinction between them can be drawn in the case of pre-Socratic thought, and no sharp one even in the seventeenth century. (it is salutary to remember that ‘metaphysics’ is merely the name that Aristotle’s literary executors, so to speak, they gave to the work they classified after his physics [in modern terms, his post-graduate material], and that Hume [an arm-chair philosopher] fancied himself an experimental scientist). It is only in Kant that one finds a clear, if ultimately untenable, non-reductionist distinction between philosophy and science. After Kant the status quo ante was for the most part restored: with a romantic and idealist strain,of varying quality, tending to cosmological speculation, very much in the old style; while an empiricist and positivist current proved increasingly unable to sustain an intelligible concept of either science or itself. In this impasse an offshoot of the latter, with conventionalist and pragmatic leanings, openly welcomed the breakdown of the philosophy/science distinction. On this view, they are to be distinguished, if at all, only by the generality of their questions (that is, in their removal from the data of sense) – a distinction which may be a matter of degree (Quine) or kind (Lakatos).

        After a brief discussion of practical ways of distinguishing science from philosophy, this:

        “If philosophy is to be possible (and I want to contend that it is
        in practice indispensible) then it must follow the Kantian road. But in doing so it must avoid any commitment to the content of
        specific theories and recognise the conditional nature of all its results. Moreover, it must reject two presuppositions which were central to Kant’s own philosophical project, viz that any inquiry of the form ‘what must be the case for F to be possible?’ the conclusion, X, would be a fact about us; and that F must invariably stand for some universal operation of mind. That is to say, it must reject the idealist and individualist caste into which Kant pressed his own inquiries”.

        My own version of this has Shannon’s universal “laws of language” rather than ideals, with class logic replacing individualism. But Bhaskar in a later, more difficult book, “Dialectic”, goes on to distinguish basic science bordering on philosophy from applied science producing practical results. In my view that leaves the philosophy supplying the axioms for the class logic. While I have criticised the difficulty for general readers of the language in this book, to be fair it is no worse than the horrendous names created to distinguish marginally different chemicals and medicines, which tend to enter our everyday vocabularies only as names of ingredients we ourselves eat and the medicines we ourselves take. Doctors – here of our sick economics – need familiarity with far more of them when diagnosing what’s going wrong.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 9, 2020 at 3:13 pm

        Dave, I gave you a couple of good starting points on the archeology of humans 10,000, even 12,000 years ago. You ignored them. That is how we learn about what humans thought and did ‘way back then.’ As to philosophers of science, they are not sinister. They are doing what their discipline has trained them to do. And that is the problem when it comes to grasping and describing how and why people build their lives. Such as believing humans have souls, that God is real, etc.

        It is not the relation between science and philosophy that is the issue for me. As a philosopher this may certainly interest Bhaskar. For me, one concern is the relation between what people do to construct their ways of life and institutions and what science and philosophy says they do or says they ought to do. A social scientist, however, should not care about the science/philosophy relation when exploring what people build and how they do their work. People do what they do, regardless of the judgement of philosophers and social scientists. Social scientists should follow this work and those who do it. Not the work of philosophers and scientists. Unless of course how philosophers and/or scientists build their ways of life is the social scientist’s subject to explore.

        Let me say this one more time. The relation between science and philosophy is not just irrelevant to social science but can sometimes interfere with the social scientist doing their job. Which I thought was the object of this blog. Social scientists doing and not doing their job.

      • December 9, 2020 at 3:56 pm

        ” A social scientist, however, should not care about the science/philosophy relation when exploring what people build and how they do their work. People do what they do, regardless of the judgement of philosophers and social scientists”.

        This is a philosophical judgement, and a very poor one at that.

        What is the point of social science if it is just interested in what people do and not what they are doing wrong, like wrecking the earth and the lives of others just because they can? The point of modern science, which started with Francis Bacon in 1604 and not ten thousand years ago, was not just “for the glory of God” but more specifically “for the relief of man’s estate”.

        What would be the point of philosophers of science if “they are doing what their discipline has trained them to do”? The reality is some of us temperamentally learn to think for ourselves, even if it is easier and most of us do just follow the prevailing fashion.

        What would you prefer me to think of you, Ken? That you a troll we could do without, or that you have become senile?

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 10, 2020 at 10:27 am

        It is a choice people make every day. Using their own experiences as a base. If that is philosophical for you, then it is philosophical. Otherwise, not so.

        You seem more interested in correcting people’s actions. That moralistic stance may be acceptable for religions and even some philosophical positions (e.g., transcendentalism) but not for social scientists. Their job is to describe how and why people build their way of life. One way vs. another vs. another. How can anything change, if that is the goal of some involved if we do not have clear and accurate information on how people build their lives and why?

        Thinking for yourself is okay. But if your goal is to prosper and gain respect and status in a discipline, that is often not possible.

        Troll or senile. Nope. Just a social scientist who has seen way too many bad results when social scientists take up the job of reforming society, in part or whole.

      • Craig
        December 9, 2020 at 4:28 pm

        The science versus philosophy-social science controversy is just one more dualism that is resolved by the most underlying and significant concept-experience known to Man, and yes that concept-experience is grace.

        God-the experience of grace IS NATURAL. It’s also the philosopher’s stone, a mere but mind blowing and yes ecstatic integration of normal internalized egoistic consciousness with the spatial-electro-magnetic flux that is the dynamic, interactive, integrative flow of the present moment. That’s ALL and THAT’S ENOUGH to be the gloriously enlightening experience the world’s various wisdom traditions have long described and prescribed…..and the experience that the vast majority of us have ignored, decried and avoided most of our lives in the less than contemplative cultures we are embedded in and because the paradigm of inquiry is presently Science Only. That’s Only as in monopolistic. INTEGRATE!

        Integrate the integrative discipline of Wisdom and Wisdom’s pinnacle concept, i.e. grace as in love in action within yourself and grace’s relevant aspect(s) into whatever body of knowledge-area of human endeavor is under discussion…and flow!

      • December 9, 2020 at 4:55 pm

        I see Ken’s Dec 9 at 3.05 pm has been displayed before my Dec 9 at 2.58 am. My 3.58 comment of course related to Ken’s Dec 8 at 4.14 pm. Reading Ken’s own quotation of Bhaskar at 3.05 pm, I find it telling that it stops after Bhaskar has said what is wrong and says nothing about what he was going to offer as a solution to it, i.e. transcendental realism, where I now see my “second order cybernetics” in this quote from p.51:

        “a scientific (or substantive) transcendental argument may be distinguished from a philosophical (or formal ) one according to the autonomous reality (or lack of it) of the object of the second-order discourse, the way (or rather immediacy) with which reference to the world is secured, and the possibility or otherwise of a posteriori grounds for the analysis”.

        In other words, he is recognising that even scientific discourse is linguistic (second order) and taking this into account.

      • Ken Zimmerman
        December 10, 2020 at 10:30 am

        I chose to omit this part of Bhaskar’s statements because it is in my view a good example of why philosophers should not get involved in social science until they are ready to be a social scientist. Not a philosopher dilettante screwing up the work of social science.

        Just out of curiosity what is second order linguistic discourse?

      • December 9, 2020 at 5:05 pm

        So now Craig’s crept in before me decrying the conventional dualism before looking at what’s being said, so not seeing Bhaskar’s position as the third element which integrates the the others.

      • December 9, 2020 at 5:26 pm

        To be fair to Craig, his integrating factor is ‘grace’, but does his second order grace (in the mind) refer to the first order integrating factor of divine grace? He says not, but denying the evidence makes that a philosophical choice.

      • Craig
        December 9, 2020 at 5:54 pm

        Dave,

        First order (cosmic and natural) and second order (personal-individual) grace are the most elemental duality to cognite on and integrate.

        As I’ve said before I couldn’t care less whether someone believes in Christ or the great god mugjub who lives up the yap-yap river….so long as their god instructs them to live by love and its active form grace…and they honestly try to apply grace to themselves and in the rest of their lives.

      • Craig
        December 10, 2020 at 6:18 pm

        Ken,

        Yes, philosophers who only philosophize ARE dilettantes. That’s why becoming aware of and self actualizing Wisdom/paradigm perception and the paradigmatic level of analysis is so important because Wisdom is only wisdom if it involves BOTH mentality AND consideration of mentality’s best and most pragmatic temporal universe application and implementation.

        As I have posted here many times a new paradigm is the penultimate integrative phenomenon because it is a single concept that transforms an entire complexity/temporal pattern. And a mega-paradigm change is one that immediately and continuously changes numerous patterns in beneficial ways.

  6. Craig
    December 6, 2020 at 6:04 pm

    The drunk is the inquirer, the light is “settled science” and the keys are located in a generally unexplored area of a mode of inquiry that encompasses both the light and darkness, and penetrates both its detailed realities and describes its overall essence.

    It’s paradigmatic analysis, stupid!

    • December 11, 2020 at 12:29 pm

      The key is information science. It is what the drunk can’t see in the light of physical (materialist) science. (Even when drunk on paradigmatic analysis, if the key to the analysis is information science).

      • December 11, 2020 at 1:31 pm

        I’ve just reacted to Craig. Yoshinori’s post is about the key to economics NOT being mathematics. What then is it? As they say on TV, “If you don’t wish to know then look away now …”.

        I’ve previously argued from Bacon’s schedule of envisaged sciences in “The Advancement of Learning” that mathematics is AN information science, i.e. an example of a non-physical science, but not what MAKES information science a science: i.e. our new-found ability to define, measure, distinguish and analyse different types of information in terms of their different rates of change. Arguably, Mathematics doesn’t change: it can only be added to, though (c.f. topology and “transcendental”) it can be transformed. (Topology is called “rubber geometry” and symbols can be transformed into examples: objects movable through time and space).

  7. Yoshinori Shiozawa
    December 9, 2020 at 7:10 pm

    Ken Zimmerman on December 9, 2020 at 3:05 pm

    if you have read some of Bhaskar’s book, it would be sufficient. For me, it will take several weeks or even months before understanding his system of philosophy.

    In your post on December 8, 2020 at 4:14 pm, you have cited a part (1) from J. A. Marxwell’s ‘Qualitative Research Design, An Interactive Approach’. Knowing the name, I have checked some of his papers and have read Maxwell and K. Mittapalli’s chapter “Realism as a stance for mixed methods research.’ (2)

    Maxwell must be a good teacher for post graduate students who want to work in sociology or anthropology. He is a great eclectic and has a good common sense. But, as a philosopher of research method, he seems to lack a depth. Citation (1) reveals that he cannot clearly distinguish science after Galileo and Kepler and huge collections of knowing-hows of human being. He writes:

    But this misses so much of what science is and how people invent and use it. Until the last century or two, the process of gaining knowledge of nature and what humans do to build their lives has generally been more a product of hands than brains; that is, of empirical trial-and-error procedures rather than theoretical application.

    If we take “science” in a very wide sense, this may be true. But, as I wrote it another day, this “science” is different from what we usually talk about it. Or, he does not know that there was an epistemological rupture by the appearance of modern science. He is confusing systems of knowing-hows or engineering and the modern science. He refers to “formal (elite) science” but does not try to distinguish what he calls “formal science” and collections of knowing-hows. Engineering always contains bricolage elements. But without modern science and admittance of epistemological rupture, Bhaskar’s arguments do not hold.

    Paper (2) was much better than the part you have cited. At least, it gave me a good map on how social science methodologists are divided in different strands. If we admit that sociological and anthropological research cannot arrive at the level of “formal science”, it may be a good common sense not to give students an impossible ambition to imitate natural science or mathematical rigor. But, that common sense does not serve as a guideline in the reconstruction of economics. Neoclassical economics has attained certain level of refined arguments (although they are completely wrong). We must compete with them. If not, we cannot overcome in our struggle.

  8. December 10, 2020 at 5:10 pm

    Re Ken on December 10, 2020 at 10:27 am: “troll or senile?” On December 10, 2020 at 10:30 am: “Just out of curiosity what is second order linguistic discourse”.

    Thinking of Asad Zaman’s 6 December blog on “Economics as Moral Philosophy”, a book I have had difficulty finding, Adam Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments”, seemed a good idea to suggest as a suitable Christmas present for myself. In the meantime I googled it and found a copy, from which it turns out that Ken’s theory of social science is just regurgitating Adam Smith’s. I had already realised this was derivative of David Hume’s, whose solipsistic denial of a reality other than what we see has also been Ken’s failing these several years. On December 10, 2020 at 10:30 am he says: “Philosophers should not get involved in social science until they are ready to be a social scientist. Not a philosopher dilettante screwing up the work of social science”. Like Hume? Precisely.

    So perhaps Ken is neither troll nor senile, he’s just never learned to think for himself? In regard of his question, then, I had just explained that language is “second order”, but if he is not able to reorder the words I used by thinking for himself, his question is understandable.

    “Thinking for yourself is okay”, he says. “But if your goal is to prosper and gain respect and status in a discipline, that is often not possible”. So his arrogance comes from fear of losing face? He doesn’t see that we are engaged in a war against kleptomania, pyromania and scorched earth policies, in which the sane goal is not “to prosper and gain respect and status” but to save mankind, taking flack and if necessary laying down our own lives to help do so.

    Would that Ken were senile: one could then hope he could find asylum in care. However, on the evidence even in this discussion, Ken is more or less deliberately trolling, by diverting useful discussion so it doesn’t develop. Why? I’m told “people troll because they’re insecure in themselves, they want to get a kick out of being negative towards someone else.” In which case poor Ken; but my trying to make peace by recognising his gift with words and here by acknowledging a helpful question didn’t help. “The other type of trolls are people who exhibit a psychological trait known as ‘negative social potency’ – this means they enjoy causing harm to others”. Here I have something to learn from Yoshinori’s diplomacy on December 9, 2020 at 2:44 am: “Ignoring [change] we miss the true meaning of specific events such as obtaining sciences. If you do not admit it, there is no common base to discuss”.

    The usual advice is to report trolling to the editor. I did this, but his loyalties being split between useful discussion and keeping conversations going left him not very supportive. It seems, Ken, I shall have to stop treating you like a human and ignore you as a troll.

    A pity, because there is a lot to be said about the biblical Old Testament as a record rather than an assumption about how people thought ten thousand years ago. We haven’t changed much, even if our cultures have. It is full of stories of ungrateful people silencing messages of love by killing the messenger.

    • Yoshinori Shiozawa
      December 11, 2020 at 6:54 am

      Dave, please stop this kind of arguments. It is not pleasant for the readers, particularly for old persons like me. I am now 75 years old and classified as “senior of the second class”. It seems you are as old as I am. Please do not laugh at the senility. It is the destiny of all senior person.

      • December 11, 2020 at 10:03 am

        Yoshinori, you have misunderstood the argument. If at nearly 84 you think I am laughing at senility, think again. I indicated I would have been sympathetic, caring and therefore more tolerant if I thought that had been the problem here; but on the evidence it wasn’t.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      December 11, 2020 at 12:48 pm

      Yes, by all means ignore me. That would be a blessing to me. And, I suspect a blessing, if only indirect to you.

  9. Yoshinori Shiozawa
    December 11, 2020 at 6:00 am

    Ken, would you like to read N.B. part of my comment above on December 7, 2020 at 6:09 pm again? It is often unclear which part you have quoted. in your comment on December 9, 2020 at 3:05 pm, you made a long quotation as this:

    As already indicated, over the last hundred years or so two broad positions in the philosophy of social science have dominated the scene: the one naturalist, the other anti-naturalist. But the dominant naturalist tradition has been based on a very different conception of science (and philosophy) from that advocated in this chapter. It has seen science as consisting essentially in the registration of (or refutation of claims about) empirical invariances between discrete events, states of affairs and the like. The hermeneutical tradition has accepted this account of natural science (or at least its implicit ontology), subjecting it at best to relatively minor qualifications. But it contends that social science is (or should be) concerned with the elucidation of meaning and the tracing of conceptual connections—activities clearly lacking counterparts in the study of the inanimate world of nature. Besides this positive claim, defenders of Verstehen can point, with justice, to the complete absence of explanations in social science conforming to positivist prescriptions, and in particular to the absence of universal empirical regularities of a significant kind. In response to this, positivists tend to argue that the social world is much more complex than the natural world (‘interactionism’, already prefigured by Mill36) or that the regularities that govern it can only be identified at a more basic level (‘reductionism’, prefigured by Comte), and that, in any event, concepts (or meanings), to the extent that they are explanatorily relevant at all, can only be identified, or hypotheses about them tested, empirically (i.e., behaviourally). Neither party doubts for a moment that empirical invariances are necessary for laws, or that the conceptual and the empirical jointly exhaust the real.

    After a careful reading I came to know that the above part is a citation from Bhaskar (Bhasakr “The possibility of naturalism” Forth edition, 2015, p.17). But it is not always easy to see which part is your own text and which part is a citation. Please pay a small amount of services so that your comment becomes more readable instantly.

    • Ken Zimmerman
      December 11, 2020 at 12:41 pm

      Will do my best. Sorry about any confusion.

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