[OPE-L:4193] Re: Re: Re: Re: Who agrees with Popper?

From: nicola taylor (nmtaylor@carmen.murdoch.edu.au)
Date: Fri Oct 20 2000 - 23:41:05 EDT

Hi Steve [OPE-L:4190]

>My reaction to the absence of concrete discussion isn't because I lament
>the discussion of core theory--far from it. It is more an observation that,
>over a century after Capital III, marxists are still dominated by trying to
>solve or circumvent the transformation problem. That, to me, is an
>indication of a degenerative SRP--if I can use Lakatos's term in full
>knowledge that I won't convince anyone else on this list of that judgement.
>I would prefer our discussions of core theory to be about, for example,
>implementing a multi-agent model of Marx's production schema, or results
>from simulations of ODE models, rather than what we actually talk about.

How do you know that you won't convince *anyone* on this list of the
usefulness of Lakatos's framework?  I think, in fact, that Lakatos's
framework might be useful in certain circumstances (but limitations should
be recognised); i.e. in order to have some idea of what is a degenerative
SRP we would surely have to know what are the core assumptions making up
the protective belt of a paradigm.  This assumes in turn that there is
*one* Marxian theory with a recognisable set of core assumptions.  Although
I haven't been participating on this list long enough to be sure of this, I
rather think that there are *several* Marxian theories in the process of
development; some of them with no interest whatsoever in the transformation
problem.  These theories simply can't be thrown together and labelled
*Marxian value theory* with X, Y, Z auxilliary assumptions.  I think, it is
not even possible to say that Marxian theory is defined by adherence to a
labour-embodied theory of value, since value-form theorists have clearly
jetisoned this so-called *core* assumption.   Sooooooo, where does that
leave us with respect to criteria for judging what is degenerative and what
isn't, in Lakatos's terms, I mean???

On the other hand, it should of course be possible to characterise
*particular* variants of Marxian theory according to an explicit set of
criteria (if only to differentiate them).  I'm just interested to know how
you'd do this? And why it would be useful to do this?  For the record, I
agree with you that the transformation problem is a complete waste of time
(but I don't really need Lakatos to tell me that). 


>At 11:41 20/10/00 +0100, you wrote:
>>Some answers to queries and general comments:
>>1) Steve, Bhaskar is indeed the main man behind critical realism. 
>>As it happens critical realism has made really quite extraordinary 
>>inroads into the 'economic methodology' field. This is largely due to 
>>the efforts of Tony Lawson over the last 10-15 years - to get 
>>acquainted with it, you simply have to read his 1997 book 
>>'Economics and Reality' (Routledge). Some hate CR, some love 
>>CR. It is something worthy of discussion, imo. Also, CR is quite 
>>attached to some important Marxist theories. Thus, for example, 
>>our own Hans Ehrbar (hello Hans) sees the 'new interpretation' 
>>through (dialectical) critical realist lenses - and check out Hans' 
>>home page for a magnificent annoted commentary on the whole of 
>>Capital inspired by CR! (Hope you don't mind the plug Hans). 
>>2) Steve, you lament lack of discussion of more concrete issues. 
>>Maybe we can agree that there is a balance to be drawn here. 
>>Discussion should always keep in mind every level of abstraction. 
>>My take on the discussion of eg the transformation problem (eg 
>>between Ajit and Fred) is, in fact, that it there would be some 
>>benefit from some explicit focus on more abstract issue of method! 
>>The thing is that there are surely some fundamental disagreements 
>>at the methodologcal level, and that these will inevitably 'infect' 
>>more concrete discussion, so it is helpful to address them 
>>explicitly some time. This is, in fact, one reason why I took up your 
>>assertion re Lakatos, since it seemed to be a methodological belief 
>>so much at variance with my own which must therefore be one 
>>reason why our readings of Capital are so different. Yet, I know 
>>what you mean in being dissatified with the abstract theoretical 
>>stuff being so predominant - I'm sure most people feel the same. 
>>The last thing to be doing is to be spending the entire discussion 
>>on abstract issues!
>>3) Patrick asks 'what is the alternative to falsifiability?' and gives an 
>>example of econometric falsification. More generally, alot of the 
>>discussion seems to me to have taken as unproblematic the 
>>meaning of 'empirical falsifiability'. (Though, it was questioned a 
>>couple of times). Let me briefly problematise the notion by way of 
>>reply to Patrick's question. Basically, the notion of 'falsifiablity', in 
>>so far as it is a useful one, attempts to express something very 
>>important, viz. materialism: our true concepts must be determined 
>>by, they must 'reflect', the material objects. Yet, even as stated, 
>>this principle of mateialism is hardly uncontroversial. For example, 
>>as I have stated it, materialism embodies a 'reflectionist' theory of 
>>truth and mind. I read critical realism, for example, as flatly denying 
>>such a theory however! And for good reason, it would seem at first 
>>sight. Since the object and its concept would seem to be entirely 
>>different things (one a specifc external structure, another an 
>>entirely different specific internal structure emergent from neurons, 
>>and the brain / CNS more generally). How then can one be said to 
>>'reflect' the other? [John Locke uses the term 'resemblance' and 
>>never once even realises the problem!]. 
>>But less abtractly let me just suggest that there are very different 
>>processes caught up in the term 'falsification'. Patrick mentions 
>>econometrics. OK there is one process. But then there is 
>>'qualitative' research. I would say that this is 'empirical research' 
>>and so must have something to do with 'falsifiability'. Ie. I would 
>>argue against the positivist claim that falsifiability is all about fitting 
>>numerical data to mathematical / statistical models. But, clearly, 
>>econometrics and qualitative research are different processes, 
>>problematising the meaning of the single term 'falsifiability'. Finally, 
>>one can think of different levels of abstraction. At a very general 
>>level we have the 'categories', of time space, materiality, cause, 
>>etc. Or we have general truths like 'if i don't eat I die'. In view of 
>>these it seems, on the one hand, ludicrous to assert the 
>>'falsifiablility' critierion [this is a similar point to the example raised 
>>of the moon being made of cheese]. But on the other hand, we 
>>presumably want to say that the categories refer to a material 
>>world so that in some sense they are 'falsifiable'! But this is a very 
>>very different notion of falsifiablility to that surrounding the 
>>hypothesising testing, using econometric techniques, of, say, the 
>>magnitude of the marginal propensity to consume.
>>Many thanks,
>Dr. Steve Keen
>Senior Lecturer
>Economics & Finance
>University of Western Sydney Macarthur
>Building 11 Room 30,
>Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
>PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
>s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
>Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
>Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

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