April 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
    1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30      
Blog powered by Typepad

« Quotes of the day inspired by recent ECB and Fed actions | Main | Don Lavoie Graduate Student Essay Competition -- 2012 »


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference What Good Are Labels in Scientific Discourse?:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Was it Mises or Hayek who said that there are no fields of economics; only good and bad economics?

Stop calling it 'methodology' -- exemplars of good & sound explanations vs failed and pathological explanations is the issues.

You won't win or even be heard if makin a "methodological" argument.

Compare sound explanations vs failed, pathological explanations.

Save the talk of 'methodology'.

Note well -- 'methodology" talk is at the base of the failed mainstream paradi -- assumptions derived from Mill & the postitivist.

The mainstream offers explanations & rejects the justificationist / demonstrative philosophical tradition.

The great scientists trail blazed new scientific problems and came up with new explanatory strategies.

And each one of them came to recognize that they have violated the fashionable "methodological" dictates that had recently been re-patched out of the ancient paradigm of 'science' inherited from the model of Euclidean geometry -- the paradigm which said that 'knowledge' / 'science' as justified belief via demonstrative procedure, i.e. 'knowledged'/'science' = demonstrative knowledge.

Well, Newton was well aware that his new explanatory procedure violated the demands of the fashionable view of 'rigorous science' -- so he started talking about 'hypothetical' knowledge and other such things.

Darwin, similarly, attempted to follow the methodological dictates of Whewell and others, attempting to follow the 'methodology' which demanded laws and deductions.

Darwin offered a new understanding of the explanatory problem paired with a powerful explanatory strategy -- and it didn't fit the Whewell explanatory dictates -- Darwin admitted that nothing could be proven in the way demanded and every attempt to stuff Darwin into a nomological-deductive frame has has failed, has vindicated Darwin and put the nomological-deductive methodological demand in disrepute.

Pete writes,

"in the modern methodology of economics the goal is to be rigorously scientific"

Guess what? Darwin hoped to be 'rigorously scientific' following the nomological deductive methodological dictates of Whewell -- and he FAIL. Instead of being 'rigorously scientific' Darwin was ACTUALLY scientific in conceiving an explanatory problem paired with a new explanatory strategy -- 'rigorous science' be damned.

Newton did THE SAME THING.

In fact, if you know your stuff, you know that this misbegotten attempt by the 'mainstream' to be 'rigorously scientific' demonstratively doesn't derive from the actual practice of real science -- the goal of the 'mainstream' actually is to toe the line on a falsified and pathological philosophical image of 'science'.

Powerful and sound explanations are good science -- and they add to human understanding. And being 'rigorously scientific' according to the fake science demands derived ultimately from the Euclidean paradigm of 'demonstrative', 'justified' knowledge is not way to produce genuine science. Ask Newton. Or Darwin.

"Was it Mises or Hayek who said that there are no fields of economics; only good and bad economics."

It was Friedman.

Note well. If we use labels, Friedman was an Austrian economist. Read the opening chapters of _Free to Choose_. It's pure Hayek. Price signals and everything. A complete rejection of the formalist paradigm. And note well. Friedman's key texts in his graduate price theory class were 1) Marshall and 2) Hayek's _The Use of Knowledge in Society_.

For the record, I claim property rights to being the first to argue that "mainstream" is a sociological category, or better or worse. I think Pete knows this, :-).

I am going to meld Barkley and Greg (insofar as Greg is channeling Kuhn in his own "all the rest of you guys are doing it wrong" way).

For Kuhn, the social form of the scientific community had an important function. At no point in time was it perfect, of course, but the process was functional in the sense that functionalists use the word.

If we accept that, then the fact that the mainstream is a sociological category shouldn't mean that it's just a sociological category. In science, recognition of the importance consensus and argument from authority are two quite different things. And what is the mainstream if not a consensus at a point in time?

I just think it's important to remember that these terms themselves are contested. It's easy enough to say that we should be doing Smithian economics. You won't get much dissent on that. But not everyone is going to agree with Peter that the second half of the twentieth century wandered off from Smith.

And on a more general point: if you make too much of a habit of proclaiming that people aren't doing "good economics" the people you are talking about that think they are doing "good economics" and being perfectly accepting of Smith aren't going to be very interested in talking to you after a while. I only mention this because it has implications for your plans to have a voice among economists writ large.

Taking Daniel's point, we need to look for common ground to maintain contact with other schools of thought or they will switch off.

On the philosophical and methodological front, if you think these things matter then something really has to be done about academic philosophy. If the kind of Aristotelian/Austrian realism that is being promulgated by Barry Smith can stage a revival in the philosophy of science amidst the wasteland generated by the positivist/empiricists and then Kuhn and Lakatos this will be a huge boost for good/Austrian economics.

It is sad to see how thirty years of work in the sub-speciality of philosophy and methodology of economics has produced so little to help the working economist.

Sorry, make that:

The _mainline_ offers explanations & rejects the justificationist / demonstrative paradigm.

"...floating abstractions that were tested against momentary concretes. "

Well put.

There's a limit to how much I'd worry about getting a hearing or somehow persuading prominent mainstream figures. What counts is inspiring the young. Nor would I concern myself with reaching for the mantle of "science." What, after all, is "science?" Philosophical attempts to define it always get chewed up by philosophical criticism, leading pretty much nowhere. I would just leave the term to refer to the natural sciences, allowing for the fact that different people may place the exact boundary in somewhat different places without thereby destroying the utility of the term.

Are you responding to George's "Advice to Young Austrians," Pete? I think he is right, of course, that your argument should hold up with or with out labels. But he does seem to suggest a sort of stealth strategy, which seems off to me.

Seems to me that the only disagreement between mainstream and Austrian is business cycle theory. Micro and most macro outside of cycle theory is the same. So if Austrian economists want to avoid cycle theory there is no problem with being mainstream.

On cycle theory, the problems facing classical economists were the same. Solow's notes in his book on the classical economists that Ricarco et al insisted on analyzing comparative statics while the critics were doing dynamics. As a result, the two talked past each other.

The same is true of the critiques of Hayek's Ricardo Effect. See Moss and Vaughn "Hayek's Ricardo effect: a second look" in History of Political Economy, 18:4 1986.

On cycle theory, mainstream either ignores time and assumes either adjustments are simultaneous or jumps to the very long run, which as Keynes wrote tells us that after the storm the sea is calm.

In addition to time, mainstream ignores capital in its cycle theory.

As with the clasical economists and Hayek's critics, we will never persuade them to abandon their methods. But we can demonstrate the differences in assumptions to young people and let them choose which assumptions are the more realistic.

It’s nice that desert investment brokers decided to help a medical marijuana firm . That’s good news.

I've been reading lately a lot of mainstream economics, especially Acemoglu and Andrei Shleifer. I must honestly say WTF!! Economics as a science is dead ...

When those guys chose 20 most influential papers from AER and the latest one was published in 1981 there was a lot of chatter about those guys being old and choosing among friends, but now I really think there wasn't anything worth mentioning after that, in spite of AER having more pages (over 600 in the last issue!!).

So what we have now in mainstream and mainline economics is a lot of noise. How do you think you will get heard?

Out of courtesy to you I report that I commented on aspects of your piece on www.adamsmithslostlegacy.blogspot.co.uk - it is too long to post as a comment here.
Gavin Kennedy

FWIW, Pete, I agree that methodology matters. It's a bit like metaphysics: when you banish metaphysics you are really just sending it underground where it is not subject to criticism. Similarly, banishing methodology just drives it underground. From its underground lair methodology still influences science, but is not subject to critical examination.

Roger, exactly! There are two types of debaters - those who bare their assumptions and those who pretend they have no assumptions and are just mechanical interpreters of the data.

The comments to this entry are closed.