[OPE-L:4183] Re: Re: Who agrees with Popper?

From: glevy@pratt.edu
Date: Fri Oct 20 2000 - 12:05:27 EDT

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "Patrick L. Mason" <pmason@garnet.acns.fsu.edu>
Date: Fri, 20 Oct 2000 12:00:34 -0400


This isn't clear (to me). No, empirical research cannot  be a "substitute"
for theoretical research - because empirical research IS theoretical

Every statistic is simply the most concrete development of a theory. After
gathering the relevant empirical data we may find that the expected
theoretical relations don't hold. There are a ton of ways of generating the
requisite data: regressions, experimental economics, natural experiments,
simulations, and even calibrations that are now everywhere popular in

After gathering and evaluating the data we need some sort of rejection or
acceptance rule regarding the validity of the theory. Is this Popperian
falsifiability? I don't know. There has to be some way of attempting
objective theoretical evaluation.

peace, patrick

At 03:27 PM 10/20/00 +0000, you wrote:
>A short reply to Julian's question in [OPE-L:4167]:
> > In his #4166 Jerry questions the usefulness of what he describes
> > as "the empiricist method" in comprehending capitalism: to try and >
> nip in the bud any discussion at cross-purposes, could Jerry
> > clarify whether he means "empiricist" or "empirical"?
>I meant what I wrote -- empiricist.
>Empirical research, it seems to me, has to be an integral component of any
>(so-called) "non-degenerate"  research programme that attempts to
>understand capitalist reality. However, empirical research can not
>*substitute* for theoretical research. Nor can empirical research easily
>falsify theoretical propositions in political economy. Thus, we cannot
>verify or falsify propositions related to capitalism with a "litmus test",
>as we might do to settle a question in chemistry, or by creating a vacuum
>in which causality can be tested, as can be done in some cases in the
>field of physics.
>If we are to engage reality, empirical research is thus required.
>Otherwize, we can develop an infinite number of possible theories *which
>are internally -- logically -- consistent* but which are not capable of
>comprehending the subject matter in question. If we seek to do something
>more meaningful for comprehending capitalism than writing science fiction
>fantasy scenarios about possible modes of production which are possible on
>some other planet in some other period of time, then we must develop our
>theories with reference to the available data and history.
>Perhaps we could have a discussion about the shortcomings of empiricism
>("vulgar" or otherwize) and contrast that philosophy to
>In solidarity, Jerry

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