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Talk of morals reminds me of a piece that Pete wrote about his great teacher Dr Hans Sennholz who did not hesitate to draw out the moral implications of various kinds of economic policy. http://www.mises.org/journals/qjae/pdf/qjae5_4_3.pdf

Pete wrote in the Conclusion that he was not as comfortable with the moral element in his classes. This is a common and very understandable feeling, for a number of reasons. First up, talk in public about morals has too often focussed narrowly and the speakers have usually been people with narrow minds and rigid, authoritarian attitudes and agendas. On top of that, moral philosophy is a mess so it is hard to get help from that source.

Libertarian/liberals are especially unwilling to hold forth in this area, but there is some literature on the symbiosis of morals and markets, so for some time I have been talking about a sound moral framework alongside the suite of freedoms and the rule of law as the three pillars of policy to deliver peace, freedom and plenty.

This program got a boost when the big Aboriginal reformer Noel Pearson stood up and talked about the need to rediscover conservative mores as an essential part of delivering his people from Third World squalor in the north of Australia. http://catallaxyfiles.com/?p=1280

Speaking on the theme of a staircase of opportunity, he said that the foundation consists of healthy social norms, mores or morals and he noted that people in the mainstream of society where the mores are essentially healthy need to realise what life can turn into when the moral framework has been seriously eroded by the wrong mix of incentives and payments.

As to moral philosophy, this is one of the most hepful statements that I have found.

On the role of brain science in helping us with moral decisions, that is a bit like studying the mechanism of a car engine to decide where you want to shop or take your vacation. The more helpful approach is situational anaysis, looking at human action in terms of plans, intentions and decisions made in the context of social situations with various opportunities and constraints. You get better outcomes by adjusting the situation and or the traditions that drive actions. But everyone on this list knows all about that.

Rorty wants to defend “utopian moral initiatives.” That’s quite a distance from the liberal tradition, which takes human nature as it is and vigorously rejects utopian schemes.

For Austrian economics, neuroeconomics is a very exciting and important development. In the past we had two choices: 1) First, there were the pseudo-scientific methods that tried to get along without referring to subjective states. That’s positivism, scientism, physicalism, and behaviorism. 2) Second, there were the all the old traditions that relied on folk psychology and our supposed intuitive ability to understand ourselves correctly. The list of such traditions includes classical political economy, praxeology, and hermeneutics. Now we have a third option.

Neuroeconomics, evolutionary psychology, experimental psychology, and related areas allow us to correct such folk psychologies with disciplined scientific knowledge. We are not self-transparent. Sure, sure, we can’t hope to “reduce” everything to physical language. Hayek showed that to be a logical impossibility. But that does not immunize our intuitive and naïve theory of the mind from scientific correction.

On the behaviorists' elimination of subjectivity and mental states, you will recall the story about the two behaviorists who made love and one said to the other at the end of it "You had a good time, but did I"?

Moving on to Rorty, in addition to being very much a man of the left,he is an obscurantist in philosophy as well.

Some of my favorite psychologists are a bit out of date these days, they are Carl and Charlotte Buhler who worked in Vienna and the US where Charlotte became a leader of the Third Force (Humanistic) movement in psychology. She was interested in the narratives that young people wrote and the life plans that people make.

Another favorite is Ian Suttie who was a major revisionist in psychotherapy. He could have redirected that school in a less reductive and more scientific direction but he died in 1935 with his first book in press.

On Charlotte Buhler "She was continually impressed by humans "self-determination," their drive to fulfill their goals and she came to see this as central to human life."

Rather Austrian? She was born in Berlin but did her best work in Vienna.

Some elements of Karl Buhler's research program

1. The situational model of action, emphasising that the individual is not
passive but participates in the formation of the environment.

2. Actions are oriented in relation to space and time.

3. The inventiveness of the acting individual and creative behaviour.


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