Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Philip Pilkington — Some Personal Reflections on Contemporary Economic and Scientific Indoctrination

The new religion — science. Same as the old religion when used normatively and prescriptively.

However, to the degree that C. P. Snow is  right about the two cultures, science and the humanities, quite a few people read in the humanities rather than science and come to opposite conclusions. I was one of the latter.

One path leads to materialism and reductionism and the other to humanism and holism.

There is no barrier to their integration, however, other than rigid thinking.

Fixing the Economists
Some Personal Reflections on Contemporary Economic and Scientific Indoctrination
Philip Pilkington


Dan Lynch said...

Agree with Philip that economics sometimes seems like a religious dogma.

Agree with Philip that science cannot answer value questions.

But I would not go so far as to knock applying the scientific method and math to economics.

Science is about testing and peer review. Economics needs more of that, not less.

David said...

As Tom mentioned the famous "split," here it is foreshadowed by Roger Bacon in 1268:

"There are two modes of knowledge, through argument and experience. Argument brings conclusions and compels us to concede them, but it does not cause certainty nor remove doubts in order that the mind may remain at rest in truth, unless this is provided by experience."

The poet Robert Graves argued that modern science interpreted "experience" in the narrow sense of "experiment" in which the experimenter remains as far as possible outside the experience. Thus modern science was launched based upon a very limited range of man's capacity for knowing.

This is the crux of PP's essay, I think. The social sciences have bent themselves into pretzels trying to mathematize themselves and be "more like physics." The danger is having a sort of scientistic bias that in which the preferred methodology limits the selection of problems and tests to just those which can be approached by such a methodology. The Catholic Church, for all its flaws, at least preserved an extract of the collective wisdom of Western man from which one could have a starting point for approaching the myriad problems of political economy.

Matt Franko said...

David I see some congruence between Bacon's views there and this dichotomy of Empiricism v Rationalism:


"Empirical evidence (also empirical data, sense experience, empirical knowledge, or the a posteriori) is a source of knowledge acquired by means of observation or experimentation.[1] Empirical evidence is information that justifies a belief in the truth or falsity of an empirical claim. In the empiricist view, one can only claim to have knowledge when one has a true belief based on empirical evidence. This stands in contrast to the rationalist view under which reason or reflection alone is considered to be evidence for the truth or falsity of some propositions.[2] The senses are the primary source of empirical evidence. Although other sources of evidence, such as memory, and the testimony of others ultimately trace back to some sensory experience, they are considered to be secondary, or indirect.[2]"

There is much of the rationalist view in "science" as well as economics...

Take physics: "black holes"... "space time"... "big bang" .... "quantum" ... "nuclear sun" same as 'monetarism' in economics.. no empirical data that any of this is true....

Rationalism IS "religion" imo or vice versa take your pick... they are both "made up"... fictions... and then people "join the club" or perhaps are indoctrinated into the different rationalists/religionist sects... the most zealous of believers usually advance to the leadership positions and get to chose future members/leaders .... no empirical basis for any of it...


Matt Franko said...

and this is interesting from Phil at the end:

"That is how you generate a priest caste in an era when religion has lost it’s authority."

'religion' never had any authority to begin with, it was/is always with the govt magistrates, this is one of the main if not THE main problem that has screwed up the west for so long and continuing...

Here's Paul, Romans 13:

"1 Let every soul be subject to the superior authorities, for there is no authority except under God. Now those which are, have been set under God,
2 so that he who is resisting an authority has withstood God's mandate. Now those who have withstood, will be getting judgment for themselves,
3 for magistrates are not a fear to the good act, but to the evil. Now you do not want to be fearing the authority. Do good, and you will be having applause from it."

Paul mentions NOTHING about "the church" here, "religion", the "pope", "bishops", "priests" etc....

"authority" is only associated with the "magistrates" who personify govt authority ... all of this "religious" stuff and sectarian dogmas and BS are all false and have no scriptural basis and imo work to undermine the TRUE human authority which is of our civil government...

its all libertarian BS run amok going on 2,000 years and has led to all sorts of perverse metal-love and subjection, paganism redux, moronhood, etc...

Paul never directed anybody to do any of this....


Ryan Harris said...

All Humans over estimate our abilities. The hubris problem grows with age as we get cranky and quick to dismiss our critics along with data that doesn't look the way we think it should.

Tom Hickey said...

Both extreme rationalism (all knowledge is innate) and extreme empiricism (Hum'e fork — the two sources of knowledge are logic and sense experience) are overly restrictive assumptions.

Kant attempted to combine rationalism and empiricism in his Critique of Pure Reason, but the attempt was not successful in that, to his dismay, Kant's student Fichte drew the conclusion that Kant's analysis, following Hume, that all we know through direct acquaintance is our own mind, which provides the categories of logic, and phenomena, which are the appearances of things and not the things themselves. The result is some sort of idealism, or an assumption of realism that requires an explanation for how the gap between phenomena and things-in-themselves is bridged, such as Locke put forward unsuccessfully in attempting to update Aristotle.

Aristotle had bridged it using intellectual intuition and a type of knowing along with sense intuition. "Intuition" here means knowledge by direct acquaintance in Russell's terms. Moderns, following Descartes, rejected Aristotle's explanation of intellectual intuition, and no other theory that explains knowledge of reality rather than knowledge of appearances has been successfully advanced.

There is another theory of knowledge known as romanticism, which Hegel characterizes as "feeling is everything" that he holds must also be included in the dialectical approach to speculative philosophy. That also depends on unjustified assumptions in its excessive expression.

Contemporary cognitive science has shown that reasoning and feeling are entangled in the way the human brain is structured (hardwired) and functions (operating system). While humans can attempt to disentangle them, it is not possible to do so thoroughly. This implies also that human knowledge is inherently subjective and seeking to isolate the observer cannot be completely successful.

Wittgenstein showed something similar wrt to the way that ordinary language functions, and cognitive science has amplified that by showing that thinking is metaphor based rather than essence or category based. In addition, QM suggests that the observer is also entangled with the experiment to the degree of not being able to be disentangled.

In consciousness studies David Chalmers advanced the "hard problem" as accounting for quality, which does not reside in the object alone but in the relation of the subject and object in perception.

Then there are the many reports of the world's mystics of non-ordinary cognition, along with teachings explaining them in the various wisdom traditions. Transpersonal psych and consciousness studies are also considering these, especially now that some many have adopted spiritual practices and are reporting such non-ordinar cognition, providing subjects for research.

All this suggests that hard and fast dualistic assumptions exceed what can be shown. Moreover, there are good reasons that cast dualisms into doubt as being well-founded.