Friday, January 10, 2020

Lars P. Syll — Does it–really–take a model to beat a model?

The implication here is "formal model." But formal models are not the only sort of models. Most models we use are conceptual and they are mostly sufficient to the task. For example, in the Tractatus, Wittgenstein showed how a descriptive statement is a model of a fact that allows for comparing the model to the fact observationally to determine it truth-value. He elaborated how the propositional calculus is used to to describe many fact in using the principles of descriptive logic to construct a conceptual model. 

Wittgenstein used the German term "Bild" (meaning picture) as the basis of his analysis of a proposition as a "picture" of a fact based on there being a one-to-one (logical) correspondence of the elements of a picture to those of the fact it represents. A descriptive proposition models a fact in a way (logically) similar to ordinary picturing.

This notion as not original with Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein was an engineer by training and the Tractatus is modeled on Hertz's introduction to the Principle of Mechanics. It lays the logical foundations for philosophy of science. Philosophers coming from a different angle of approach and take it as an ontological work are mistaken about the task that Wittgenstein set himself as logician with a background in science. Those coming from a psychological background thought that Wittgenstein was making a psychological claim about the mind creating pictures of reality in thought. This, too, is erroneous. Wittgenstein was simply elucidating how the logic of description works since the logic of description cannot describe itself. It is something that one must come to see through logical analysis.

While the Tractatus is about symbolic logic, it is not written in symbolic logic. That does not mean that it is not a highly rigorous work. Even so, very few people commenting on it have seen what Wittgenstein was doing from his own point of view rather than theirs. The comparison with commentary on MMT is striking to me. It seem that many people have difficulty moving beyond their cognitive-affective biases even when these are pointed out to them.

Of course, rigorous models are preferable to less rigorous ones where circumstances call for it. However, it is also evident that rigorous models that don't yield as good results and less rigorous one are not preferable. Formalism itself is not a criterion of truth-value. Logic and math must be consistent, but consistency says nothing about correspondence or pragmatic worth.

Overemphasis on formalism at the expense of model realism and usefulness is an elementary mistake. This should not need saying in a professional setting. 

Lars P. Syll’s Blog
Does it — really — take a model to beat a model?
Lars P. Syll | Professor, Malmo University


Matt Franko said...

" many people have difficulty moving beyond their cognitive-affective biases even when these are pointed out to them."

They are not trained to respond this way...

'bias' is 'prokrima' which is 'before-judge'....

They have already judged it... they're done judging...

They are not now going to go backwards... they're not going to do it...

AXEC / E.K-H said...

Lars Syll, MMT and the other failures of New Economic Thinking
Comment on Lars Syll/Tom Hickey on ‘Does it — really — take a model to beat a model?’*

Lars Syll is in a trap. He is known as a sharp refuter of orthodox economics and one tends to think that if he knows what is wrong with Orthodoxy he would eventually come up with something better. This is NOT the case. During his whole career, Lars Syll never came up with any insights about how the actual economy works. He does not even acknowledge that this is his duty as a scientist and academic teacher.

“A critique yours truly sometimes encounters is that as long as I cannot come up with some own alternative model to the failing mainstream models, I shouldn’t expect people to pay attention. This is, however, to totally and utterly misunderstand the role of philosophy and methodology of economics!”

No, dear critics of Heterodoxy, Lars Syll does not suffer from the hubris to create a superior economic theory, he is merely a humble under-labourer like John Locke: “’tis Ambition enough to be employed as an Under-Labourer in clearing Ground a little, and removing some of the Rubbish, that lies in the way to Knowledge.”

How can anyone be so absurd as to think that the self-defined task of scientists is to contribute to the growth of scientific knowledge? In fact, it comes from methodologists, Lars Syll’s colleagues: “The moral of the story is simply this: it takes a new theory, and not just the destructive exposure of assumptions or the collection of new facts, to beat an old theory.” (Blaug)#1-#4

And this is the trap the under-labourer is in: he has no new theory. However, Lars Syll cannot admit failure and so he quotes Jo Michell approvingly: “It takes a model to beat a model has to be one of the stupider things, in a pretty crowded field, to come out of economics. … I don’t get it. If a model is demonstrably wrong, that should surely be sufficient for rejection. I’m thinking of bridge engineers: ‘look I know they keep falling down but I’m gonna keep building em like this until you come up with a better way, OK?’”

NO, dear methodological imbeciles, surely you can waste your own and everybody else’s time by endlessly repeating that neoclassical economics is rubbish, but take notice that this is known already for a long time and NOT any longer the key issue: “There is another alternative: to formulate a completely new research program and conceptual approach. As we have seen, this is often spoken of, but there is still no indication of what it might mean.” (Ingrao et al., 1990)

Here is the real crux of the matter: “... we may say that the ... omnipresence of a certain point of view is not a sign of excellence or an indication that the truth or part of the truth has at last been found. It is, rather, the indication of a failure of reason to find suitable alternatives ...” (Feyerabend)#5, #6

What gets entirely lost in the Syll/Michell smoke-blowing exercise is that Heterodoxy, too, is rubbish. Lars Syll is a proponent of Keynes and the Post-Keynesians including MMT. He has not realized to this day that Keynes messed up the Paradigm Shift from microfoundations to macrofoundations.#7 So, Lars Syll is NOT merely a humble under-labourer but an active participant in the scientific failure of economics.

Nobody believes in earnest that folks like Lars Syll, Tom Hickey, Jo Michell, Stephanie Kelton, Bill Mitchell, etcetera have any ambition to come up with a scientifically valid new economic theory/model.#8 What they have produced this far proves that they are stupid/corrupt under-labourers of the Oligarchy or, in the metaphor of John Locke “Rubbish, that lies in the way to Knowledge”.#9

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke