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Is ABCT 'postmodern'?

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John Ess posted on Fri, Jun 18 2010 12:56 PM

We know that it is hated by positivists from Friedman to Keynes.  We also know it is criticized for being unscientific and deductive in its formulation.  It is not derived by the scientific method, per se.  It is a claim about the pretense of knowledge:  of price signals, of the how interest rates work, about time preferences, etc.  it seems to be that all other theories but this one claim that a man in a building somewhere can masterfully navigate a complex economy.  Regardless of polycentric attitudes and increasingly changing and fluxuating interests and demands.

There is also a sense in which the anti-Fed position is in many ways all of these things.  It is also criticized for 'destabilizing' markets and undoing rational planning.  Both decentering and the opposition to rational schemes of discourse and planning are both hallmarks of the postmodern.  It seems to me that people claim that it is modern in that it supposes the superiority of markets in determining interest rates, money supply, which commodities are valued (like gold or silver), etc.  But isn't the ABCT not a positive theory, but a negative one?

In the best case scenario, i think, it could be sold to either people who want markets or people who just want a skepticism of the current pretenses in economic discourse.  From there, it hardly matters which way they want to take it.  Since it is better that they understand it as it is than not to do so.  But it might be worth wondering if the ABCT is postmodern in itself.  Or if it contributes to that conversation in philosophy.  If for no other reason than shining a light on how economic conditions get to be how they are. 

One last note: it would seem that the Fed itself has a sort of postmodern ambiguity to it.  It seems non-ideological or so we are told.  It seems to be private, but at the same time 'private cannot be trusted to do its job the same way.'  It is said to be in the public interest, but is not used by the public at all.  It interupts the binary discourse about private/public and state/enterprise, because of this ambiguity.  Far from demonizing the public for the good of the private, it might be worth exploring the fact that there is no such distinction.  But that either terms have been intentionally chosen in order to create distinct spheres.  And further emphasize the need never draw a distinction and to hold both as simply aggregates of people who must have the same rules.  Again, this seems to be a further decentering; from a binary into perhaps an infinite of spheres.  Where each person is held accountable.

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That's like saying, "All bachelors are unmarried." It's playing with words, a tautology.

Firstly, it's an axiom. Secondly, it is not inherent in the meaning of the words "human action" that it is purposeful behaviour. It is a conceptual analysis. I know some people think these can't exist and reveal nothing "informative" (I think they're full of shit, the action axiom is most informative) but what proof do they have? And conceptual analysis certainly does yield new knowledge, even if it merely makes explicit was before implicit.

I am placing neoclassical (empirical) methodology above the Austrian tradition. I am not calling economics a dismal science at all, since I consider it to be one of the most elucidating and eye-opening fields of study one could explore.

That's nice. So what?

I am not nihilistic on the question of knowledge. But let me quote Quine, Epistemology, or something like it, simply falls into place as a chapter of psychology and hence of natural science.  It studies a natural phenomenon, viz., a physical human subject.  This human subject is accorded a certain experimentally controlled input – certain patterns of irradiation in assorted frequencies, for instance – and in the fullness of time the subject delivers as output a description of the three-dimensional external world and its history. And, let me add, whatever evidence there is for science is sensory evidence.

So he basically puts the cart before the horse? This is so fraught with problems I cannot begin to fathom how one can take this seriously.

Freedom of markets is positively correlated with the degree of evolution in any society...

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Jon Irenicus, the word "action" presupposes purposeful behavior.

How can one take Quine seriously? Well, considering he is one of the most respected philosophers of the 20th century, how can one not? He has passed "the market test" far better than Austrian economics!

Quinean epistemology has a simple point: Descartes could never sit back and figure out more about how knowledge actually is produced than neuroscientists can.

"I'm not a fan of Murray Rothbard." -- David D. Friedman

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Neoclassical, here's a thread for our debate.

"the obligation to justice is founded entirely on the interests of society, which require mutual abstinence from property" -David Hume
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AJ replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 5:48 PM

"evidence for science is sensory evidence" - what does Quine mean by "science" here? Of course all we can know for sure about "reality" (a term of convenience, in my opinion) is that we are experiencing sensations, but "science" has all sorts of possible meanings at this level of analysis.

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AJ, quoting from The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, his use of the term “science” applies quite broadly referring not simply to the ‘hard’ or natural sciences, but also including psychology, economics, sociology, and even history (Quine 1995, 19; also see Quine 1997). But a more substantive reason centers on his view that all knowledge strives to provide a true understanding of the world and is then responsive to observation as the ultimate test of its claims. Once we view this as the shared pursuit of human knowledge, and couple it with Quine’s broad use of ‘science,’ then any attempt to gain such an understanding can be thought of as proceeding in a general scientific spirit. Quine then attaches scientific status to any statement that makes a contribution, no matter how slight, to a theory that can be tested through prediction (1992, 20).

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AJ replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 6:10 PM

So really, every casual act of modeling that humans do nearly every moment entails Quine's science. When I turn on my faucet expecting water to come out, I am doing science. Is it important to Quine that the hypothesis be "a statement" - what about just a wordless thought? (Such as just imagining water coming out of the faucet when the knob is turned and feeling a sensation that corresponds to what we would communicate in words as, "Yes, that feels like a likely outcome.")

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To further quote the previously mentioned article, Quine views human knowledge as one all-encompassing system of belief, which is accepted, rejected, or modified according to how well it accommodates and explains what is observed. He sometimes makes this point by highlighting the ‘continuity’ between the claims of common-sense and those of more advanced science, where all attempts at making true claims are viewed as continuous in the general sense of being responsive to the same standards of evidence and testability that are the hallmark of scientific knowledge (1976b, 233).

To quote Quine himself, "Our talk of external things, our very notion of things, is just a conceptual apparatus that helps us foresee and control the triggering of our sensory receptors in the light of previous triggering of sensory receptors. The triggering, first and last, is all that we have to go on."

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AJ replied on Mon, Aug 2 2010 7:10 PM

Wow, that's the first time I've heard a philosopher write on such matters and not laughed out loud. I agree 100%*, and I think as much is entirely obvious when you really take things down to the fundamental level and ask yourself, "OK, what can I really be sure about?" It's to the degree that it's been really gnawing at me that no one sees this. This is a ray of sunshine, although I'm just a little upset I didn't come up with it first surprise

[*Edit: I would just change "sensory perceptors" to "(subjective) sensory perceptions". Husserl's bracketing...]

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Vernon Smith, the famous "experimental economist" (thereby disproving the claims made by Mises and Rothbard that economics can't be studied experimentally), had a very thoughtful review of Human Action that brought into focus some serious methodological failings: http://www.indytruth.org/library/journals/catojournal/19/cj19n2-1.pdf.

Ironically, the man who performed many of Vernon's "disproving" studies, Benjamin Libet, rejected Vernon's conclusions.

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AJ replied on Tue, Aug 3 2010 7:27 AM

FTA at http://www.indytruth.org/library/journals/catojournal/19/cj19n2-1.pdf: "What is not appreciated by Mises and others who similarly rely on the primacy of reason in the theory of choice is the constructive role that the emotions play in human action."

This seems totally off-base; Mises's view seems the exact opposite of this.

The article hardly criticizes anything Mises says at all, and when it does it seems to strawman him. Most fundamentally, it misses Mises's point: an actor's subjective evaluation of his state of affairs - definitely including his emotions! - is what determines the deliberate actions that he takes, in particular the action always being an attempt to better his subjectively viewed state of affairs. No observation about science, short of proving that other humans are not actually conscious or don't actually strive to better whatever state of affairs they believe themselves to be in, could disprove that. To believe so is simply to misunderstand what Mises was getting at.

The article itself is worth a read, though, because it proposes some challenges to the significance of praxeology, even if it fails to address its correctness.

theory of choice is the constructive role that the emotions play in
human action.
Mises and others who similarly rely on the primacy of reason in the
theory of choice is the constructive role that the emotions play in
human action.
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Yeah, I think Larry White's critique was pretty spot on. If anything, however, the demonstration of the correctness of Austrian theories seems to do nothing more than bolster praxeology.

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Cortes replied on Sat, Apr 21 2012 4:22 PM

 

P.S.  I always wondered if leftists actually knew what the consequences of actual factual polylogism or cosmological nihilism would be, as it would not really help their case.

 
Quote

 

probably the realization that they share the same reasoning as eugenicists and racial supremecists.

 

Funny thing. I was reading a poster here who mentioned 'the multicultural left'. I remember the years when I was a teen sympathetic to 'socialism', or whatever I believed socialism was supposed to be (not what I realized). My first instinct back then was to associate anybody who mentioned such a term as being a hypothetical 'bigoted reactionary' boogeyman.

 

Only those kinds of people would ever say that kind of thing (Like the Corporate big business Republican Capitalist Empire, whose armies are comprised of like crazy John Bircher Freeper types who think Jews control Evil or whatever), or so I had been led to believe. Basically, I was conditioned to instantly react in some form of shock, horror, or knowing smugness at anybody mentioning such a buzzword as 'multicultural left' in a demeaning manner, and instantly write them off as a hopeless racist bigot blah blah neanderthal.

My logical path under the 'progressive' aegis, had I continued under it, would then assume such persons' logic to be chained to the oh-so racist and bigoted reactionary bourgeois blah blah they were enslaved under, and due to this their mental nature is destined to always be hard-wired this way.

The irony is astounding.

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1. No, it's not postmodern. To suggest so reveals an incomprehension of both Austrian economics and postmodernism

I think yo want pos modern to mean something very specific that it doesn't necessarily mean - which simply can't be done in the context of this thread.

here you go:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/#1

we can even verifiably refute you on your own "kantian" criteria. And to call  Austrian Econ "Kantian" is a bit of a dubious claim, or at the least not uncontraversial... but whatever.  

 

Austrian methodology overly relies upon folk psychology, as far as I'm concerned. I would like to see an Austrian economist seriously grapple with Paul and Patricia Churchland's eliminative materialism

You're well read, probably better than math and science than most of us here (myself included), but I don't think you know what you're talking about.

In fact I may go so far as to point out all you are doing is making a kind of "list" of things (elim mat, behviorism, Frege, Carnap, hard sciences, empiricism) and only doing a psychologism and appealing to a certain flavor.

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