Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Edward Fulbrook — Tony Lawson has changed our conversation

The case for Lawson’s significance that I argued five years ago and appears below seems to me even truer today....
Real-World Economics Review Blog
Tony Lawson has changed our conversation
Edward Fulbrook

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Tom Hickey
November 27, 2013 at 1:40 am | #6
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The history of Western through can be viewed in terms of three shifts. The first was the shift from mythological explanation to ontological at the time of the Presocratics. The fundamental question was, What is there? The solution sought was in terms of first principles involving real causes.

The second shift was from the ontological to the epistemological, effected by Descartes. The question then became, What can we know about what is? Descartes answer was in terms of introspection, reason, and mathematics. Conventional economics is largely pursued in the Cartesian mode of assumptions arrived at through introspection and the application of mathematical reasoning to the assumptions.

The third shift was from epistemological explanation to logical analysis. The fundamental question became, What can we say meaningfully about what we think we know what is? Wittgenstein is often credited with this shift. Wittgenstein held that philosophical problems were analyzable into attempts to push language beyond its limits as in controversies over realism, idealism, and empiricism, or competing theories of ethics or aesthetics.

The search for knowledge must be informed by these three questions. The third to emerge historically is logically prior. We must first inquire into what we can say meaningfully. Then we must inquire into what we can know and how we can know it. There are the boundary conditions of knowledge. What we actually want to know, what is there and how does it function, is the final stage of this process.

Skipping the first two risk landing outside the boundaries of language and cognition. In economics, some economists and Bayesians resist Knightian uncertainty, for instance, as well as what threatens ergodicity, e.g., complexity and emergence. Interestingly in this regard, Cognitive scientist and author of Descartes’ Error, Antonio Damasio, David Dornsife Professor of Neuroscience, USC, was recently the keynote speaker at an INET conference. At the next conference I would suggest also having an analytic philosopher whose specialty is economic discourse.

Of course, I am not implying that Lawson’s ontological approach is misguided. I am just saying that the approach ontology has to be critical because we see through a lens of brain functioning and framing, that is, we are fundamentally ideological and and respectively take our worldviews as reality — which is a reason for cultural and subcultural differences. What you see is not what you get if you are looking through glasses that introduce distortion.

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