Tuesday, July 27, 2010

TheLowlyPhilosopher's foolish defense of the Austrians.

It's always amusing to me what bad assumptions people make when interpreting my arguments, and it is particularly funny when somebody who styles themselves a philosopher is so dreadfully incautious.  And sometimes I really enjoy performing a good, vicious fisking.

In a response to my Parable of the ship: why Austrian Economics fails, TheLowlyPhilosopher wrote:
After perusing this blog and in particular reading the entry, The Parable of the Ship: Why Austrian Economics Fails among others, I felt that if there were others who read this blog in general, and in particular the Parable of Ship and (even though this was originally posted over a year ago) it would be beneficial to offer some criticisms of Mike Huben’s general “philosophical belief system” or rather perhaps what he would prefer should be labeled, his “scientific belief system” and in particular his claims concerning science versus philosophy.
What beneficent intentions!  I'm sure we will all be incredibly grateful.  Not.


Although I have taken some undergraduate economics I do not pretend to be an expert in Economics. My education is in Philosophy (primarily epistemology, logic and the philosophy of language). And it is from this philosophical education that I believe that Mr. Huben asserts views that are quite simply mistaken.
Please don't tell us where you learned your philosophy: they might be quite ashamed.

I will proceed with offering criticism of direct quotations that Mr. Huben espoused in the Parable of the Ship blog entry.
Those quotations being:
1) “But the great fault of Austrianism is that it is not scientific. Science is a better way of knowing than philosophy, because scientific theories have to explain close to all the scientifically collected data. For all the faults of conventional economics, it is far closer to a science than Austrianism because it relies heavily on data.”
2) “Since Austrians are innumerate, instead they must rely on their assumptions, which needless to say tend to have a very right wing bias. Science does not work that way. Nor can Austrians really defend their assumptions: no assumption about the real world is totally true which means that there is fallacy in all their logic about the real world.”
3) “This is not a new position: it is basic to science and ought to be basic to philosophy. Hume said it very clearly 260 years ago: Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? No. Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? No. Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.”
4) “When confronted with real-world problems that could have multiple causes, logical verbal models are insufficient. You MUST introduce measurement and mathematics into your models if you want to have any hope of valid answers. Logical verbal models are sufficient to specify possible chains (or networks) of causation, but telling which are significant is a quantitative problem that requires measurement.”
5) “Your faith in philosophy is touching. Science is much better explained anthropologically than by philosophy.”
From 1) “Science is a better way of knowing than philosophy”. That seems a rather strange statement to make. To know something, is to know something that presumably is true. Whether it is known philosophically or scientifically seems irrelevant. If something is known to be true it is true, is it not?
Step number one for the philosopher: start with a howling blunder.  I explain to my students that science is about honesty and validity: if they want truth, they must go to mathematics.



IMHO, science is better than philosophy because it is VALID: it works repeatably in the real world.

Mr. Huben additionally states, “scientific theories have to explain close to all the scientifically collected data.” Notice the use of the qualifier “close to all”. Thus by his own admission Mr. Huben admits that science does not explain all of the collected data. What we call Science at best is no doubt, a very useful conjecture or theory that does not completely explain all the observations.
Ah, the illegitimate demand for perfection.  As opposed to how much philosophy explains?

It's common knowledge, that I present to all my students, that science MODELS reality, and that the models give approximations of the measurements we take.  And often we have pretty good ideas of how close the approximations are and why they are only that close.  If only philosophy was that humble, and if only philosophers had the concept of confidence interval.

Indeed this is what philosophers of science particularly Popper argue; that science is open-ended. Science progresses by falsification. Indeed this is how we have changes in our scientific theory. It is by trying to fit new unexplained and incoherent observations into our present theory and when these observations contradict our present theory we must alter our theory. Kuhn also argued along theses lines when he talked of the Paradigms of science. 
If you take Popper as gospel, you are either showing your ignorance of other philosophy of science or your bias. 

From 2) If we actually take Mr. Huben’s argument to its logical conclusion (Science which by the way was once called “Natural Philosophy”) we must ask how can science be totally true?

After all does not Mr. Huben state that “no assumption about the real world is totally true” Then why are science’s assumptions accepted to be totally true?
Or perhaps Mr. Huben would claim that science is purely empirical, indeed when he quotes David Hume he appears to be arguing this. But perhaps he forgot the Philosopher Immanuel Kant who said
“But though all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it all arises out of experience. For it may well be that even our empirical knowledge is made up of what we receive through our impressions and of what our own faculty of knowledge supplies from itself…Whether there is any knowledge that is thus independent of experience and even of all impressions of the senses. Such knowledge is entitled a priori. And distinguished from the empirical, which has its sources a posteriori that is in experience.”
From The Critique of Pure Reason
Your belief in a priori knowledge is touchingly naive.  I consider it a philosophical superstition, just as souls are.

The point is that to believe that the only valid knowledge is empirical or rather scientific is quite simplistic as Kant quite well pointed out.
Are you actually so simplistic as to think all philosophers agree with Kant, and that 200+ years of scientific learning about the nature of cognitive experience supports his superstition?

But perhaps Mr.Huben would claim that science has no a priori assumptions, which is patently false. The question is Mr. Huben, how can science prove itself to be true?
You entirely misunderstand the intentions of science, which CERTAINLY are not to "prove itself to be true".  Science is about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.

Ultimately (induction, science, a posteriori knowledge) and (deduction, logic, a priori knowledge) both are systems that have axioms, principles, postulates, premises that in themselves are not proved to be true but are accepted to be true. Why is science (induction) inherently more conducive to the acquisition of truth than a priori deduction? If you reject a priori deduction (which is admittedly what Austrian economics is built upon) than you must reject the a priori premises that science (induction) is also built upon. But Mr. Huben does not do this. Why the inconsistency?
For the simple reason that truth is not the goal.  But you're to dim to understand that: you project the foolish goals of philosophy upon science.

As the philosopher Wittgenstein said, in his work On Certainty
189. “At some point one has to pass from explanation to mere description.”
192. “To be sure there is justification: but justification comes to an end.”
253 “At the foundation of well-founded belief lies belief that is not founded.”
You don't "believe" in models.  You accept or reject them based on whether they are accurate enough to beat out other models.  Certainty is hardly an objective of science.  Science is heuristic, not certain.

341 “That is to say, the questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt, are as it were like hinges on which those turn.
342 That is to say, it belongs to the logic of our scientific investigations that certain things are in deed not doubted.”
If some things are not doubted in science, it is because evidence justifying doubt would be quickly communicated.

474 “ This game proves its worth. That may be the cause of its being played, but it is not the ground.”
The point of these examples is to refute the notion that science is not based on a priori principles (something that Mr.Huben criticizes Austrian Economics for).
Science is not based on a priori principles for the simple reason that a priori principles are a superstition.

All events have causes is the axiom that science is built upon,
My are you ignorant of science!  One of the basic ideas in quantum mechanics is that causality doesn't work at those scales.

but the axiom is in itself not proved to be true by science. It is accepted as being true (that is it is a necessary supposition for the pursuit of science). But these axioms are no less valid than the axioms that Austrian economics utilizes. Indeed all axioms ultimately are not provable; they are accepted as being true and the rest of the logical framework as it were follow from the acceptance of these axioms.
The basic ideas of science are not axiomatic: they are empirically observed.

I repeat, the criticism of Austrian economics because it is based philosophically on a system built from deductive a priori axioms is not valid in of itself for if it were, the same criticisms of accepting a priori axioms ought to and must be applied to the empirical scientific methods which are also built on a priori axioms. 
Ah, so as a philosopher you use repetition of errors to establish truth.  How curious!

From 3) It seems ironic that Mr. Huben quotes David Hume when the main contribution to modern philosophy that Hume is known for is his argument against the certainty of induction and thus science. Hume famously is known for his argument that just because the Sun has risen for billions of years we cannot be certain that it will rise tomorrow. We cannot derive certainty from scientific observations (induction). Thus Hume rejected the idea that science and induction could give us absolute knowledge only probable knowledge.
And thus Hume understood much more about science than you apparently do.

From 4) “You MUST introduce measurement and mathematics into your models if you want to have any hope of valid answers.”

The criticism is that the Austrian school of economics regards measurement (data and observations) as being overall, not important or very relevant for the study of economics. 

Indeed, the Austrians argue that what we call the economic system is so complex with multitudes of constantly dynamic variables that science cannot hold the independent variables constant to observe the dependent variables. The misconception is that the Austrians hate science or the scientific method. On the contrary they argue that science has great value in things that science can be relevantly applied to such as; Mechanics, Physics, Chemistry etc. 
Ah, so they rule out vast swathes of science such as ecology and evolution, huh?  After all, those are at least as complex as economics, and just as insusceptible of experiment.  Ooooo, I'd love to see the Austrian ecology and Austrian evolution pseudosciences!

But of course, the Austrian contention that dependent variables are always and everywhere concealed by multitudes of constantly dynamic variables fails as badly for economics as it does for ecology. 

It is just not (with very rare exceptions) applicable to the study of economics which is in their view purely deductive. That is, the study economics is similar to the study of logic in that is deductive from first a priori principles. 
Lots of people claim similar nonsense, such as Ayn Rand with "A is A".  Start with vague, waffle-worded "a priori principles" and you can mislead people in all sorts of directions.
The use of mathematical models and statistical techniques etc. the Austrians basically argue, you can call it what you want, but it is not really science, as it is traditionally known. 

Science, the Austrians would argue is repeating the same experiment over and over again with strictly controlled variables and observing the results. (The scientific method)
Observing results is not science: interpreting them is.  Statistics plays a major role in interpreting results in almost all fields of science, and Austrians who say otherwise are just wrong.

This cannot be done with a system as complex as the economy to any high degree of proficiency and certainty.
Now there are some waffle words.  Doesn't matter how good an economic model is: they it's not to a high degree of proficiency and certainty.

But their armchair philosophy must be perfect, even though they refuse to admit that the real world doesn't follow their predictions much.

How does one know that all the variables are being held constant? As Mr.Huben states from 1) “For all the faults of conventional economics, it is far closer to a science than Austrianism because it relies heavily on data.” If the theory that is proposed to explain the “data” cannot be experimentally verified, tested and confirmed by repeating the experiment then would it really be science? 
There are several fields of economics that do look at multiple experiments.  I presume you're too ignorant to know of them.
Mr.Huben argues that you must introduce measurement and mathematics to have valid answers because verbal logic is not sufficient. What about symbolic logic? Are not the symbols and methods of mathematics ultimately translatable into algorithmic logical processes?
Evidently you don't read too well: verbal logic is insufficient because it is generally not quantitative.  Reread my statement 4. 
From 5) and in closing, to state, “your faith in philosophy is touching” displays a childish condescending attitude. Science is a branch of philosophy, indeed what is a PhD in physics anyways? A doctor of philosophy degree in physics. 
And humans are a branch of monkeys, as you obviously show with your poo-flinging understanding of the philosophy of science.  And if you are unfamiliar with the millennia-old traditions of condescension and disdain in philosophy, then you're an ignoramus as well.
The fact is whether Mr. Huben accepts it or not, Philosophy is the mother of all other intellectual pursuits. Everything intellectual is derived from and of Philosophy! 
Evidently you know nothing of cladistics, the science of classification, nor of history, else you wouldn't make such stupid statements.

But even if your contention is correct, that doesn't mean science isn't better than philosophy as a way of knowing.  After all, your mother could be a gibbering idiot and you could be a genius.  But it seems likely to be the other way around in your case, because you make such incredibly bad arguments.

87 comments:

Mick said...

Mr Huben your arguments demonstrate a certain childishness and clearly you have some deep rooted issues that you need to work on. As a starting point on Austrian Economic why don't you begin with Henry Hazlitt - Economics in One Easy Lesson. This publication is short, free and downloadable. You will then be in a position to argue from a platform of understanding and your tirade will have greater value. Good luck.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

To any and all who may read this post.

What was it that Shakespeare said? He doth protest too much!
Apparently when one politely and respectfully criticizes some of Mr. Huben’s arguments he feels the need to defend his views with ad hominem attacks . I am ignorant, simplistic naïve, dim, stupid, a gibbering idiot etc.

It is my opinion that such displays are not conducive to intelligent debate. Presumably Mr. Huben has this blog to offer a forum for exploration of the ideas presented and with the allowance for legitimate debate and honest criticism of the ideas presented. Or perhaps Mr.Huben believes he knows the absolute truth and cannot be mistaken in any aspect of his thinking?
I respectfully suggest that if one reads my first post of specific criticism that I offered, I do not believe that one could discern any evidence of ad hominem attacks, attacking Mr.Huben’s academic credentials or any general tone of disrespect for Mr.Huben. In any event I prefer not to resort to ad hominem attacks and only attack the arguments and not the individual. I shall now proceed.

1) “What beneficent intentions! I'm sure we will all be incredibly grateful. Not.”

One must ask why Mr.Huben has a blog that allows individuals to respond if so vehemently dislikes it when they do?

2) “Please don't tell us where you learned your philosophy: they might be quite ashamed.”

Now that is an intelligent response!

3) “Step number one for the philosopher: start with a howling blunder. I explain to my students that science is about honesty and validity: if they want truth, they must go to mathematics.
IMHO, science is better than philosophy because it is VALID: it works repeatably in the real world.”

What does it mean to know something about the world? Apparently Mr. Huben thinks knowing or having knowledge has no coherence or correspondence to truth. For science to be “better because it is valid” and to “work repeatably in the real world” presumes that there is some truth being expressed by science. That is that there is some accuracy in its description of the ‘real world’. Indeed, can one talk about ‘validity’,’ working repeatably’, ‘honesty’ without having an inference of some element of truth? The use of these concepts cannot be divorced from the concept of truth.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

4) “Ah, the illegitimate demand for perfection. As opposed to how much philosophy explains.”

“It's common knowledge, that I present to all my students, that science MODELS reality, and that the models give approximations of the measurements we take. And often we have pretty good ideas of how close the approximations are and why they are only that close. If only philosophy was that humble, and if only philosophers had the concept of confidence interval.”

Of course science is not about perfection. That was not what I was demanding. I was not saying that science is not useful or valuable, I was just asserting that the models of science as it were can and do change, which basically is a reinforcement of my position that induction is by its very nature probabilistic. And thus, when it is argued in the context of ‘mainstream economics’ that it is more ‘valid’, or ‘honest’ because it uses ‘scientific methods’ (data and statistics show this or that correlation) it is inherent in the models themselves that they can and do change. Quite simply what is believed to be an accurate model of economic behavior now, may in time with contrary evidence become inaccurate models or descriptions of reality.

5) “If you take Popper as gospel, you are either showing your ignorance of other philosophy of science or your bias”

Of course Popper is not the only philosopher of science but he contributed important ideas concerning advancement of scientific theory especially in regards to the concept of falsification.

6) “Your belief in a priori knowledge is touchingly naive. I consider it a philosophical superstition, just as souls are.”

Mr.Huben asserts, “there is no a priori knowledge”. Perhaps Mr. Huben ought to write a philosophical treatise to settle the a priori-a posteriori philosophical debate once and for all. According to Mr. Huben it is so apparent that those philosophers (and not just philosophers of 200 years ago) who even in the present day who offer different opinions on the matter on the matter of a priori knowledge are so obviously mistaken.

7) “Are you actually so simplistic as to think all philosophers agree with Kant, and that 200+ years of scientific learning about the nature of cognitive experience supports his superstition?”

I never said that all philosophers agree with Kant. And I never said that Kant’s philosophy is the absolute be all and end all of all philosophy. But even if it were true that all philosophers disagreed with Kant it would not in itself give proof that his philosophy is incorrect. Truth in Philosophy is not taking a poll about how many philosophers believe this or that and thus it makes it so. The arguments of philosophy are to be judged on their own merits. And it is certainly the case that there are elements of Kant’s philosophy that have been discarded as it were. (His view of absolute time and space for example).In any event the concept of what are known as universals must have no place in Mr. Huben’s scientific view. One can only presume that his position is one of extreme empiricism and materialism. For where to we derive concepts, universals, numbers etc. in this strict version of absolute empiricism?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

8) “You entirely misunderstand the intentions of science, which CERTAINLY are not to "prove itself to be true. Science is about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.”

9) “For the simple reason that truth is not the goal. But you're to dim to understand that: you project the foolish goals of philosophy upon science.”

10) “You don't "believe" in models. You accept or reject them based on whether they are accurate enough to beat out other models. Certainty is hardly an objective of science. Science is heuristic, not certain.”

11) “If some things are not doubted in science, it is because evidence justifying doubt would be quickly communicated.”

Re. 8) 9) 10) and 11)
Mr. Huben apparently did not understand the context of the argument I was presenting. It is that as Wittgenstein noted, explanation must come to an end and that is when description takes over. The explanations of science must come to an end or do we have an infinite regress of explanation of the explanation of the explanation…?
Science is a system of logical thinking that ultimately has to start with metaphysical existents that are a priori in a metaphysical context. Givens as it were. Before one can “model the world around us as accurately as possible” One has certain pre-suppositions that have to be posited before the modeling can occur.i.e. There is a physical reality, Matter exists, time and space exist, the shortest distance between two points in Euclidean space is a straight line etc. In particular Mr. Huben does not understand the concept as Wittgenstein uses it, that when Wittgenstein argues “that is to say, the questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt” he means that it is the nature of science and more generally our system of thinking that there are propositions exempt from doubt. Propositions that there is no possibility of evidence being able to prove or disprove, those propositions that are exempt from doubt They are a priori! True apart from experience. They are not proved or disproved with empirical evidence. They are a necessary requirement of utilizing any system of thought including empiricism (science). They are embedded in our logical thinking processes.

12) “Science is not based on a priori principles for the simple reason that a priori principles are a superstition.”

See response to 6) and above.
Also apparently the learned Mr. Huben has never been aware of any Noam Chomsky’s work that the capacity for language is innate in humans or rather a priori (apart from experience). So there is knowledge apart from experience. The mind is not the empty slate that Locke thought.

13) “My are you ignorant of science! One of the basic ideas in quantum mechanics is that causality doesn't work at those scales.”

While it is true that in certain quantum states the classical notion of causation appears to be non-computable or observable it is not applicable at higher aggregate levels of matter. That is, things the size and mass of molecules and greater, standard classical cause and effect (causation) still applies. The second law of thermodynamics (the increase in entropy) also proves that causation applies (albeit statistically) in the context of before and after. But lets assume the that there is no causation in the ‘real world’ as it were, it is not a very compelling argument to make in the original concept of applying science to the study of economics for if it is true that there is no causation in economic behavior then there is no reason to follow this or that policy because it would be totally coincidental for any cause (policy) to have this or that effect (result). An unusual position to take for a scientist arguing that scientific understanding of the economy is accurate.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

14) “The basic ideas of science are not axiomatic: they are empirically observed.”

15) “Ah, so as a philosopher you use repetition of errors to establish truth. How curious!”

16) “And thus Hume understood much more about science than you apparently do.”

Re. 14) and 16) While Mr. Huben is dogmatic in his claims about science the views of philosophers of science are that basically there are two divisions of thought. Scientific realists claim that science aims at truth and that one ought to regard scientific theories as true, approximately true, or likely true. Conversely, a scientific antirealist or instrumentalist argues that science does not aim (or at least does not succeed) at truth and that we should not regard scientific theories as true. Some antirealists claim that scientific theories aim at being instrumentally useful and should only be regarded as useful, but not true, descriptions of the world.
Also noticeable is Mr. Huben quoting the philosopher Hume when his derision for philosophy is so glaring.

17) “Ah, so they rule out vast swathes of science such as ecology and evolution, huh? After all, those are at least as complex as economics, and just as insusceptible of experiment. Ooooo, I'd love to see the Austrian ecology and Austrian evolution pseudosciences!”

The study of genetics in fruit flies and other biological entities do not involve complexities of the type that there is in economics. The complexities are not numbers in themselves that are involved as could be argued in the case of genetics and DNA, which can involve very large numbers. The important and critical difference is the element of subjective response that economics involve. Evolution is not comparable to situations such as economics that involve the uncertainty of human subjective decision-making and actions. So the argument is not valid.

“But of course, the Austrian contention that dependent variables are always and everywhere concealed by multitudes of constantly dynamic variables fails as badly for economics as it does for ecology.”

Does it fail Mr. Huben? Are you suggesting that every instant in time is exactly the same and if we conduct the same experiment every single variable and the results will always be the same? Do human beings always behave the same way, every time, to every specific economic experiment? Of course not! Indeed the mainstream economists using all their ‘scientific’ data and models could not predict the latest economic crisis. It seems obvious that their ‘scientific method’s and ‘models’ apparently do not have much accuracy in their predictive powers since the vast majority of your beloved ‘mainstream economists’ had no inkling that the economic crisis was imminent. Why?

18) “Lots of people claim similar nonsense, such as Ayn Rand with "A is A". Start with vague, waffle-worded "a priori principles" and you can mislead people in all sorts of directions.”

I guess dunces along the likes of Aristotle up to the foremost logician of the 20th century Kurt Gödel believing A=A is true are mistaken. And if it is so obvious that these a priori principles are not true then show them to not be true. Is A=A not true? is 1=1 not true?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

19) “Observing results is not science: interpreting them is. Statistics plays a major role in interpreting results in almost all fields of science, and Austrians who say otherwise are just wrong.”

20) “Now there are some waffle words. Doesn't matter how good an economic model is: they it's not to a high degree of proficiency and certainty.

“But their armchair philosophy must be perfect, even though they refuse to admit that the real world doesn't follow their predictions much.”

21) “There are several fields of economics that do look at multiple experiments. I presume you're too ignorant to know of them.”

Yes Mr. Huben is quite right that there are multiple experiments in economics but they involve very small numbers of variables and are not analogous to the ‘economy’ as a whole.

22) “Evidently you don't read too well: verbal logic is insufficient because it is generally not quantitative. Reread my statement 4.”

Evidently Mr. Huben is not aware that (aside from some mathematical and logical paradoxes of a very esoteric nature that would not apply in the attempts to ‘quantify’ economic behavior) Frege (Begriffshrift), Hilbert, Russell and Whitehead (Principia Mathematica) and Gödel ( Incompleteness Theorem) through their various work basically proved that all mathematics can be ultimately distilled into simple elements of logic. In particular 1=1 1+1=2 etc.

23) “And humans are a branch of monkeys, as you obviously show with your poo-flinging understanding of the philosophy of science. And if you are unfamiliar with the millennia-old traditions of condescension and disdain in philosophy, then you're an ignoramus as well.”

It is surprising that Mr. Huben is so knowledgeable about philosophy a subject that he derides so much. While it is true that there has been ‘sneering’ for lack of a better word by one philosopher to another in the history of philosophy it was not the rule but the exception, and it certainly was done in a more witty, subtle and mature way than Mr. Huben expresses with his contempt for the subject!

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

24) “Evidently you know nothing of cladistics, the science of classification, nor of history, else you wouldn't make such stupid statements.”

Philosophy according to Wikipedia.

(Granted Wikipedia is not the absolute authority on all matters but I think it safe to argue that most would agree that this exposition is accurate)

“is the study of general and fundamental problems concerning matters such as existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. It is distinguished from other ways of addressing fundamental questions (such as mysticism, myth, or the arts) by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.

(Also where it all started: ancient philosophy)
“The main subjects of ancient philosophy are: understanding the fundamental causes and principles of the universe; explaining it in an economical and parsimonious way; the epistemological problem of reconciling the diversity and change of the natural universe, with the possibility of obtaining fixed and certain knowledge about it; questions about things that cannot be perceived by the senses, such as numbers, elements, universals, and gods; the analysis of patterns of reasoning and argument; the nature of the good life and the importance of understanding and knowledge in order to pursue it; the explication of the concept of justice, and its relation to various political systems”

Aparently Mr. Huben is not aware that what we call science today was called Natural Philosophy for a long time.

From wikipedia again “In Classical Antiquity, the inquiry into the workings of the universe took place both in investigations aimed at such practical goals as establishing a reliable calendar or determining how to cure a variety of illnesses and in those abstract investigations known as natural philosophy. The ancient people who are considered the first scientists may have thought of themselves as natural philosophers”.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

25) “But even if your contention is correct, that doesn't mean science isn't better than philosophy as a way of knowing. After all, your mother could be a gibbering idiot and you could be a genius. But it seems likely to be the other way around in your case, because you make such incredibly bad arguments.”

Mr Huben’s witty attempt at humor!!! Do not give up your day job!!!

Since as I and most reasonable people would contend, science is a branch of philosophy to argue that science is a better way of knowing than philosophy is quite simply the confused misunderstanding of the use of concepts.
Knowing is knowing, Mr. Huben. Are analytical truths not truths? To use the famous example All unmarried men are bachelors or 7+5+12 could not be true because they are is not derived from science according to Mr. Huben. But hold on, Mr. Huben earlier claimed that if you want truth, go to mathematics. But is not mathematics an overwhelmingly deductive a priori, logical activity. Mathematics for truth, a priorism for truth, but not when it comes to economics!
Knowing something is the case presupposes and requires some degree of truth. Where does one use the expression or say I know such and such is the case but it is not true. e.g. I know that it is 70 degrees outside but it is not true! I know that the distance to the Sun is 93 million miles but it is not true! I know my name is The Lowly Philosopher but it is not true. This is not philosophically tenable!
As to bad arguments. Ha!!
To claim there is no a priori knowledge as a certainty as Mr. Huben arrogantly does (even though the philosophical profession with some of the greatest minds disagrees) is the pot calling the kettle black.

sal said...


I know that it is 70 degrees outside but it is not true!


You don't know that its 70 degrees outside. You have a reading of 70 degrees on one single thermometer

How accurate is your thermometer? Are there factors that might have distorted the reading? Etc.

I'm with Mr. Huben in thinking that you don't have a solid understanding of science.

And you are spending to much time arguing of Mr. Huben personality. He might be abrasive with that is not the point.

Mike Bast said...

"Since as I and most reasonable people would contend, science is a branch of philosophy"

Learn some history, please. Science hasn't been a "branch" of philosophy for a very long time. It uses it's own methods, ideas and measures.
Personally as fascinated as I was with philosophy in my teens, I now think it's as useless as theology. So little of it bothers to check itself against the real world, but only insists that it be logically consistent. Silliness.

Julien Couvreur said...

LowlyPhilosopher, I am in awe with your patience and persistence. It is obvious that Huben doesn't give a crap about rational discussion and argument.

Mick described it best: childishness.

Huben, science is simply rigorous knowledge.

Anyways, I'll re-iterate the unanswered question from mikey:

"Can you give some examples of mathematical formulas you think are valid for economics?"

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

Thank You Mr. Couvreur for you kind comments! Patience is a virtue!!

Some ideas to ponder!

Is to ‘know’ such and such in matters of science, possible?
Or perhaps the question should be: Is ‘scientific knowledge’ possible?
Or to ‘know’ anything for that matter?

Seemingly there are those that believe that scientific (empirical) knowledge is not possible. Or that one does not ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside.
As Rene Descartes postulated it is possible that all of my sense impressions and thinking processes could be illusions planted in me by a mischievous demon and therefore I cannot have trust in any of my judgments.
Yes! This is in theory possible but these are doubts that may be asked that are at a different level or hierarchy as it were. These are doubts that are not normally thought of in so called ‘everyday life’. They may perhaps be referred to as, ‘metaphysical doubts’.

Is there doubt when one says I ‘know’ that my name is John Smith?
Is there doubt when one says I ‘know’ Paris is the capital of France?
Is there doubt when one says I ‘know’ 7+5=12?

Sal could respond: “How do you know that? You could be mistaken!”

But what would a mistake here be like? Yes I suppose it is possible that when I was born my name was given to me by my parents as Jack South, but then they died and for some reason the birth certificate was changed and I grew up being called a different name etc., or that all the geographical and history books that I have ever read have been wickedly altered and it really is not the case that Paris is the capital of France.
Yes, this in theory is possible. But this doubt would only be expressed and brought up in very rare contexts. These are doubts that would not arise, in ‘everyday, or ‘normal’ situations. Doubts only make sense in certain contexts. Some doubt that what we call the physical world exists; they believe it to be a construct of the mind. Some people may doubt that 7+5=12, but these are doubts that are more primitive or fundamentally metaphysical in nature than whether the temperature is 70 degrees outside or New York is this many miles from Los Angeles. For the doubt that New York is this many miles from Los Angeles presupposes that the physical world exists.

When someone asks me “do you ‘know’ what time it is?” or, “do you ‘know’ what the temperature is?” they are not asking for accuracy to the billionth degree. But even then, would that be a high enough degree of accuracy? Anyone could argue that you don’t ‘know’ the ‘true’ ‘accurate’ temperature because you only measured it to the billionth degree and not to the quadrillionth degree so you don’t ‘know’ what the temperature is! What if you only measured it with one thermometer? Would it be more accurate if I measured it with a billion thermometers? Or would even this be enough to ensure ‘accuracy’? But then what does it mean when we use the term ‘accurate’? What is taking a ‘measurement’? With this line of thinking we could never ever ‘know’ the ‘true’ ‘accurate’ temperature. Indeed, we could not say that it is possible to ‘know’ what the temperature is, and we would have to assert that is not meaningful to state that there is a ‘real’ or ‘true’ temperature at this particular location and at this particular point in time. Therefore the use of the term ‘accurate’ does not have any meaning and/or make sense; or rather, all we can assert is that this ‘measurement’ is more ‘accurate’ then that ‘measurement’. Perhaps this is so in scientific judgments. These would be ‘metaphysical doubts’ that were referred to earlier. In normal circumstances people do say that “there is scientific knowledge”; that “I ‘know’ that the temperature is 70 degrees outside”. There does not appear to be any confusion as to what people ‘mean’ when they say these things.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

Indeed does it make sense to say that my thermometer or timepiece is accurate to this degree and it measures the temperature as being this but I do not ‘know’ that the temperature is this? It would seem rather strange for someone to say that! It would be as if to say that “water boils at 212 degrees F but I do not ‘know’ that water boils at 212 degrees F ”. Is it possible to ‘know’ that water boils at 212 degrees F.? But not to ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside? It seems that unless we have an absolute precise measurement we cannot say that we ‘know’ that the temperature is 70 degrees outside etc. But if we cannot ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside the same reasons for not knowing it would also be applicable to ‘knowing’ that water boils at 212 degrees F.

This seems like an untenable position to hold. The confusion arises because of the idea that one particular use and context of the word ‘know’ is applicable in all contexts and this clearly is not the case. It is a mistake to limit the use of the word ‘know’ solely to a very narrow usage and context. There are uses of the word ‘know’ that imply very high level of precision and accuracy and there are uses that do not. Thus the use of the word ‘know’ is not always construed to mean absolute, precise accuracy, if that can even exist in scientific judgments.

Now of course Sal could respond, “How to you know that there is not salt in the water?” and, “How do know that you are at this or that precise elevation?” Yes these are possible questions. But they do not answer the question as to whether it is possible to ‘know’ that water boils at 212 degrees F when it is pure and when it is precisely at sea level etc. The point is that in our process of judging e.g. that this is such and such a temperature or that there is this or that amount of distance between two places we cannot doubt everything for then there cannot be the act of judging or measuring! To measure or judge presupposes that there are things that cannot be doubted!

So what is particular about the proposition I ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside? Or that I ‘know’ that the distance from New York to Los Angeles is x many miles. I ‘know’ that the mass of an electron or proton is such and such mass. Or I ‘know’ that the frequency of the emission of light in this quantum jump from one higher energy level to a lower level is this etc.
Is it because these are propositions of science, of measurement, of observation? Empirical propositions. And yet it would be very unusual to say that I cannot ‘know’ that 7+5=12. Is ‘7+5=12’ knowledge but, ‘it is 70 degrees outside not knowledge’? Why?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

Is there something inherent in these scientific propositions that I cannot ‘know’ to be true. For it seems that Sal is saying that I can’t ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside. Why? Evidently, because I cannot be certain of all the external variables and the accuracy of my measuring instrument? But then is it possible to have an absolutely accurate measuring instrument? According to quantum mechanics no! But we do say that we ‘know’ what time it is right now and that we do ‘know’ what the temperature is outside right now, so Sal must be talking about the aforementioned ‘metaphysical doubt’ as it were, which is a different type of doubt. A different language game as Wittgenstein would call it.

So we must come to the conclusion that there can be only approximate, probabilistic, knowledge in the empirical sciences and that mathematical and logical, deductive thinking has a higher degree of certainty. A stronger more justified or grounded knowledge as it were. Which incidentally was my original argument all along in regards to the economic debate!

Yes we can ‘know’ that it is 70 degrees outside. This is how we use the word ‘know’.

Mike Huben said...

It’s nice to see that some of my readers agree with my points.

This is tediously long, and I probably won't continue full responses to this verbose fool.

To any and all who may read this post.

What was it that Shakespeare said? He doth protest too much!
Apparently when one politely and respectfully criticizes some of Mr. Huben’s arguments he feels the need to defend his views with ad hominem attacks . I am ignorant, simplistic naïve, dim, stupid, a gibbering idiot etc.

On the contrary: I am not defending my views with those comments: I am pointing out the obvious.

It is my opinion that such displays are not conducive to intelligent debate.

That’s very nice, but those opinions are not much value and have no bearing on the facts of the argument. As a matter of fact, they are rhetorical informal fallacies of argument. On the other hand, pointing out your ignorance etc. greatly buttresses my defeasible reasoning.

Presumably Mr. Huben has this blog to offer a forum for exploration of the ideas presented and with the allowance for legitimate debate and honest criticism of the ideas presented.

Why yes. But regurgitating absurd philosophy is hardly “legitimate debate”.

Or perhaps Mr.Huben believes he knows the absolute truth and cannot be mistaken in any aspect of his thinking?

All I need is to be closer to reality than you. And you make it so easy!

I respectfully suggest that if one reads my first post of specific criticism that I offered, I do not believe that one could discern any evidence of ad hominem attacks, attacking Mr.Huben’s academic credentials or any general tone of disrespect for Mr.Huben. In any event I prefer not to resort to ad hominem attacks and only attack the arguments and not the individual. I shall now proceed.

Whoopee. You have established your pomposity and sententiousness. Now proceed to undermine your credibility with further silly argument.

1) “What beneficent intentions! I'm sure we will all be incredibly grateful. Not.”

One must ask why Mr.Huben has a blog that allows individuals to respond if so vehemently dislikes it when they do?

Why, there are many reasons. And sometimes I enjoy and learn from the responses, even when they are from opponents of 20 years or more (Hi, Glen!) But of course, I’m under no obligation to like all the responses, nor to screen for only responses that I like.

3) “Step number one for the philosopher: start with a howling blunder. I explain to my students that science is about honesty and validity: if they want truth, they must go to mathematics.
IMHO, science is better than philosophy because it is VALID: it works repeatably in the real world.”

What does it mean to know something about the world? Apparently Mr. Huben thinks knowing or having knowledge has no coherence or correspondence to truth.

Well, I might if you happened to specify which of the umpty gazillion conflicting philosophical notions of truth you intended. But philosophical ideas of truth are IRRELEVANT to science. What matters to science is that it can be intersubjectively corroborated.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

It’s nice to see that some of my readers agree with my points.

This is tediously long, and I probably won't continue full responses to this verbose fool.

To any and all who may read this post.

What was it that Shakespeare said? He doth protest too much!
Apparently when one politely and respectfully criticizes some of Mr. Huben’s arguments he feels the need to defend his views with ad hominem attacks . I am ignorant, simplistic naïve, dim, stupid, a gibbering idiot etc.

On the contrary: I am not defending my views with those comments: I am pointing out the obvious.

It is my opinion that such displays are not conducive to intelligent debate.

That’s very nice, but those opinions are not much value and have no bearing on the facts of the argument. As a matter of fact, they are rhetorical informal fallacies of argument. On the other hand, pointing out your ignorance etc. greatly buttresses my defeasible reasoning.

Presumably Mr. Huben has this blog to offer a forum for exploration of the ideas presented and with the allowance for legitimate debate and honest criticism of the ideas presented.

Why yes. But regurgitating absurd philosophy is hardly “legitimate debate”.

Or perhaps Mr.Huben believes he knows the absolute truth and cannot be mistaken in any aspect of his thinking?

All I need is to be closer to reality than you. And you make it so easy!

I respectfully suggest that if one reads my first post of specific criticism that I offered, I do not believe that one could discern any evidence of ad hominem attacks, attacking Mr.Huben’s academic credentials or any general tone of disrespect for Mr.Huben. In any event I prefer not to resort to ad hominem attacks and only attack the arguments and not the individual. I shall now proceed.

Whoopee. You have established your pomposity and sententiousness. Now proceed to undermine your credibility with further silly argument.

1) “What beneficent intentions! I'm sure we will all be incredibly grateful. Not.”

One must ask why Mr.Huben has a blog that allows individuals to respond if so vehemently dislikes it when they do?

Why, there are many reasons. And sometimes I enjoy and learn from the responses, even when they are from opponents of 20 years or more (Hi, Glen!) But of course, I’m under no obligation to like all the responses, nor to screen for only responses that I like.

3) “Step number one for the philosopher: start with a howling blunder. I explain to my students that science is about honesty and validity: if they want truth, they must go to mathematics.
IMHO, science is better than philosophy because it is VALID: it works repeatably in the real world.”

What does it mean to know something about the world? Apparently Mr. Huben thinks knowing or having knowledge has no coherence or correspondence to truth.

Well, I might if you happened to specify which of the umpty gazillion conflicting philosophical notions of truth you intended. But philosophical ideas of truth are IRRELEVANT to science. What matters to science is that it can be intersubjectively corroborated.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

For science to be “better because it is valid” and to “work repeatably in the real world” presumes that there is some truth being expressed by science. That is that there is some accuracy in its description of the ‘real world’.

How delightfully easy it is to argue when you can move the goalposts! You now say that “some truth” = “some accuracy in description”. But the simple fact is that if we have “some accuracy in description”, we don’t need to relate it to truth by mere assertion (as you have). Nor do we need to open the incredible can of worms of “some truth” and how that relates to “truth”. We don’t need the idea of “truth” at all for science.

Indeed, can one talk about ‘validity’,’ working repeatably’, ‘honesty’ without having an inference of some element of truth? The use of these concepts cannot be divorced from the concept of truth.

You know, every time you use the term “truth” without saying which version you mean, somebody should hit you on the head with a stick. Maybe then you’d reach enlightenment. Here you are conflating the idea of “telling the truth” with the idea of “universal truth”. Such stupidity.

4) “Ah, the illegitimate demand for perfection. As opposed to how much philosophy explains.”

“It's common knowledge, that I present to all my students, that science MODELS reality, and that the models give approximations of the measurements we take. And often we have pretty good ideas of how close the approximations are and why they are only that close. If only philosophy was that humble, and if only philosophers had the concept of confidence interval.”

Of course science is not about perfection. That was not what I was demanding. I was not saying that science is not useful or valuable, I was just asserting that the models of science as it were can and do change, which basically is a reinforcement of my position that induction is by its very nature probabilistic.

I think you’d have a very difficult time showing that induction is probabilistic. I don’t think you understand what it means to be probabilistic. A better statement is that induction is heuristic (probabilistic can be one sort of heuristic.)

And thus, when it is argued in the context of ‘mainstream economics’ that it is more ‘valid’, or ‘honest’ because it uses ‘scientific methods’ (data and statistics show this or that correlation) it is inherent in the models themselves that they can and do change. Quite simply what is believed to be an accurate model of economic behavior now, may in time with contrary evidence become inaccurate models or descriptions of reality.

EVERY scientific model is known to be inaccurate, and usually there is some available measure of just how inaccurate. No new evidence makes a model more or less accurate. Sometimes newer models are shown to be RELATIVELY more accurate, and they are preferred.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

You really don’t have a clue about science, do you.

5) “If you take Popper as gospel, you are either showing your ignorance of other philosophy of science or your bias”

Of course Popper is not the only philosopher of science but he contributed important ideas concerning advancement of scientific theory especially in regards to the concept of falsification.

There are credible alternatives to Popperian falsification in the philosophy of science. You seem to be ignorant of them. Pretty much all models are KNOWN to be false by measurement or other methods: the question is how to use that knowledge to find better models that explain the conflicting data.

6) “Your belief in a priori knowledge is touchingly naive. I consider it a philosophical superstition, just as souls are.”

Mr.Huben asserts, “there is no a priori knowledge”. Perhaps Mr. Huben ought to write a philosophical treatise to settle the a priori-a posteriori philosophical debate once and for all. According to Mr. Huben it is so apparent that those philosophers (and not just philosophers of 200 years ago) who even in the present day who offer different opinions on the matter on the matter of a priori knowledge are so obviously mistaken.

It is patently obvious that all important philosophers believe conflicting things, and so at most only one of them could be right. Declaring them wrong is like shooting fish in a barrel. It amazes me that people can be so stupid as to not notice this simple fact.

Very simply, I declare (via Occam’s Razor) that I don’t need “truth” or “a priori” any more than I need “soul” or “god”.

7) “Are you actually so simplistic as to think all philosophers agree with Kant, and that 200+ years of scientific learning about the nature of cognitive experience supports his superstition?”

I never said that all philosophers agree with Kant. And I never said that Kant’s philosophy is the absolute be all and end all of all philosophy.

And yet in order for your argument to be valid, you would have needed those supporting statements. Else it’s just an argument from authority. Just pointing out (indirectly) yet another of your bad arguments.

But even if it were true that all philosophers disagreed with Kant it would not in itself give proof that his philosophy is incorrect. Truth in Philosophy is not taking a poll about how many philosophers believe this or that and thus it makes it so. The arguments of philosophy are to be judged on their own merits. And it is certainly the case that there are elements of Kant’s philosophy that have been discarded as it were. (His view of absolute time and space for example).

Lovely excuses: but do you have anything of substance to say?

In any event the concept of what are known as universals must have no place in Mr. Huben’s scientific view. One can only presume that his position is one of extreme empiricism and materialism.

You left out skepticism as the justification for empiricism and materialism.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

For where to we derive concepts, universals, numbers etc. in this strict version of absolute empiricism?

All those ideas are merely patterns of activation in the nervous system.

8) “You entirely misunderstand the intentions of science, which CERTAINLY are not to "prove itself to be true. Science is about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.”

9) “For the simple reason that truth is not the goal. But you're to dim to understand that: you project the foolish goals of philosophy upon science.”

10) “You don't "believe" in models. You accept or reject them based on whether they are accurate enough to beat out other models. Certainty is hardly an objective of science. Science is heuristic, not certain.”

11) “If some things are not doubted in science, it is because evidence justifying doubt would be quickly communicated.”

Re. 8) 9) 10) and 11)
Mr. Huben apparently did not understand the context of the argument I was presenting.

No, I was revising your statements to reflect a correct scientific viewpoint.

It is that as Wittgenstein noted, explanation must come to an end and that is when description takes over. The explanations of science must come to an end or do we have an infinite regress of explanation of the explanation of the explanation…?

Science doesn’t explain: it describes in terms of models and observations.

Science is a system of logical thinking that ultimately has to start with metaphysical existents that are a priori in a metaphysical context. Givens as it were. Before one can “model the world around us as accurately as possible” One has certain pre-suppositions that have to be posited before the modeling can occur.i.e. There is a physical reality, Matter exists, time and space exist, the shortest distance between two points in Euclidean space is a straight line etc.

Those are hardly presuppositions: they are models. And it is clear that they are models because there are alternative models such as the brain in a vat, Pascal’s demon, or the butterfly’s dream. It is also clear that they are NOT NECESSARY to science because we don’t need to know if physical reality exists to model the goings on we observe in either physical reality or whatever else may be.

In particular Mr. Huben does not understand the concept as Wittgenstein uses it, that when Wittgenstein argues “that is to say, the questions that we raise and our doubts depend on the fact that some propositions are exempt from doubt” he means that it is the nature of science and more generally our system of thinking that there are propositions exempt from doubt.

Plainly you are unfamiliar with skepticism. While there are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is possible to doubt them all. There is no limit to what humans can doubt.

Propositions that there is no possibility of evidence being able to prove or disprove, those propositions that are exempt from doubt They are a priori! True apart from experience.

This may be the stupidest thing you’ve said yet. If there is a class of propositions with “no possibility of evidence being able to prove or disprove”, we cannot know if they are true or false. Not only can we doubt them, but we can safely disregard them because the only way they could be relevant is if they provided some evidence.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

They are not proved or disproved with empirical evidence. They are a necessary requirement of utilizing any system of thought including empiricism (science). They are embedded in our logical thinking processes.

Our thinking processes are to some extent hardwired and to some extent model oriented. But to claim they are based on “a priori knowledge” is like claiming they are based on souls.

12) “Science is not based on a priori principles for the simple reason that a priori principles are a superstition.”

See response to 6) and above.
Also apparently the learned Mr. Huben has never been aware of any Noam Chomsky’s work that the capacity for language is innate in humans or rather a priori (apart from experience). So there is knowledge apart from experience. The mind is not the empty slate that Locke thought.

The innate capacity for language is part of our development process. It has nothing to do with a priori knowledge. Development is a form of experience. We have a special capacity for linguistic models the same we we have capacities to make other sorts of models. We’re talking physical structures in the brain which enable us to create a multitude of models: but those structures have nothing to do with a priori knowledge. Without experience, we will not create those models, just as without early experience of language, we will not develop language. Apparently you know nothing of development either.

13) “My are you ignorant of science! One of the basic ideas in quantum mechanics is that causality doesn't work at those scales.”

While it is true that in certain quantum states the classical notion of causation appears to be non-computable or observable it is not applicable at higher aggregate levels of matter.

You must be a conservative: you’re removing the context. You said “all events have causes is the axiom that science is built upon.” I’ve clearly shown you to be wrong. So what do you do? You blather about, leave out your damning assertion, and hope nobody notices. Patheticly dishonest. Own up to your error.

That is, things the size and mass of molecules and greater, standard classical cause and effect (causation) still applies. The second law of thermodynamics (the increase in entropy) also proves that causation applies (albeit statistically) in the context of before and after. But lets assume the that there is no causation in the ‘real world’ as it were, it is not a very compelling argument to make in the original concept of applying science to the study of economics for if it is true that there is no causation in economic behavior then there is no reason to follow this or that policy because it would be totally coincidental for any cause (policy) to have this or that effect (result). An unusual position to take for a scientist arguing that scientific understanding of the economy is accurate.

We can apply models such as causation just fine without having to assume they are axiomatic, as you claim. it’s amazing how long a philosopher can blither on without saying anything substantive.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

14) “The basic ideas of science are not axiomatic: they are empirically observed.”

15) “Ah, so as a philosopher you use repetition of errors to establish truth. How curious!”

16) “And thus Hume understood much more about science than you apparently do.”

Re. 14) and 16) While Mr. Huben is dogmatic in his claims about science the views of philosophers of science are that basically there are two divisions of thought. Scientific realists claim that science aims at truth and that one ought to regard scientific theories as true, approximately true, or likely true. Conversely, a scientific antirealist or instrumentalist argues that science does not aim (or at least does not succeed) at truth and that we should not regard scientific theories as true. Some antirealists claim that scientific theories aim at being instrumentally useful and should only be regarded as useful, but not true, descriptions of the world.

Antirealism is the Occam-supported position: it does not require a notion of truth any more than it requires a notion of soul. And skeptics would challenge any realist to demonstrate how they know science approaches truth. Realists are trying to claim too much.

Also noticeable is Mr. Huben quoting the philosopher Hume when his derision for philosophy is so glaring.

Skepticism of philosophy is a good thing, whether it comes from a philosopher or a scientist.

See: Skepticism of Philosophical Thought

17) “Ah, so they rule out vast swathes of science such as ecology and evolution, huh? After all, those are at least as complex as economics, and just as insusceptible of experiment. Ooooo, I'd love to see the Austrian ecology and Austrian evolution pseudosciences!”

The study of genetics in fruit flies and other biological entities do not involve complexities of the type that there is in economics. The complexities are not numbers in themselves that are involved as could be argued in the case of genetics and DNA, which can involve very large numbers.

I’m very happy that you display just how ignorant you truly are of biology.
It's more than genes, it's networks and systems

The important and critical difference is the element of subjective response that economics involve.

And what makes you think that is a bigger problem than the Heisenberg uncertainty principle? Even when “god hides the dice” we can still know important things and build valid models.

Evolution is not comparable to situations such as economics that involve the uncertainty of human subjective decision-making and actions. So the argument is not valid.

Why is it not comparable? Because some pompous Austrians say so. Well, that settles that for all time.

“But of course, the Austrian contention that dependent variables are always and everywhere concealed by multitudes of constantly dynamic variables fails as badly for economics as it does for ecology.”

Does it fail Mr. Huben?

Of course it fails. Both economics and ecology show tons of observable, recurring patterns.

Are you suggesting that every instant in time is exactly the same and if we conduct the same experiment every single variable and the results will always be the same? Do human beings always behave the same way, every time, to every specific economic experiment? Of course not!

When did you stop beating your wife?

Indeed the mainstream economists using all their ‘scientific’ data and models could not predict the latest economic crisis.

Actually, a modest number did. Read some Krugman. As opposed to the Austrians, who have predicted 15 of the last 6 recessions.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

It seems obvious that their ‘scientific method’s and ‘models’ apparently do not have much accuracy in their predictive powers since the vast majority of your beloved ‘mainstream economists’ had no inkling that the economic crisis was imminent. Why?

The study of economics has been seriously distorted by market influences which preferentially support the Austrians and freshwater economists because they back conservative economic agendas. Subsidies for fallacious thinking harm this young science.

18) “Lots of people claim similar nonsense, such as Ayn Rand with "A is A". Start with vague, waffle-worded "a priori principles" and you can mislead people in all sorts of directions.”

I guess dunces along the likes of Aristotle up to the foremost logician of the 20th century Kurt Gödel believing A=A is true are mistaken. And if it is so obvious that these a priori principles are not true then show them to not be true. Is A=A not true? is 1=1 not true?

1=1 is a model that may or may not apply in the real world. For example, anybody who works with bacteria can tell you that 1=2 after a few minutes.

A=A is a model that doesn’t perfectly apply to the real world for several simple reasons. First, that time changes everything, so A(now) is not equal to A(later). Second, there is no way to delimit A accurately enough in the real world. And third, quantum indeterminacy makes it impossible to claim A=A. because you have no way of determining that it is true.

We choose which of these models to use based on how valid they are in the circumstances we need them for.

Mathematicians can use them more freely because they select which they want to use as axioms. But they have long since learned that mathematical axioms are chosen, not a priori. Non-Euclidean geometries and Einstein hammered that home. Mathematical and logical truths are conditional on the choice of axioms. But I suppose you know as little of math as you know of the sciences.

19) “Observing results is not science: interpreting them is. Statistics plays a major role in interpreting results in almost all fields of science, and Austrians who say otherwise are just wrong.”

20) “Now there are some waffle words. Doesn't matter how good an economic model is: they it's not to a high degree of proficiency and certainty.

“But their armchair philosophy must be perfect, even though they refuse to admit that the real world doesn't follow their predictions much.”

21) “There are several fields of economics that do look at multiple experiments. I presume you're too ignorant to know of them.”

Yes Mr. Huben is quite right that there are multiple experiments in economics but they involve very small numbers of variables and are not analogous to the ‘economy’ as a whole.

There is no experiment in biology that is “analogous to the body as a whole”, yet we still know a great deal about bodies. One of the primary tools of science is to study things in simpler parts. Out of those parts, models of the whole can be constructed.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

22) “Evidently you don't read too well: verbal logic is insufficient because it is generally not quantitative. Reread my statement 4.”

Evidently Mr. Huben is not aware that (aside from some mathematical and logical paradoxes of a very esoteric nature that would not apply in the attempts to ‘quantify’ economic behavior) Frege (Begriffshrift), Hilbert, Russell and Whitehead (Principia Mathematica) and Gödel ( Incompleteness Theorem) through their various work basically proved that all mathematics can be ultimately distilled into simple elements of logic. In particular 1=1 1+1=2 etc.

“Can be” doesn’t mean that mathematical ignoramouses like Mises and Hayek have reproduced the logic of Principia Mathematica in their works. No, they blatantly use non-quantitative arguments without any attempt at mathematical rigor. Their verbal logic is non-quantitative. Period. How can you make such a pathetic argument?

23) “And humans are a branch of monkeys, as you obviously show with your poo-flinging understanding of the philosophy of science. And if you are unfamiliar with the millennia-old traditions of condescension and disdain in philosophy, then you're an ignoramus as well.”

It is surprising that Mr. Huben is so knowledgeable about philosophy a subject that he derides so much. While it is true that there has been ‘sneering’ for lack of a better word by one philosopher to another in the history of philosophy it was not the rule but the exception, and it certainly was done in a more witty, subtle and mature way than Mr. Huben expresses with his contempt for the subject!

Ah, yes, exhortation to burn the heretics is much more witty, subtle, and mature! You’re fooling nobody if you say philosophers don’t disdain other schools. If they are superficially polite, then it’s because they have to get past editors or other disinterested parties.

24) “Evidently you know nothing of cladistics, the science of classification, nor of history, else you wouldn't make such stupid statements.”

Philosophy according to Wikipedia.
[...]
Aparently Mr. Huben is not aware that what we call science today was called Natural Philosophy for a long time.

From wikipedia again “In Classical Antiquity, the inquiry into the workings of the universe took place both in investigations aimed at such practical goals as establishing a reliable calendar or determining how to cure a variety of illnesses and in those abstract investigations known as natural philosophy. The ancient people who are considered the first scientists may have thought of themselves as natural philosophers”.

As I said, you understand nothing of the science of classification. I can make a classification that lumps you in with idiots. Does that mean you’re an idiot? Well, no, though you are an idiot. And likewise, archaic classifications such as “natural philosophy” tell us little of interest for modern classifications for the same reason that whales are no longer considered fish. You ought to look up the wikipedia article on cladistics.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

Since as I and most reasonable people would contend, science is a branch of philosophy to argue that science is a better way of knowing than philosophy is quite simply the confused misunderstanding of the use of concepts.

Since humans are a branch of monkeys, to argue that humans know more than monkeys is wrong? Even if science was a branch of philosophy, people understand the idea of paraphyly (though not under that cladistic term.)

Knowing is knowing, Mr. Huben. Are analytical truths not truths?

I recommend that you read: Pigs Is Pigs.

To use the famous example All unmarried men are bachelors

Either that is tautological or factually wrong, since you could be unmarried but living in sin with one or more sexual partners.

or 7+5+12 could not be true because they are is not derived from science according to Mr. Huben. But hold on, Mr. Huben earlier claimed that if you want truth, go to mathematics. But is not mathematics an overwhelmingly deductive a priori, logical activity. Mathematics for truth, a priorism for truth, but not when it comes to economics!

Mathematics is not a priori: the different branches are based on CHOSEN axioms.

Knowing something is the case presupposes and requires some degree of truth.

Whack! (The stick.) Which meaning of truth are you using? Which meaning of know are you using?

Knowing something can simply mean you are applying a model to something, however accurately or inaccurately. No need for a concept of truth.

Where does one use the expression or say I know such and such is the case but it is not true. e.g. I know that it is 70 degrees outside but it is not true! I know that the distance to the Sun is 93 million miles but it is not true! I know my name is The Lowly Philosopher but it is not true. This is not philosophically tenable!

I know it is the case, but my knowledge is not perfectly accurate. And I can tell you the accuracy in terms of significant figures. So if your philosophy finds the basics of science untenable, I’d say science is a better way of knowing.

As to bad arguments. Ha!!
To claim there is no a priori knowledge as a certainty as Mr. Huben arrogantly does (even though the philosophical profession with some of the greatest minds disagrees) is the pot calling the kettle black.

I claim there is no a priori knowledge in the same sense that I claim there is no god: there is no demonstrable need for the concept. As for “great minds”, let’s finish with a quotation from Australian philosopher David Stove:
“But let us never forget, either, as all conventional history of philosophy conspires to make us forget, what the 'great thinkers' really are: proper objects, indeed, of pity, but even more, of horror. “
David Stove, The Plato Cult, 1991

sal said...

I think there is a subtle and important point to be made here. And I should have made it before.

There is a difference between taking a measurement the thermometer says 70 and interpreting the results it is 70 degrees outside

Once you realize that there are two parts to this rather than one it is easy to understand some basic points on what science is about.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

It’s nice to see that some of the readers of this blog agree with my points.

I will try to distill my responses to something that those with attention deficit disorder can cope with. Hopefully I will have Sal’s permission to spend some time in my response. I will cease pointing out instances of the asinine, arrogant, fallacious argumentation style of Mr. Huben as it is obviously open for any to observe and need not be commented any further upon.

Here are stated elements of the general thinking of Mr. Huben regarding science and knowledge.

“science is about honesty and validity: if they want truth, they must go to mathematics.”
“IMHO, science is better than philosophy because it is VALID: it works repeatably in the real world.”
“science MODELS reality, and that the models give approximations of the measurements we take.”
“Science is about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.”
“You don't "believe" in models. You accept or reject them based on whether they are accurate enough to beat out other models.”
“If some things are not doubted in science, it is because evidence justifying doubt would be quickly communicated.”
“The basic ideas of science are not axiomatic: they are empirically observed.”
“Observing results is not science: interpreting them is.”
“But even if your contention is correct, that doesn't mean science isn't better than philosophy as a way of knowing.”
“But philosophical ideas of truth are IRRELEVANT to science.”
‘We don’t need the idea of “truth” at all for science.”
‘EVERY scientific model is known to be inaccurate”
“Sometimes newer models are shown to be RELATIVELY more accurate, and they are preferred.”
“Pretty much all models are KNOWN to be false by measurement or other methods: the question is how to use that knowledge to find better models that explain the conflicting data.”
“Very simply, I declare (via Occam’s Razor) that I don’t need “truth” or “a priori” any more than I need “soul” or “god”.”
“Those are hardly presuppositions: they are models. And it is clear that they are models because there are alternative models such as the brain in a vat, Pascal’s demon, or the butterfly’s dream. It is also clear that they are NOT NECESSARY to science because we don’t need to know if physical reality exists to model the goings on we observe in either physical reality or whatever else may be.”
“If there is a class of propositions with “no possibility of evidence being able to prove or disprove”, we cannot know if they are true or false. Not only can we doubt them, but we can safely disregard them because the only way they could be relevant is if they provided some evidence.’
“Knowing something can simply mean you are applying a model to something, however accurately or inaccurately. No need for a concept of truth.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

As the above list demonstrates Mr.Huben asserts a great number of propositions (and just in case Mr. Huben objects to the term proposition, the terms sentence, assertion, statement, declaration, proclamation, edict, utterance, announcement are interchangeable and will not alter the context or meaning.) They are pronouncements as to how the world is. What scientific models did Mr. Huben utilize to come to these conclusions?
Also interestingly the nature of these propositions are that they necessitate that Mr. Huben reject the law of the excluded middle. Perhaps Mr. Huben is a follower of Brouwer but this would be very inconsistent with the rest of his ‘absolute scientific empiricism’ So I doubt it. Mr. Huben constantly makes claims about what exists in reality or what is true in the “real world” as he calls it (though he dislikes the term truth). Most are self-contradictory, in that they assert that what they state cannot be stated. In the interest of not irritating Sal with spending too much time about this or making this too tedious I will only point out a few of the most obvious and glaring self-contradictory statements.

The problem could be understood as this: How does Mr. Huben “know” these propositions? Does he claim that they are true? Presumably he does, as he asserts them so dogmatically and if he did not believe they were true why would he utter them at all? Did he model his scientific models for the ‘real world’? In a sort of meta- modeling way?

1)“Knowing something can simply mean you are applying a model to something, however accurately or inaccurately. No need for a concept of truth.”

Is this statement, a truth about the ‘real world’ as Mr. Huben calls it? Apparently there is no need for a concept of truth because “knowing something can simply mean you are applying a model to something however accurately or inaccurately.” What is it that Mr. Huben is trying to say? For what purpose? And why is he saying it for there is no need for a concept of truth. And yet his statement makes no sense unless it presupposes truth. That is, that it is a true statement. Now of course Mr. Huben will scream about ‘relative truth’ and ‘absolute truth’ what are talking about etc. but it is all bluster.

2)“Science is about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.”
“EVERY scientific model is known to be inaccurate”
“Sometimes newer models are shown to be RELATIVELY more accurate, and they are preferred.”
“the question is how to use that knowledge to find better models that explain the conflicting data.”

How did Mr. Huben come to these conclusions? Are these statements as ‘accurate as possible’? Or could it change in the future if another ‘better’ model proves that science is not about modeling the world around us as accurately as possible.”

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

And this may be the stupidest thing Mr.Huben has said:

3) There are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is possible to doubt them all.

“There is no limit to what humans can doubt.”

Really! Is that a true proposition?
Or is it a false proposition?

If it is false then there is a limit to what humans can doubt. Therefore there are some things they cannot doubt! They cannot doubt everything.

And if it is (true), (or a factual proposition about reality or the world) or (an empirical proposition) or (derived or described or some other twaddle from his beloved scientific model of reality) etc. it must be the case that there is a least one thing or rather a proposition, that we cannot doubt. That being, that “There is no limit to what humans can doubt.” Mr Huben (aka The Oracle) is uttering a self-contradictory proposition!!! If it is true it must be false or perhaps it just cannot be true. Yet it appears that Mr. Huben claims it to be a “truth” of the world. (Again I know how he despises that term!)

But of course Mr. Huben will ramble on about how propositions do not have truth and/or falsity values or some other such obfuscation like 3 or more valued logic systems that applies or some other waffle-worded nonsense.

Why assert something that does not have the possibility of being true. Indeed why assert anything?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

Now a couple of short comments:

“I know it is the case, but my knowledge is not perfectly accurate. And I can tell you the accuracy in terms of significant figures. So if your philosophy finds the basics of science untenable, I’d say science is a better way of knowing.”
Apparently Mr.Huben is arguing that if I know my name is TheLowlyPhilosopher according to his science there is a question of accuracy involved in knowing that. There is some knowledge where the concept of accuracy is not meaningful. Something that Mr. Huben cannot understand with his extremely narrow understanding of epistemology.

“If there is a class of propositions with “no possibility of evidence being able to prove or disprove”, we cannot know if they are true or false. Not only can we doubt them, but we can safely disregard them because the only way they could be relevant is if they provided some evidence.’

Are there propositions of logic? Or perhaps logical propositions? Does logic prove itself to be logical? Does logic, logically justify itself? The mistake is Mr. Huben believes that there are only evidentiary propositions. That is that propositions can only be relevant if they provide evidence. Are there propositions that do not provide evidence?

“One of the primary tools of science is to study things in simpler parts. Out of those parts, models of the whole can be constructed.”

Interesting comment: Is that not what Austrian economics argues? That is to study economics correctly, you must study the individual. (For the individual is the simplest part).

“Since humans are a branch of monkeys, to argue that humans know more than monkeys is wrong?

If monkeys used the same laws of thought (oh I forgot you reject that there are laws of thought) and logical, reasoning processes you might have an argument. Philosophy and science use the same laws of thought and logical reasoning processes! So your analogy doesn’t work! Mr.Huben will argue that the logic of science is different, that it is not logic, or not the logic of logic or some other gobbledygook.

BTW Your knowledge of philosophy is pathetically limited!

I will close this debate with 2 questions for Mr. Huben.

1) Can Mr. Huben give any concrete example of ‘knowing something’ or ‘knowledge’ that does not involve the ‘truth condition’. After all, “Knowing something can simply mean you are applying a model to something, however accurately or inaccurately. No need for a concept of truth.”

2) And "Can you give some examples of mathematical formulas you think are valid for economics?"

I do not believe that either of them will be answered by the ‘oracle’.

Mike Huben said...

Ho hum. More stupid arguments from ThePseudoPhilosopher, who cannot wrap his little brain around the fact that there are alternatives to "truth".

He starts with an unsupported claim:
[...] the nature of these propositions are that they necessitate that Mr. Huben reject the law of the excluded middle.
Now, I know it's traditional in philosophy to make unsupported hand-waving assertions, but I'd love to see this backed up.

How does Mr. Huben “know” these propositions? Does he claim that they are true?
Nope. I claim they are valid, and the result of much observation and induction.

What is it that Mr. Huben is trying to say? For what purpose? And why is he saying it for there is no need for a concept of truth. And yet his statement makes no sense unless it presupposes truth. That is, that it is a true statement. Now of course Mr. Huben will scream about ‘relative truth’ and ‘absolute truth’ what are talking about etc. but it is all bluster.
Consider yourself hit on the head with the Keisaku (zen stick) for using the idea of truth without saying which one you mean. Since you like truth, look it up on wikipedia to see just how many different notions there are. And, once again, I wouldn't claim my ideas are true, but rather that they are valid. That's why you are a pseudophilosopher: a real philosopher is able to comprehend other ideas and work with them.

And here ThePseudoPhilosopher's panties get all wet because he thinks I've blundered:
“There is no limit to what humans can doubt.”
Really! Is that a true proposition?
Or is it a false proposition?


It is an OBSERVED proposition, and it is valid. We still don't need the idea of truth.

But of course Mr. Huben will ramble on about how propositions do not have truth and/or falsity values or some other such obfuscation like 3 or more valued logic systems that applies or some other waffle-worded nonsense.
I need do nothing more than suggest somebody hit you with the stick yet again. Pay attention!

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

Apparently Mr.Huben is arguing that if I know my name is TheLowlyPhilosopher according to his science there is a question of accuracy involved in knowing that. There is some knowledge where the concept of accuracy is not meaningful. Something that Mr. Huben cannot understand with his extremely narrow understanding of epistemology.

Of course there's a question of accuracy. Let's start with the fact that it isn't a legal name, only a pseudonym and perhaps one of many names used for you. Names are only what you are called: they have no other existence. Doubtless you are called many things, some of them unprintable. There is a large range of names that that can be recognized as yours, and defining its boundaries is a significant issue. Even if you want to restrict it to TheLowlyPhilosopher, other people don't have to. Even if we restrict it to what YOU want, there can still be variation in pronunciation, mode of presentation, font, color, etc. And even if you pin those down, it's still possible that you could make a mistake. Or change your mind. Or other people may not consider it your name. Even if you point to one historical event of being called TheLowlyPhilosopher, you still cannot describe what occurred with perfect accuracy.

You cannot avoid issues of accuracy because human existence is limited and perfection is impossible.

“One of the primary tools of science is to study things in simpler parts. Out of those parts, models of the whole can be constructed.”

Interesting comment: Is that not what Austrian economics argues? That is to study economics correctly, you must study the individual. (For the individual is the simplest part).


Evidently you have trouble understanding English. Austrians say you MUST study the individual. Science does not limit itself to any one level of organization, nor any one viewpoint. It uses as many valid viewpoints as possible. And for all that Austrians claim to study the individual, they do not. Instead they make axioms about individuals which do not match the real world. That's the crux of why they are unscientific and unrealistic.

1) Can Mr. Huben give any concrete example of ‘knowing something’ or ‘knowledge’ that does not involve the ‘truth condition’.
I know how to walk. It is observable, and a valid statement. And there are limitations to its accuracy, because it doesn't apply when I'm sleeping, when I was an infant, etc.

2) And "Can you give some examples of mathematical formulas you think are valid for economics?"
You really ought to open an economics textbook. But instead, take a look at When should the Fed raise rates? (even more wonkish). There's an example of quantitative reasoning that Austrians cannot perform.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

I apologize for the lack of brevity (especially to Sal) but sometimes it is necessary when arguing very subtle, complex points of Epistemology. To display where Mr. Huben is ‘mistaken’ in his conceptual thinking requires this. This degree of conceptual philosophy is very difficult to be aphoristic with and requires complexity in very abstract reasoning.
Therefore I must issue a WARNING:
For those who do not have the mental capability to go through long and abstract reasoning; please read no further!!!
Perhaps if you do, it may open your mind to new and different ways of thinking. Consider it an intriguing adventure, in the exploration of the use of concepts as it were.
Cheers!

How does Mr. Huben “know” these propositions? Does he claim that they are true?

Mr. Huben’s assertions:

“Nope. I claim they are valid, and the result of much observation and induction.”

“And, once again, I wouldn't claim my ideas are true, but rather that they are valid.”

“It is an OBSERVED proposition, and it is valid. We still don't need the idea of truth.”

“Of course there's a question of accuracy. Let's start with the fact that it isn't a legal name, only a pseudonym and perhaps one of many names used for you. Names are only what you are called: they have no other existence. Doubtless you are called many things, some of them unprintable. There is a large range of names that that can be recognized as yours, and defining its boundaries is a significant issue. Even if you want to restrict it to TheLowlyPhilosopher, other people don't have to. (Italics mine) Even if we restrict it to what YOU want, there can still be variation in pronunciation, mode of presentation, font, color, etc. And even if you pin those down, it's still possible that you could make a mistake. (Italics mine) Or change your mind. Or other people may not consider it your name. Even if you point to one historical event of being called TheLowlyPhilosopher, you still cannot describe what occurred with perfect accuracy.” (Italics mine)

I know how to walk. It is observable, and a valid statement. And there are limitations to its accuracy, because it doesn't apply when I'm sleeping, when I was an infant, etc.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On Knowledge and Accuracy:

Perfect accuracy is not what is being demanded here. Indeed perfect accuracy does not conceptually apply to “knowing my name is such and such”. Mr. Huben seems to be arguing that unless we can have perfect accuracy in “knowing my name is such and such” we cannot “KNOW that my name is such and such” is TRUE. And this is the foundation of Mr. Huben’s Epistemological thinking because according to him since there cannot be perfect accuracy the concept of truth is not needed or meaningful. But there is knowledge that I can know to be valid (true) that does not require or necessitate perfect accuracy. Indeed Mr. Huben by his own admission “I know how to walk”. Accuracy is a concept that is only applied in empirical and scientific conceptual frameworks. For if we take Mr. Huben’s position to its logical conclusion, if it is always POSSIBLE to be making a mistake then why is it NOT possible to ALWAYS be making a mistake? So can I “know I can walk” No! Mr. Huben you could be making a mistake could you not?

And the only response Mr. Huben could give is,” THIS is what I define to be walking.” And that it can be observed. But then the definition must NOT be open to being MISTAKEN. For Mr.Huben to assert that he ”knows how to walk” his definition of what it is ‘to walk’ has to be accepted, that is, not questioned or doubted. As Mr. Huben stated, “There is a large range of names that that can be recognized as yours, and defining its boundaries is a significant issue.” Why should anyone accept Mr. Huben’s definitions and/or boundaries like “know” “valid” “model” “walk” etc.
Mr. Huben’s argument is self-defeating!

The problem is that the accuracy of everything cannot be questioned. It does not make sense to do so. For what would be the point of ‘measuring’ something or ‘observing’ something if there was not something that could not change or be fixed as it were. The concept of ‘measuring’ or ‘observing’ requires that my ‘measuring stick’ (one that ought to be used to rap Mr. Huben on the head) does not arbitrarily and randomly change its length. It needs to be fixed at such and such a length. This is what Mr. Huben fails to understand. It is not a matter of my measuring stick being only accurate to this degree. Whatever the accuracy is it is not important philosophically: whether it is accurate to the billionth of an inch or a trillionth of an inch the critical thing is that whatever the accuracy is, it is a FIXED accuracy! For if it were constantly changing in length there would be no point in measuring anything at all. There would be no meaning to the ideas of ‘length’, ‘measuring’ or ‘observing’. They presuppose something accepted, not doubted or questioned. Something has to be taken for granted.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On Validity:

Mr. Huben talks a great deal about ‘validity’. Now of course validity traditionally is conceived to concern logical argumentation. That this is a valid argument and this is not a valid argument. In this context arguments do not have an in-between validity they are either valid or not valid. Validity is not on a continuum so to speak. And validity in argumentation is derived and cannot be separated from the concept of truth. For it is not possible to have a ‘valid’ argument that is not based upon truth that is inherent in the structure of the argument.
Indeed Mr. Huben seems to be obsessed with ‘validity’ that THIS is ‘valid’ etc. which is all well and good, but he has the problem that he can never know that anyone else would agree that it is ‘valid’. Indeed no one would have to ever agree to its validity. What makes it ‘valid’?
But would not Mr. Huben argue that what makes it valid is that other people could observe and come to the same validity. But is it not possible for them to be mistaken? How many individuals agreeing are necessary before something becomes ‘valid’? But if it is always possible to be mistaken or if it is possible that other people do not have to restrict their definitions then nothing could ever be ‘valid’. Or perhaps Mr. Huben is saying that if we accept these premises or definitions to be the case (true) then my observations are confirmed or ‘valid’ and that “I know such and such”. But does this not prove my point that we cannot doubt everything! That we have to have premises that are accepted and not doubted!

“This observation is valid.”
“This statement is valid”
can these be true statements or false statements?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On the Law of the Excluded Middle:

To understand Mr. Huben’s epistemological thinking on how we have knowledge and (surely Mr. Huben does not deny that we have knowledge does he?) lets grant Mr.Huben that (as I understand him) everything where knowledge can be claimed to exist has to involve various degrees of accuracy. We are led into a strange situation where we can have knowledge say, that “my name is The LowlyPhilosopher” and it can only known to a certain degree of accuracy. What would inaccuracy be like, here? For is it not the case that my name IS TheLowlyPhilosopher or IS NOT TheLowlyPhilosopher. Is this a degree of accuracy question? NO! Accuracy is not applicable here. Or else the law of the excluded middle has to be rejected. For can it be the case that my name is such and such and not such and such at the same time? How would Mr. Huben respond to this? He would have to say what he did say about it in his comment but then what he must be saying is that everything is indeterminate. But is it? Defining something makes it determinate for the context or purpose that we use it. It does not require absolute perfection in accuracy for it to be determinate and/or fixed for the PURPOSES WE NEED. We do not have to reject accepting a premise or the conclusions of an argument as being true because it is not ‘100% accurate”. And it is because not all premises that are used are used in scientific arguments. Accuracy is needed when we need accuracy, not in every argument or statement of knowledge.

My name is TheLowlyPhilosopher.
My name is not TheLowlyPhilosopher.

What other possibility in logic could there be? If Mr. Huben rejects this, then he rejects the law of the excluded middle. But then again is it not unusual that Mr. Huben would want to defend the law of the excluded middle? After all is it not possible to doubt everything including this law? That, there is no ‘perfect certainty’.
Did he not express contempt when I said, “The nature of these propositions are that they necessitate that Mr. Huben reject the law of the excluded middle.”
His response, “Now, I know it's traditional in philosophy to make unsupported hand-waving assertions, but I'd love to see this backed up.” Perhaps I should have not used ‘propositions’ and instead used ‘framework of thinking’, “ theory of knowledge’ or something along those lines. So I can infer that Mr. Huben accepts the law of the excluded middle! He does not DOUBT it. Is it 100% accurate for him?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On Observing:

It appears that for Mr. Huben if anything is ‘observed’ then if someone says that he ‘observed’ something it therefore becomes a valid statement. What constitutes a ‘valid’ statement is reporting that something is or has been observed. This presupposes there are observers and WHAT is observed. That there is SOMETHING out there. Has Mr. Huben proved that there is something out there? Or is it a necessary precondition to the action of observing? If it was not presupposed that there was an out there then why observe anything? “Well because stupid, there is an out there”. Is this an a priori truth that we know with out verification? Is it something that cannot be doubted?

On Scientific Models:

“This model is valid.”

“This model is more valid.”

What consists in a model being more ‘valid’ than another model is what Mr. Huben does not account for. Presumably Mr. Huben would say that this model fits the facts or our observations better or more accurately than this model. What are ‘facts’? What are ‘observations’? This presupposes an unchanging ‘metaphysical’ physical reality. For is it not possible that a model that is more ‘valid’ today than another model could not become less ‘valid’ tomorrow?

Now of course Mr. Huben would claim that this would not be possible. How does he know this to be the case? So this necessitates that there is some unchanging thing out there, call it the ‘World’ ‘the Universe’ ‘the Reality’’ the Absolute’ ‘God’ etc. What it is called or named is not the important thing it is the fact that Mr. Huben must accept that it is unchanging. His theory of science presupposes an unchanging reality. For if it were not the case he would have to admit that his more accurate model may become less accurate if the ‘reality’ it describes is altered. And his earlier model that was evidently less accurate may become more accurate than the model that replaced it.

The presuppositions are, the laws of the Universe are fixed. But this is something Mr. Huben cannot prove to be valid within his system or models. It is an a priori axiom of his system. If Mr. Huben claims that the ‘facts’, that is what is being ‘observed’ can never change. Does this not contradict his belief that everything can be doubted?

So it is established, having greater ‘accuracy’ in his models necessitates an unchanging reality. And this is not to be confused with a reality that does not have physical motion in it. This is unchanging in a metaphysical sense. That reality in its ultimate essence is a complete, existent thing or object as it were. It exists and the models that are used to describe it are real. For if it were not the case that there was an unchanging ‘reality’ to be more accurate would be meaningless. Or perhaps the reality is always in flux (see Heraclitus) in this case a accurate model would be next to useless because we could not know for how long it would be ‘accurate” for. There is no reason in principle, that the model would not need to change and /or be modified every billionth of second etc.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On Walking:

“I know how to walk. It is observable, and a valid statement. And there are limitations to its accuracy, because it doesn't apply when I'm sleeping, when I was an infant, etc.”

It can be inferred that for Mr. Huben, a valid statement is correlated in some way to what is observed. If something is observed and a statement is made, for example “I observe that I just walked.” Apparently this is automatically becomes a ‘valid’ statement for Mr. Huben. In this philosophy there could never be statements that were not ‘valid’. Presumably if it turned out that the observations were mistaken later Mr. Huben would have to say that the statement was not ‘valid’ after all. Say it took thousands of years before the observations were determined to not be accurate. The statement that the observations were ‘valid’ was not ‘valid’ after all.

But does not Mr. Huben claim that it is possible to doubt everything? Is it not possible that EVERYONE could doubt that he is walking right now or that he has ever walked?
“Mr. Huben thinks he is walking but he is delusional”
What makes him so absolutely sure or certain that he has walked or he is walking? Could he not be dreaming that he is walking or perhaps he is a paraplegic and cannot walk or he was born without legs and has never walked but he is dreaming or under the influence of some drug and is imagining and/or deluded and/or hallucinating that he is or has walked. Remember we can doubt everything!
The important epistemological question that Mr. Huben does not comprehend or answer is why THIS TIME he truly or really knows that what he is observing is actually real and not an illusion i.e. He is walking.
What are the criteria for knowing that THIS time I am not being deceived or mistaken but THIS TIME I am? Why do we have to accept his subjective observations, his mental state when he declares, he knows he is walking? Why do we accept his proclamation that he is ‘observing’ ‘facts’ about the world? Could he not be mistaken in everything that he asserts about reality?

Now there are those (naïve realists) who would say that to question whether one is walking or not is silly. “It is obvious I know when I am walking there is no doubt”. But this view does not account for the times when we deceived by our senses and believe things that do not actually have reality. And these instances do happen frequently!

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

On Skepticism and being Mistaken:

Skepticism is right, absolute skepticism is not tenable That is why “Humans can doubt everything” is not permissible.
Mr. Huben knows that this model is more accurate than this model. That he does KNOW this remains to be shown. And it is within this process of showing that he KNOWS this, there has to be things that are taken as being known, to be fixed, and/or true or else it could not be shown that it is known.

What does it mean to be mistaken? Does not the concept of ‘mistake’, of being ‘mistaken’ etc. imply the concept of not being mistaken? If not then what is a mistake? If it is possible to be mistaken it must be possible to not be mistaken. But this won’t do! For Mr. Huben says there cannot be certainty or ‘perfect accuracy’ then the concept of being mistaken has no meaning or utility. To say that I could always be mistaken would be equivalent to saying that I could always be correct. But what does ‘correct’ mean here? To make a mistake must permit the possibility of NOT making a mistake. Thus, “You could always be mistaken” or “humans can doubt everything” does not make sense. It has no use value.

And what Mr. Huben with his absolute skepticism claims, is that we can question everything! “Everything can be doubted.” But if this is so he cannot state it! Because the observation that ‘everything can be doubted’ must in itself be doubted. And every word that he uses in his language must also be doubted!

I close with some views of Wittgenstein:

In order to make as mistake, a man must already judge in conformity with mankind.

The child learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes after belief.

If I make an experiment I do not doubt the existence of the apparatus before my eyes. I have plenty of doubts but not THAT.
If I do a calculation I believe, without any doubts, that the figures on the paper aren’t switching of their own accord, and I also trust my memory the whole time, and trust it without reservation, The certainty here is the same as that of my never having been on the moon.

Doubting sand non-doubting behavior. There is the first only
If there is the second.

If I wanted to doubt whether this was my hand. How could I avoid doubting whether the word ‘hand’ has any meaning? so that is something I seem to know after all.


If any are interested, read Wittgenstein’s On Certainty.
A masterpiece of Epistemology from one of the greatest minds ever.

Phil said...

So uhhhhhhh:

"Can you give some examples of mathematical formulas you think are valid for economics?"

Mike Huben said...

Phil: as I pointed out, look at the Krugman posting for an example. It is the sort of calculation that the innumerate Austrians cannot produce.

Duh yourself, if you cannot follow the link and read it.

Mike Huben said...

I'm not going to spend much more time on this. Arguing with TheIdiotPhilosopher is like arguing with creationists. No acknowledgement of what has gone before, the Gish Gallop (throwing bunches of arguments against the wall to see what they can't answer and tangle opponents up in lengthy rebuttals) and the stupidest, most specious arguments imaginable. All while trumpeting their own (imagined) logic, rationality, expertise, and authority.

Even more irritating and intellectually irresponsible, is that TheStupidPhilosopher doesn't actually cite what I said when he is criticizing it, and instead raises straw men.

Mr. Huben seems to be arguing that unless we can have perfect accuracy in “knowing my name is such and such” we cannot “KNOW that my name is such and such” is TRUE.

Actually, TheIncompetentPhilosopher entirely missed that I was pointing out that his understanding of naming was wrong. If you say "my name is", that reifies the idea of name. If you say "I am called", that is based on observation.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

But there is knowledge that I can know to be valid (true) that does not require or necessitate perfect accuracy.

And here we have TheSillyPhilosopher using "true" as a shifting middle term to claim that what I said was his meaning. I've been complaining for several rounds that he was using true in many different senses without specifying which ones, and here he is employing at as a simple fallacy of argument.

The concept of ‘measuring’ or ‘observing’ requires that my ‘measuring stick’ (one that ought to be used to rap Mr. Huben on the head) does not arbitrarily and randomly change its length. It needs to be fixed at such and such a length[...] Whatever the accuracy is it is not important philosophically: whether it is accurate to the billionth of an inch or a trillionth of an inch the critical thing is that whatever the accuracy is, it is a FIXED accuracy!

Once again, we have an example of breathtaking ignorance of the history of science and measurement. As science progresses, the standards of accuracy get finer and finer, and are redefined in new technologies. Bad enough this twit botches his philosophy and plagiarizes my stick insult, but he cannot even get simple history of science right.

Indeed Mr. Huben seems to be obsessed with ‘validity’ that THIS is ‘valid’ etc. which is all well and good, but he has the problem that he can never know that anyone else would agree that it is ‘valid’. Indeed no one would have to ever agree to its validity. What makes it ‘valid’?

Here is where the argument ad baculum comes to the fore: if I say this stick is long enough to hit you on the head (and do hit you), that is a valid statement. A valid statement (in the sense that I mean it, as opposed to the idea of correct logic of argument) is susceptible to intersubjective corroboration.

Mike Huben said...

On the Law of the Excluded Middle:
My name is TheLowlyPhilosopher.
My name is not TheLowlyPhilosopher.
What other possibility in logic could there be?


No other possibilities in ordinary logic. But of course, that is only one of an infinite number of logics, and it is obvious that it cannot deal with simple paradoxes such as "I am lying" let alone with the real world where there are categories other than true or false. And TheIgnorantPhilosopher is still stuck in his reification of name.

Now of course Mr. Huben would claim that this would not be possible.

Have you ever seen a more obvious strawman?

I close with some views of Wittgenstein:

Oooo, name dropping! We're so impressed! If only you had taken the time to show how any of those views matched your ideas better than mine, rather than expecting your audience to erroneously assume it.

And let's keep in mind that Wittgenstein thought that most philosophy (like yours) was based on erroneous language games, and thus worthless.

Well, that's enough arguing with this monkey.

Mike Huben said...

Oh, and let's get back to discussing the foolishness of Austrian methodology.

Dale said...

Methodology

Rather foolish comparison of ecology to economics. If you understood Austrian methodology, you would know that the reason such an analogy is invalid is because humans act, while things move and react. A herd of lions, or a species of plant, does not act. It reacts to circumstances, in predictable ways. Such things furthermore are homogeneous.

The issue is not complexity. It is heterogeneity. Furthermore, the circumstances of economic situations are never similar. They are always dynamic, and can be be compared quantitatively.

Humans are not homogeneous things, therefore they cannot be compared with one another. Inductive reasoning requires homogeneous things to compare.

I am not a rationalist, nor do I believe in the purely a priori methodology of the Austrian school. Their ideas are, as Rothbard put it, "broadly empirical". But that applies only to basic and inherently animalistic traits of humans, and they are shown not via abstract statistical analysis, but by by inductive conclusions drawn from daily and universal experience (which, via intuitive means of human cognition, we analyze with regard to other factors).

Humans are generally homogeneous only in two manners. The action axiom (which isn't really an axiom, but the word will do) with which I'm sure you are familiar... and cultural norms regarding value (which is ultimately subjective, but which can be held as generally similar to a limited extent within a given culture).

I furthermore believe that Austrian theories can be empirically verified by looking at their predictions, and comparing those with actual historical outcomes. This may be empirical, but it is empiricism of a different method than scientific experimentation and interpretation of history. Austrian theory predicted A, B happened... Keynesian theory predicted C, D happened... etc. This method is completely compatible with the nature of humans and dynamic, changing scenarios.

Mike Huben said...

Marvelous stupidity, Dale.

You really think ecologies with thousands of different species are not heterogeneous?

And then you say that humans are not homogeneous. Two paragraphs later you list two ways they are homogeneous, and declare they are the only ways. But of course there are many other ways humans are very homogenous, such as anatomy and physiology.

Dale said...
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Dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dale said...

You used an equivocation. Humans are not homogeneous things, which makes a comparison of one to another fruitless. It is the logical equivalent of studying nickel, zinc, and copper…. and ascribing the findings to iron and gold.

There are however, certain properties we can ascribe to many, at least within Western Society. One of these is the tendency to maximize profit. Others are take the form of social mores. People like to be treated politely, and generally patronize businesses that treat them that way. We know this because of universal observation, and awareness of that same universal observation among others. We are also aware of exceptions. Furthermore, because we ourselves are humans, this gives us insight into the basic things that can motivate ourselves… which helps us understand our observations. This very intuitive process in a way that abstract statistical analysis cannot be.

However, the risk of error in even such simple inductive conclusions is great. Thus, economists have often been led to the fallacy of "homo economicus", when just about no real human is one.

Nonetheless, as you well know, we must verge away from certitude in order to find usefulness. So we make “deductions” (which are really just simplified inductions) from the premises of profit maximization, and derive things like Supply and Demand. Now that’s a great philosophical delusion, isn’t it? Or the law of association and specialization. It is derived that, in order to maximize profit, people in society will specialize in different trades, and exchange their expertise with one another.

Then guess what? Here’s where the scientist in you should giggle happily. You get to empirically verify whether such laws actually go into effect. Does supply go up as demand goes up? Do people specialize in different trades?

It is important to note the distinctions between different types of empirical testing. You cannot statistically analyze the actions of a population to determine causes, or assume that relations will apply outside of your initial sample. You can, however, look at the logical implications of a theorem, and test those against reality. No inconsistency.

This, my friend, is where Keynesian economics fails miserably. The Austrian methodology, while over-focused on epistemological rationalism, is still a valid way to model reality.

About the ecology/economics analogy. Again, your really talking about complexity, not heterogeneity. You are certainly more educated than me when it comes to ecology and biology in general, but it comes down to this. Humans act, things react. Things, and organisms, respond to their environment according to a set of physical reactions, similar to one billiard ball striking another, which strikes another, on a pool table. It is a causal sequence which may quickly become convoluted, and requires massive study and analysis to understand.

Humans possess rationality. We think about our actions. We weigh moral, hedonistic, and sublime values intuitively and consciously before we act. Even if these things are the result of a completely physical causal sequence, the ultimate psychological and praxeological effects of such a sequence are irreducible to their initial physical causes (I challenge you to show my one neuroscientist who can explain all of human thoughts, emotions, values, and choices holistically from at a molecular level).

Humans are therefore not just complex, but irreducibly different from one another. General laws cannot be statistically derived about economic behavior, as they can about the behavior of organisms in an environment.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

As much as Mr. Huben dislikes it, and whether Mr. Huben accepts it or not, his “Economic debate” is really a debate of Philosophy.
Namely Epistemology:
What is knowledge?
How do we derive knowledge?
Mr. Huben’s epistemology (lets call it “naïve absolute empiricism”) is quite simply not philosophically plausible.
But alas this simplistic epistemological view is not unusual among ‘scientific thinkers’ as Mr. Huben fashions himself to be.
This “scientific frame of mind” is in itself too narrow and limited.

One thing this debate has “scientifically and empirically” demonstrated.
There is no point in arguing matters of philosophy with dogmatic simpletons.

I conclude with some comments.

On Philosophy:

Mr. Huben states, “Oooo, name dropping! We're so impressed! If only you had taken the time to show how any of those views matched your ideas better than mine, rather than expecting your audience to erroneously assume it.”

“And let's keep in mind that Wittgenstein thought that most philosophy (like yours) was based on erroneous language games, and thus worthless.”

Remember everyone, Mr.Huben (aka The dogmatic oracle) stated, “While there are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is POSSIBLE to DOUBT THEM ALL. There is NO LIMIT to what humans can DOUBT.”

This I showed to be logically and conceptually mistaken.
I quoted a small selection of Wittgenstein not for name-dropping purposes but for the quite simple reason that his views on the matter, (specifically epistemology) refute Mr. Huben quite handily.

“In order to make as mistake, a man must already judge in conformity with mankind.”

“The child learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes after belief.”

‘If I make an experiment I do not doubt the existence of the apparatus before my eyes. I have plenty of doubts but not THAT.
If I do a calculation I believe, without any doubts, that the figures on the paper aren’t switching of their own accord, and I also trust my memory the whole time, and trust it without reservation, The certainty here is the same as that of my never having been on the moon.”

“Doubting and non-doubting behavior. There is the first only
If there is the second.”

“If I wanted to doubt whether this was my hand. How could I avoid doubting whether the word ‘hand’ has any meaning? so that is something I seem to know after all.”

Apparently, Mr. Huben delusionally believes that the above Wittgenstein quotations do not disagree with his claim that humans can ‘DOUBT EVERYTHING’.

How anyone could read these above selected Wittgenstein quotes and argue that “If only you had taken the time to show how any of those views matched your ideas better than mine…”.

My ‘idea’ as it were, was that I rejected Mr. Huben’s claim that
“While there are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is POSSIBLE to DOUBT THEM ALL. There is NO LIMIT to what humans can DOUBT.”

Is this man deluded or can he just not admit that he was wrong?
I’ve clearly shown you to be wrong. So what do you do? You blather about, leave out your damning assertion, and hope nobody notices. Pathetically dishonest. Own up to your error.

As for the claim that “And let's keep in mind that Wittgenstein thought that most philosophy (like yours) was based on erroneous language games, and thus worthless.”

I challenge anyone reading THIS to come to THIS naively simplistic conclusion about the thinking of Wittgenstein on Philosophy. Stick to your biology, ecology etc. Mr. Huben as you would not pass Philosophy 101 making that statement.

Well, that's enough arguing with this amoeba on matters of Philosophy. One must stick with less abstract types of thinking that he can hopefully comprehend.

On Economics:

Is ‘economic value’ objective or subjective?
If it is objective, how can ‘economic value’ derived from scientific methodology?

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

As much as Mr. Huben dislikes it, and whether Mr. Huben accepts it or not, his “Economic debate” is really a debate of Philosophy.
Namely Epistemology:
What is knowledge?
How do we derive knowledge?
Mr. Huben’s epistemology (lets call it “naïve absolute empiricism”) is quite simply not philosophically plausible.
But alas this simplistic epistemological view is not unusual among ‘scientific thinkers’ as Mr. Huben fashions himself to be.
This “scientific frame of mind” is in itself too narrow and limited.

One thing this debate has “scientifically and empirically” demonstrated.
There is no point in arguing matters of philosophy with dogmatic simpletons.

I conclude with some comments.

On Philosophy:

Mr. Huben states, “Oooo, name dropping! We're so impressed! If only you had taken the time to show how any of those views matched your ideas better than mine, rather than expecting your audience to erroneously assume it.”

“And let's keep in mind that Wittgenstein thought that most philosophy (like yours) was based on erroneous language games, and thus worthless.”

Remember everyone, Mr.Huben (aka The dogmatic oracle) stated, “While there are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is POSSIBLE to DOUBT THEM ALL. There is NO LIMIT to what humans can DOUBT.”

This I showed to be logically and conceptually mistaken.
I quoted a small selection of Wittgenstein not for name-dropping purposes but for the quite simple reason that his views on the matter, (specifically epistemology) refute Mr. Huben quite handily.

“In order to make as mistake, a man must already judge in conformity with mankind.”

“The child learns by believing the adult. Doubt comes after belief.”

‘If I make an experiment I do not doubt the existence of the apparatus before my eyes. I have plenty of doubts but not THAT.
If I do a calculation I believe, without any doubts, that the figures on the paper aren’t switching of their own accord, and I also trust my memory the whole time, and trust it without reservation, The certainty here is the same as that of my never having been on the moon.”

“Doubting and non-doubting behavior. There is the first only
If there is the second.”

“If I wanted to doubt whether this was my hand. How could I avoid doubting whether the word ‘hand’ has any meaning? so that is something I seem to know after all.”

Apparently, Mr. Huben delusionally claims that the above Wittgenstein quotations do not disagree with his claim that humans can ‘DOUBT EVERYTHING’.

How anyone could read these above selected Wittgenstein quotes and argue that “If only you had taken the time to show how any of those views matched your ideas better than mine…”.

My ‘idea’ as it were, was that I rejected Mr. Huben’s claim that
“While there are propositions that for the time being we do not doubt, it is POSSIBLE to DOUBT THEM ALL. There is NO LIMIT to what humans can DOUBT.”

Is this man deluded or can he just not admit that he was wrong?
I’ve clearly shown you to be wrong. So what do you do? You blather about, leave out your damning assertion, and hope nobody notices. Pathetically dishonest. Own up to your error.

As for the claim that “And let's keep in mind that Wittgenstein thought that most philosophy (like yours) was based on erroneous language games, and thus worthless.”

I challenge anyone reading THIS to come to THIS naively simplistic conclusion about the thinking of Wittgenstein on Philosophy. Stick to your biology, ecology etc. Mr. Huben as you would not pass Philosophy 101 making that statement.

Well, that's enough arguing with this amoeba on matters of Philosophy. One must stick with less abstract types of thinking that he can hopefully comprehend.

On Economics:

Is ‘economic value’ objective or subjective?
If it is objective, how can ‘economic value’ derived from scientific methodology?

Dale said...

Please leave your abstract epistemology out of this. Mr. Huben made some remarks deriding Philosophy, but it's not a philosophical issue. Absolute rationalism vs. empiricism plays no part in this, and to be an empiricist, one does not have to claim absolute certainty. We're dealing with practical matters, where you know just as well as I do that reality exists, and THAT's what we're discussing, not the manner by which we are certain whether stuff exists. Even a logic vs. empirics debate in economic methodology has nothing to do with epistemology.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

Yes quite correct Dale. To be an empiricist does not require one to claim absolute certainty. Indeed, it is not possible or conceptually meaningful as I argued earlier.

The Facts:
Mr. Huben started the entry ‘The Parable of the Ship: Why Austrian Economics Fails’ eliciting some of his views on philosophy which can be shown to be mistaken.
His ‘economic’ pontifications are based upon his ‘philosophical world view’.
That ‘philosophical world view’ has certain presuppositions about how the world is, and how we derive knowledge of it.
For as Mr.Huben stated, “Science is a better way of knowing than philosophy, because scientific theories have to explain close to all the scientifically collected data. For all the faults of conventional economics, it is far closer to a science than Austrianism because it relies heavily on data. Austrianism has a methodological disrespect of data. It is structured as a medieval philosophy based on authority, rather than systematic adherence to real-world data.”

It is my contention that if his faulty economic ‘world view’ is to be exposed for the patent nonsense that it is, the path to this refutation will come from exposing the fallacious thinking that is inherent in his ‘philosophical world view’. (Absolute Naïve Empiricism)

Whether of not Austrian economic thinking is ‘valid’ or not, at the heart of Mr. Huben’s criticism is his line of reasoning that it is not ‘valid’ because it is not ‘scientific’ and/or ‘empirical’.
And as this debate has shown, Mr. Huben evidently cannot comprehend that even his beloved ‘empiricism’ requires that there are certain fundamental premises that must be posited and cannot be doubted. And because of this there is little point in arguing ‘philosophically’ or even about ‘economics’ with such an individual.
It cannot be a serious debate.

Cheers!

Dale said...

Seriously dude. Epistemology and methodology are separate discussions. I saw some of the nonsense you guys were discussing, and I was wondering how in heck you thought it had anything to do with economics.

You are using already logically shoddy arguments against epistemological empiricism in order to oppose the scientific method, and empirical methodology. That's really far removed.

You can believe in scientific methodologies without subscribing to absolute empiricism, which makes most everything you've said moot. And it's annoying, because you make all Austrians seems like these nutty philosophers who can only talk about philosophy.

Furthermore, an absolute empiric view can be (and regularly is) used to justify purely Austrian, as well as libertarian, theories. I would remind you that Rothbard (one of the greatest Austrians) was an empiricist, and history's greatest libertarian (Locke) was the founder of modern empiricism.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

The Facts for the Attention Disorder Deficited!!!

Dumb
And
Logic
Expelled

The debate that Mr. Huben and I had was quite obviously, by and large about philosophy and science and not about economic methodology. In fact if one actually reads the debate, I first opened the debate with specific criticism of Mr. Huben’s views on philosophy and science. This is why the debate was primarily focused on philosophy and science!
DUH!!!
I apologize that it did not meet your approval but it was Mr. Huben and I, that were having the debate!
NOT YOU!!!!

You make claims that are not verified by the facts. I can only conclude that you did not actually read the debate or are just plain unintelligent.

“Seriously dude. Epistemology and methodology are separate discussions”

Did I EVER ARGUE that epistemology and methodology are NOT separate discussions. The discussion was between Mr. Huben and myself, and mostly concerned matters of science, philosophy and epistemology. Not methodology!! And no claim was ever made that it was about methodology per se!!

“I saw some of the nonsense you guys were discussing, and I was wondering how in heck you thought it had anything to do with economics.”

Granted the debate, as it originated and evolved was not about economics. It was about philosophy, science, and epistemology. It was never claimed to be STRICTLY about economics and/or methodology. If it was incomprehensible and nonsensical to you, you did not have to read it.

“You can believe in scientific methodologies without subscribing to absolute empiricism, which makes most everything you've said moot.”

Did I ever say you CANNOT believe in scientific methodologies without subscribing to absolute empiricism”? In fact I was arguing that there couldn’t be an ABSOLUTE empiricism. Mr. Huben argues that EVERYTHING can be doubted unless it is shown through empirical means (Science) to be valid. This I argued against!!!

Continued….

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

“And it's annoying, because you make all Austrians seems like these nutty philosophers who can only talk about philosophy.”

I opened this debate with Mr. Huben on the basis of philosophical criticism of his views on philosophy and science; this is why the debate was focused on this!! And did I ever say I was an Austrian? No! I DO AGREE WITH SOME of the philosophical views of the Austrians but I DO NOT AGREE WITH ALL of their philosophical views! So don’t be a presumptuous turd and label me an Austrian!
And apparently Dale thinks philosophers are nutty because they talk about philosophy. Pray tell what exactly are PHILOSOPHERS supposed to talk about if not PHILOSOPHY? Do economists not talk about economics? Do Biologists not talk about biology? Duh!!
And if it annoyed you TOO BAD!! The debate was between Mr. Huben and myself. NOT YOU!!!!

“Furthermore, an absolute empiric view can be (and regularly is) used to justify purely Austrian, as well as libertarian, theories.”

WHAT DRIVEL!! An ABSOLUTE EMPIRIC (AL) VIEW is not tenable as a philosophical theorem. Apparently you did not read ANY of the debate!

“I would remind you that Rothbard (one of the greatest Austrians) was an empiricist, and history's greatest libertarian (Locke) was the founder of modern empiricism.”

WHO is not an Empiricist? It is not an all or nothing proposition. It is not as if you can only be an ABSOLUTE RATIONALIST or an ABSOLUTE EMPIRICIST. Either of those strict philosophical positions would not be tenable! And I never said that empiricism or the scientific method is of no value or use. I DO NOT reject empiricism, as it does give us knowledge of many aspects of the world but of course it is for certain purposes and applications but NOT ALL! And all of our knowledge is not solely derived from empiricism. (Mr. Huben rejects this)
And to put it into simple terms that you comprehend: empiricism cannot verify itself through empirical means! Something has to be presupposed before one can use an empirical method or science. Thus there cannot be an ABSOLUTE empiricism. This was the central point of the argument, which you obviously could not have read.

And saving the best for last: The pièce de résistance!!

“You are using already logically shoddy arguments against epistemological empiricism in order to oppose the scientific method, and empirical methodology. That's really far removed. “

I DO NOT oppose the scientific method. I oppose the claim that the scientific method is the ONLY method for ALL applications, and that it is the ONLY WAY to derive knowledge of reality. Since you claim to be an Austrian you ought to know that Von Mises and Hayek argued that the empirical observation of “scientific data” could not give you valid theoretical knowledge in economics.

And “Dude” unless you are a PhD in logic put up or shut up. Just exactly where is my logic concerning epistemology “shoddy”.

**Attention all ‘Dudes’ out there who may be reading this. Here is an announcement! **
When Dale pontificates on something, it so obviously has to be true! NOT!!

Eagerly waiting to be specifically shown how my logic is ‘shoddy’ ‘Dude’!

Dale said...

Well, your opposition to empiricism is that it is not certain. Descarte's "demonic deceiver" may be, but we just don't care.

So, if you do not oppose the scientific method, then instead of arguing that absolute empiricism is unjustifiable, perhaps you ought to simply argue that it doesn't apply to economics.

Like von Mises, Hayek, and (wouldn't you know it) Rothbard (the empiricist) said... scientific methodology doesn't work in economics. The rationalists and the empiricist agree. Because ultimately, they all believe in the scientific method, as well as in pure reason. It doesn't matter how we know the roots of those things (a priori vs a posteriori), only that we apply them correctly, by not applying the scientific method to economics, and not applying pure reason to physics.

And since this thread came from a post about Austrian economics, which came from another post about Austrian economics, it seems that the topic here would be methodology. Especially since Mr. Huben obviously believes in empirics in the social sciences.

But you are trying to say that the scientific method doesn't apply to the social sciences (correct conclusion), by pointing out deep rooted and abstract ponderings about the nature of knowledge and truth (non sequiter justification).

What does Hume's critique of inductive reasoning have to do with it? Nothing, because if you are going to actually deny that the sun will rise tomorrow based on uncertainty, you're crazy. If you want to say that empirics don't work with humans, you don't have to mention the uncertainty of tomorrow's sunrise.

Dale said...

PS, dude - Bachelor's Degrees in Philosophy, and in Applied Math from University of Kentucky. Masters in Economics from University of Tennessee.

By the way... I understand that you like the art of verbal battle and coming up with witticisms, but if you've studied verbal logic you know how extraordinarily immature your insults and rhetorical devices seem. I guess you may succeed in impressing readers with your cunning, but it's intellectually dry. You and Mr. Huben just look silly and childish when you use such rhetorical devices. Feel free to carry on as you will, I understand it pleases you. All value is subjective, after all. ;-)

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

I paraphrase Mr. Huben “It's always amusing to me what bad assumptions people make when interpreting my arguments”

“Well, your opposition to empiricism is that it is not certain. Descarte's "demonic deceiver" may be, but we just don't care.”

“So, if you do not oppose the scientific method, then instead of arguing that absolute empiricism is unjustifiable, perhaps you ought to simply argue that it doesn't apply to economics.”

First off I do not oppose empiricism because it is not certain. It would be silly to propose this position precisely for the reasons that I articulated in the debate. I argued that empiricism has presuppositions are posited beforehand and those presuppositions are not known through empirical verification.
Is there absolute certainty? What would certainty be?
It is a concept that we use in our language game as it were, it has a different meaning and/or use in different contexts. From a metaphysical point of view it could be argued and is, that we cannot be certain of anything (re, Descartes and Absolute Skepticism) but this is only one precise, particular and very confined use of the concept ‘certainty’. In non-absolute metaphysical applications we DO say that we are certain that our name is such and such, and that 7+5=12, and that I am certain that I have never been on the moon, I am certain that the earth existed long before my birth, etc.

What I did argue is that the scientific method is not TOTALLY applicable to the study of economics. I do not believe that that there is absolutely no application or situation where the ‘scientific method’ cannot give some type of knowledge in the study of economics. As you know economics is a study that has many diverse branches.

The reason I that I spent a great amount of time arguing that Absolute Empiricism is unjustifiable is because, from the statements that Mr. Huben made (in the context of the debate) it appeared that that was his position. I was arguing against that position. At that point in the debate it become the main issue of contention. I had already maintained that it did not apply ‘generally’ to economics. It was only where Mr. Huben apparently argued for a position of ‘absolute empiricism’ that I argued against that position. This is why the debate went in that direction ‘by pointing out deep rooted and abstract ponderings about the nature of knowledge and truth’.
I was not implying that this was the justification for ‘saying ‘that the scientific method doesn't apply to the social sciences (correct conclusion)’.

“And since this thread came from a post about Austrian economics, which came from another post about Austrian economics, it seems that the topic here would be methodology. Especially since Mr. Huben obviously believes in empirics in the social sciences.”

As I explained in my previous entry the debate originated as a criticism of particular philosophical views that Mr. Huben espoused. Well of course the great majority of Mr. Huben’s blog deals with economics and economic methodology, it does not ONLY deal with these subjects. Mr. Huben does have entries concerning criticism of libertarian philosophy on his blog. So to argue that this OUGHT to have been a debate on methodology is a (non sequiter) This debate was a debate about philosophy, science, and epistemology not methodology.

TheLowlyPhilosopher said...

“By the way... I understand that you like the art of verbal battle and coming up with witticisms, but if you've studied verbal logic you know how extraordinarily immature your insults and rhetorical devices seem. I guess you may succeed in impressing readers with your cunning, but it's intellectually dry. You and Mr. Huben just look silly and childish when you use such rhetorical devices. Feel free to carry on as you will, I understand it pleases you. All value is subjective, after all. ;-)”

So you say!!!
The pot calling the kettle black!!
Hit a nerve did I?
It was only the comments that you made, that were ‘silly’ and ‘childish’.
You said, “I saw some of the NONSENSE you guys were discussing, and I was wondering how in heck you thought it had anything to do with economics.”
What an asinine, presumptuous comment to make. It was a debate between Mr. Huben and myself. It was never advertised that it was a debate about methodology. It was your unjustified assumption (not warranted by the facts) that it was a debate about methodology and/ or economics! And as much as you would have preferred it, the debate was not a debate about economics and/or methodology. And to call it NONSENSE just because it was NOT a debate on your preferred subject is quite idiotic and insulting!

Then you insult by labeling (apparently because the debate was not about economics) that my logic in epistemological matters is SHODDY with no cogent argument or reasons to back up your opinion.
You claim that I oppose the scientific method. NOT!
You claim that I believe that epistemology and methodology are NOT separate discussions. NOT!
You claim that I argue that you cannot believe in scientific methodologies without subscribing to absolute empiricism. NOT!
You presume without evidence that I am an Austrian. NOT!
You insult philosophical argumentation by saying it is ‘nutty’. NOT!
You insult when you argue that philosophers are ‘nutty’ because they talk about philosophy! LOL

And in a schizoid manner of logical thinking you evidently argue, “You can believe in scientific methodologies without subscribing to absolute empiricism, which makes most everything you've said moot.” And in this context this can only mean that you are arguing that scientific methodologies CANNOT be grounded in absolute empiricism and NEED NOT be grounded in absolute empiricism to be valid, truthful, useful etc. And the fact, that you comment that everything I have said is ‘moot’, implies that my arguments against absolute empiricism are correct, (but are irrelevant in the context of) the validity of scientific methodology.
But then you contradict yourself by stating, “Furthermore, an absolute empiric view can be (and regularly is) used to justify purely Austrian, as well as libertarian, theories.” Well apparently there can be an absolute empiricism after all. You CAN believe in scientific methodologies AND subscribe to absolute empiricism. Silly!

My response to you was a result of the aforementioned comments that you made that we not coherent and relevant to the debate that Mr. Huben and I were having.
And in regards to any of those readers that you claim I am trying to impress, (NOT!)
I am sure that they can judge for themselves that your comments were quite simply irrelevant and insulting. But apparently it is ok for you to insult others but you are offended when you are on the receiving end!
Poor baby!

Mike Huben said...

"It was a debate between Mr. Huben and myself."

And once again, TheLooneyPhilosopher shows he has no clue. Blog discussions are open to anyone: they are a free for all.

I've lost interest in this loon. It's like fighting with the BlacK Knight in MP ad the Holy Grail: he makes up his own reality in a psychpathic manner. He can't admit that his argument has lost its legs, arms, and everything else. Doubtless, he knows that he has "won" the argument: he has deduced it from a priori facts.

Dale said...

I agree. Would you care to rebut my previous post to you?

Mike Huben said...

Humans are not homogeneous things, which makes a comparison of one to another fruitless.

Talk about non-sequiturs!

Yes, human beings are homogenous some ways and heterogenous in others. And of course, that very homogeneity and heterogeneity is measurable. And where there are statistically significant numbers of humans, we can find "laws" for these, much as we find universal gas laws in chemistry (even of mixed gases.)

You can, however, look at the logical implications of a theorem, and test those against reality. [...] This, my friend, is where Keynesian economics fails miserably. The Austrian methodology, while over-focused on epistemological rationalism, is still a valid way to model reality.

What an empty claim. Have you ever noticed that NOBODY employs Austrians for business purposes? They are only employed for propaganda, including subsidized seats at various minor universities such as GMU.

Because Austrians are innumerate, they cannot make numerical predictions and then measurements to confirm or disconfirm their wild-ass claims. Not even the sorts of back-of-the-envelope calculations the Krugman example I showed made.

Humans act, things react.

Even if we grant this philosophical twaddle, the basic question is whether humans act predictably enough that we can apply scientific methodologies. Considering that there are substantial industries based on the predictability of human actions, I'd say yes.

Humans possess rationality. We think about our actions. We weigh moral, hedonistic, and sublime values intuitively and consciously before we act. Even if these things are the result of a completely physical causal sequence, the ultimate psychological and praxeological effects of such a sequence are irreducible to their initial physical causes (I challenge you to show my one neuroscientist who can explain all of human thoughts, emotions, values, and choices holistically from at a molecular level).

We cannot explain the chemistry of proteins from their initial physical causes, but that hardly stops us from scientifically analyzing proteins. It's perfectly obvious that we don't need to understand neurology to observe and measure "buy low, sell high" as a frequent pattern of behavior.

General laws cannot be statistically derived about economic behavior, as they can about the behavior of organisms in an environment.

Tell that to the very successful owners of casinos. That's how they make their living.

For all your blather about the complexity of "acting", you have yet to show how behavior due to acting cannot be averaged out in large samples.

Mike Huben said...

Humans are not homogeneous things, which makes a comparison of one to another fruitless.

Talk about non-sequiturs!

Yes, human beings are homogenous some ways and heterogenous in others. And of course, that very homogeneity and heterogeneity is measurable. And where there are statistically significant numbers of humans, we can find "laws" for these, much as we find universal gas laws in chemistry (even of mixed gases.)

You can, however, look at the logical implications of a theorem, and test those against reality. [...] This, my friend, is where Keynesian economics fails miserably. The Austrian methodology, while over-focused on epistemological rationalism, is still a valid way to model reality.

What an empty claim. Have you ever noticed that NOBODY employs Austrians for business purposes? They are only employed for propaganda, including subsidized seats at various minor universities such as GMU.

Because Austrians are innumerate, they cannot make numerical predictions and then measurements to confirm or disconfirm their wild-ass claims. Not even the sorts of back-of-the-envelope calculations the Krugman example I showed made.

(continued)

Mike Huben said...

Humans act, things react.

Even if we grant this philosophical twaddle, the basic question is whether humans act predictably enough that we can apply scientific methodologies. Considering that there are substantial industries based on the predictability of human actions, I'd say yes.

Humans possess rationality. We think about our actions. We weigh moral, hedonistic, and sublime values intuitively and consciously before we act. Even if these things are the result of a completely physical causal sequence, the ultimate psychological and praxeological effects of such a sequence are irreducible to their initial physical causes (I challenge you to show my one neuroscientist who can explain all of human thoughts, emotions, values, and choices holistically from at a molecular level).

We cannot explain the chemistry of proteins from their initial physical causes, but that hardly stops us from scientifically analyzing proteins. It's perfectly obvious that we don't need to understand neurology to observe and measure "buy low, sell high" as a frequent pattern of behavior.

General laws cannot be statistically derived about economic behavior, as they can about the behavior of organisms in an environment.

Tell that to the very successful owners of casinos. That's how they make their living.

For all your blather about the complexity of "acting", you have yet to show how behavior due to acting cannot be averaged out in large samples.

Dale said...

And how do those predictions pan out? Generalized behaviors fluctuate wildly, with indeterminate causes. If you can look at group A and get your "generalized behaviors", your standard of deviation, and look at your patterns (history), it doesn't mean you can predict the future. Future predictions based on the past are just inductive analogies that rely on similarity.

Now, you seem to be begging the question by asserting that you can derive laws of human behavior from statistics (if not, do clarify). That's what you're trying to demonstrate.

You can find an average of anything. That doesn't make it meaningful. Find the average propensity to save, given income level x, among population y, within scenario z. Great, you've got a number. Just don't go trying to apply it to population w, with non-parameterized income x, in a future scenario which is absolutely non-similar to z (different prices, different fads, different acquaintances, different opinions, different news-stories... all variables which you can't just shrug off).

There are very-hard-to-control variables in any science. Economics if just one of the worst offenders, all these little hindrances are magnified by the fact that we are dealing with... human "action", that infinitely complex thing I've already blathered on.

Now, I do believe this discussion goes further than whether you can find averages. No, we actually need meaning, and predictive value.

Berkeley's critique of epistemological empiricism was that we can only observe correlations, not causes. If there really is such a thing as "causality", we can't possibly know what it is. I don't believe this discredits absolute empiricism, but it certainly does incredible value when dealing with the social sciences... which are filled with non-isolatable variables, heterogeneous and random agents, and infinitely complex (quantitatively and qualitatively) scenarios.

You joked in another of your posts about libertarians talking about chaos theory a lot. It applies here. A small change in any initial circumstance, with less significance than the wing flap of a butterfly, can lead to extraordinarily different outcomes.

Now, that sums it up for the logical side in this discussion. We still have the empirical side.

Dale said...

Peter Schiff. Schiff is president and chief global strategist of Euro Pacific Capital Inc., a broker-dealer. As Austrian as they come (including the expected level of nuttiness).

Keynesians who get hired by private sector? Ever heard of the efficient market hypothesis? They don't seem too productive.

Unless you mean for general economic forecasts. Well, they sure did a great job predicting the recession, and keeping their employers from going bust. They sure did a flippin' fine job warning investment banks that stocks were about to take a hit.

Market analysts in general, who used empirics, and had the profit motive backing them, didn't see the '29 bust coming either.

Austrians saw the recession coming. http://www.mattmcgee.com/peter-schiff-predicts-the-recession-in-2006/

"When you see the stock market come down and the real estate bubble burst, all that phony wealth is going to evaporate and all that is going to be left is the debt we accumulated to foreigners." Peter Schiff. August 28, 2006.

Austrians saw the depression coming. Said the Nobel Committee regarding F.A. Hayek in awarding him his Nobel prize in economics:

"Perhaps, partly due to this more profound analysis, he was one of the few economists who gave warning of the possibility of a major economic crisis before the great crash came in the autumn of 1929. Von Hayek showed how monetary expansion, accompanied by lending which exceeded the rate of voluntary saving, could lead to a misallocation of resources, particularly affecting the structure of capital. This type of business cycle theory with links to monetary expansion has fundamental features in common with the postwar monetary discussion."

That quote is particularly important because it details how they got to these conclusions. Logical deductivity, and historical verification of theory. They demonstrated that lower-than-natural interest rates cause unsustainable booms, which fall out in recessions.

But let me get back to your "no one hires Austrians for business". Really now? I must ask how think-tanks like Cato and Reason are funded. The source happens to be insanely wealthy businessmen. Can you demonstrate for me that people with Austrian perspectives don't succeed in business, or that they don't get hired for business purposes? I think not.

Furthermore, about the nature of the question itself. I believe in the power and ingenenuity of markets... not the infallibility thereof. Markets are irrational and inefficient (in the technical sense.. before you start to equivocate). Just because a stock is popular doesn't entail that it is worthwhile, any more than a popular consumer good must be high quality. Just because the market hires Keynesians doesn't mean that Keynesians are correct. This argument is fallacious in that assumes perfect rationality (i.e., ability to choose means which most probably entail given ends). Would you care to demonstrate the validity or probability of perfection rationality for me?

Now, let's step back away from the individual economists, to their theories. Austrian theory, by definition, foresaw the '29 and '08 busts. There is nothing inherent in Keynesian theory that foresaw either, only the problematic assertion that such things were possible, and could be caused by irrational speculation. That means there are some Austrians who are wrong... particularly when they make arguments that inconsistent with their own theories. Keynesians can also be right, because not all of their assertions are logically impossible, and sometimes they can stumble upon correct conclusions even by unwarranted means.

Morgan Warstler said...

Mike, Ok I read all of it, I think I understand your mistake.

Imagine in the mid-1600's we were listening to a scientist explain the supremacy of science over philosophy as a reason to discount free markets.

He'd basically be a barbarian, a well meaning fool, but indeed ignorant about the science that we now know.

The philosophical and scientific critique of your current assertions is still the same.

Economics may indeed be scientific - the problem is market is still FAR TO COMPLICATED than to put any economic faith in an ignorant madman screaming about the value of science.

There's nothing you say ever to get around this: The market is too complicated to listen to you or anyone else manipulate correctly like pushing around atoms, that is the core idea of Austrians - you just aren't smart enough.

And OBVIOUSLY historical scientific evidence all supports that hypothesis.

Mike Huben said...

Morgan:

Your first and most obvious error is that you don't consider whether the alternative to science is: pure assertion on the basis of authority.

Oh, there's philosophical mumbo jumbo comparable to the dances of witch doctors, but generally it reflects the wishes of those with money and power.

Your second obvious error is that just because we don't know as much as we will in the future doesn't mean our current scientific knowledge is useless or invalid. Newton might not have known of relativity, but his laws of motion swept away more than a thousand years of philosophical nonsense.

Your third obvious error is to ignore the importance of non-Austrian economics to business and government. Consider Brad DeLong's Depression Economics Lectures. Scroll down to section 2.2.6. "How Well Does This Work?" His answer:
Quite well, actually [....] There are trained professionals who do this for a living--and have high-paying jobs doing exactly this at a much more complex and sophisticated level.

The primary employment of Austrian economics seems to be the construction of propaganda.

Dale said...

http://vimeo.com/13730776

Historically... the depression didn't ease up until midway through WWII. We inflated and spent ourselves only into worse economic slumps, instead of letting unsustainable investments get sloughed off, while resource and labor allocation was corrected. The expertise of the planners didn't work too well. Just by posting a quote from someone who agrees with you, you do not prove otherwise.

What use do Austrians serve? They promote a model, just like any other school of economic thought.

And what alternatives are there to empirical analysis? You know as well as I do that there are much more plausible ones than philosophical mumbo jumbo and witch doctors.

You consistently attempt to deride opposing methodologies as philosophical. Logic is a necessary component of all branches of academic study, and a methodology of logical deductions is certainly plausible, even if you disagree with it. Your intellectual dishonesty in refusing to even admit that much is disappointing.

The rest of your rhetoric is equally meaningless. "generally it reflects the wishes of those with money and power." Such nonsense is so non-sequitor that it needs no refutation. Source Ad Hominem.

http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html

Bobalot said...

Why do philosophers and libertarians blather on so much?

Good grief, half of what was written here could have said in far fewer words.

zdz said...

Now the US and GB are broke, after decades that experts and scientists like Mr Huben lectured us about macro-economic theory and econometric models and that we, the simple minded 'island economists' from the austrian school should rather shut up.

But it was as simple as watching your neighbour sliding into the debt spiral, desperately trying to let others pay for his own mistakes in the end. Thats perfectly explained by 'island economics', its empirically obvious, it has been forecasted by austrian economist, while all those super-smart main-stream scientists played with their econometric models like well fed little childs in their kids room.

Mike Huben said...

"Now the US and GB are broke..."

No, they're not. If you cannot get such basics right with your Austrianism, then there's not much hope for the rest of your blather.

A confident attitude and outright lies don't conceal your stupid argument.

zdz said...

It's always time that tells if some opinion is stupid or not. Here in Europe thats very obvious, after almost a decade of 'expert'-propaganda in favor of the Euro. The actual bad situation has been forecasted exactly by a group of german economists (guess what - from the austrian school). These people were mostly ignored by the MSM, and still are, surpinsingly. German wealth after WW2 is very much related to sound application of austrian economics, and now almost all of Europe makes a living from the last real Economy in Europe. Lets see when GB is asking for a bailout. I'm afraid your so called scientific approach is entirely based on promises, and there will be a very bad sensation soon that you cannot beat basic economic laws with silly pseudo-complex econometric models.

zdz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zdz said...

Please don't stop commenting Mr. Huben. Though it might seem a bit morbit, it is still intellectually entertaining to debate new complicated econometric models for deck-chair arrangements while your fellow academic "Captain Bernanke" navigates the titanic full speed ahead towards that big iceberg hyperinflation. It's only frightening to realize that Bernanke, obviously assigned with the task to provoke an "assurance fraud" by the titanic owners who face bankruptsy after complete mismanagement, might actally still believe he is on the right course. Based on econometric models.

Mike Huben said...

zdz: You really are off the wall if you are predicting hyperinflation.

Why not put your money where your mouth is. Let's make a perfectly legal "bet" on hyperinflation. I'll pay you $100 today, which you can invest however you like: gold perhaps. In ten years (is that long enough?), you repay me $10,000 in US dollars. If there is hyperinflation and a dollar is worth a penny or less by today's standards, you profit. If there is less inflation than that, I profit. And in addition, if you invest wisely enough, you may profit from the loan directly.

I will however require a lien on your house to ensure payoff 10 years in the future, just a a bank would for a loan.

zdz said...

Good Point. Really.
I wouldn't take that bet.
You can choose why:

- too risky

- too much to loose

- it's such an unfair bet, imposing 100 times the risk on me than on you (not to mention the possible profits).

Makes me think, that casino economics, where some people gamble with very little (personnal or institutional) risk but extremly high possible profits are somehow endemic now in the anglosaxon world, not only at the macro level, but even in the private life of the gamblers academic supporters. Never mind the moral hazards involved by putting all the risk on other peoples shoulders.

At least you asked me if I want to take the bet - in contrast to the financial gamblers, who simply tranfer the costs to others if the models didn't hold their promise.

Mike Huben said...

But the basic point is that you're making confident assertions about very low probability events happening very soon: just how many hyperinflations have there been? I'm just calling bullshit.

I do have one of those 20 trillion dollar Zimbabwe notes on my desk as a coin collector's curiosity.

One of the basic problems of Austrian economics is that so many of their claims are similar bullshit assertions based on their authority. They choose the right-wing result they want, create a post-hoc chain of "logic", and hope like hell we forget all the other times they've been wrong. It's like watching psychics, complete with ambiguous predictions and claims of past "correct" predictions.

Maybe you can get away with that sort of behavior hiding behind a pseudonym. I don't think it's respectable.

Joanna Liberation said...

Mike, as a math teacher you should know better. Virtually all mathematical proofs that you teach have in fact been constructed post-hoc. Creativity is a much more complex phenomenon than a logic machine.

Mike Huben said...

Joanna, it's not the same. Yes, mathematical proofs are generally created post-hoc to test suppositions.

But in math at least they have the decency to either:
(a) make a convincing proof
(b) make a disproof
(c) give up the supposition, or
(d) clearly state it is a supposition and no more.
Nor do we have to suspect that the math is ideologically driven by conservatism.

Austrians instead bloviate with innumerable unstated assumptions and pretend it is logic.

zdz said...

Maybe we are not talking about the same thing?

The only authority I can find in austrian economics is basic economic law. Austrians tell me these laws rule the economic relationship between me and my neighbour as well as between my country and its neighbour country, that is - they scale.

Mainstream economics tells me that macro-economics is something entirely different and that I'm to dumb to understand it (of course never forgetting to cite nobelprize winner (!) krugman).

Isn't that just a variation of evolution theory against {communism |socialism|cultural marxism|one-world utopia}?
you either believe that evolution is an ongoing process based on a few fundamental laws that will never reach a global maximum, or you construct complex theories and models to justify the claim that your beloved leftwing utopia needs only a bit more social engineering to become reality.

I feel that austrian economics are "savers economics" and mainstream economics are "debtors economics" now. austrian economics explains the relationship between responsible people/states and irresponsible people/states in a way that is consistent with common sense. mainstream economics explains you why beeing irresponsible is as good if not better than beeing responsible.

Although not relying on utopic theories and social engineering, austrian economics still assume there is some keind of law and order and the responsable are in charge. Then beeing a debtor is much worse than beeing a lender. But nowadays the irresponsible seem to be in charge, it's a debtors world.

Is it science to supply them with justifying theories and models?

PS
please notice my respectful style, not calling people names every 2nd sentence ;-)

Joanna Liberation said...

Nor do we have to suspect that the math is ideologically driven by statism, the bias applies to both sides. Personally I have always been a strong individualist, hence my libertarian bias. However, only Austrians actually bother to produce a unified assumptions-based-in-testable-reality logical proof for their whole economic theory (yes, you've guess it, because only individual existence can be objectively tested in reality). You say it's unconvincing, but there simply exists no alternative. Unless maybe you know some unified assumptions-based-in-testable-reality logical proof for your middle-of-the-road-collective-bias position? It's much harder than collecting even hundreds of libertarian critiques. The only thing that binds them together is common enemy, and maybe also statist bias (often not even that), but having common enemy with someone does not prove you are right.

Diego said...

Is there empirical proof for the concept of opportunity cost?

Diego said...

To sal:

Regardless of what the thermometer says, such a number cannot tell you whether a particular person will feel hot or cold when he goes outside. This cannot be measured, just as the concept of cheap or expensive cannot be measured and just as the utility that the Mother Teresa received from helping people in need cannot be measure, and how the feeling of loss of a child cannot be measured, or how the pleasure of acquiring a desired book cannot be measured, or to strength of someones desire to become or do such and such...

Ben Kerr said...

OK, I can't say I've read every word of this lengthy debate. But boy, does Mike Huben come across as an arrogant jerk. Really, is the endless name calling necessary? And this guy is a teacher. No wonder American students wind up being so stupid. They are being force-fed this kind of sophomoric philosophical drivel by close-minded arrogant teachers like Mr. Huben. His only goal is to create more democrat voters so Obama and his ilk will shovel more money at him and his fellow teachers. He assaults "Libertarians" because if their ideas ever became mainstream, such as vouchers, he would be out of work in a second. Really, who would want their child taught by this guy? But the government monopoly on education combined with a corrupt, powerful teachers unions gives Mr. Huben the time to somehow earn a living from the taxpayer indoctrinating their children with socialistic ideals while simultaneously managing 5 blogs, at least one of which clearly takes up a lot of his time. Shameful.

Wang Pinghua said...

Well, the last poster mentioned that Mr Huben sounds like a 'arrogant jerk', which does, admittedly, contain some truth, this should, as many wiser people have noted afore, not have any bearings upon his argument. Having said that, I must admit, I do agree with his basic point, or, at least, what I understand it to be, in his contention with the Austrian School, namely that it is based upon a priori assumptions, which is a very ridiculous thing to base an entire branch of science- even if it is a social science- off of, because a priori logics have certain axioms they must assume be true, build an entire school around it, when, if these assumptions, or even one of them, are proven false, the whole building will collapse.