[OPE-L:4910] Epicycles (was "causes of changes in prices of production")

From: Drewk (Andrew_Kliman@msn.com)
Date: Thu Feb 15 2001 - 23:20:44 EST

Fred, you now claim that Chs. 6 and 9 of _Capital_ III are about
two different profit rates, determined in two different ways.  I
must say I find this claim shocking and, frankly, preposterous.

The methodological flaws that led you to this strange deduction,
and similar flaws, were what impelled me to write "The Need for a
Genuinely *Empirical* Criterion of Decidability Among
Interpretations" last year.  So what I'm about to say will not be

Unfortunately, it has been almost a year since I wrote that paper
in reply to yours, and you have not responded to it.  You will
have an opportunity to do so next Friday, when I will talk about
"How to Decide Among Interpretations" on the same panel on which
you'll be speaking.

Likewise, you have not responded to the continuing requests during
these last five years for some NUMERICAL RESULTS of your
interpretation that would allow us to assess whether what you say
about it is true or false -- more on the need for falsifiability

Your latest post (OPE-L 4908) is a classic example of what Lakatos
called an "immunizing" strategy, a means of protecting one's
theory (or here, interpretation) from falsification. The
paradigmatic case is that, when confronted with astronomical
evidence which contradicted their theory that the earth is the
center of the universe, the Ptolemaists added epicycles rather
than admit the basic theory was false.   The new epicycles
"overcame" the contradiction between the evidence and their
theory, but in a totally ad  hoc, unacceptable, special-pleading
kind of way.

You have done the same thing in the past, and again now.

Remember how your attempt to discredit the TSSI failed when I
produced incontrovertible evidence that Marx held that the amount
of revenue could exceed the mass of surplus-value?  I say that the
evidence was incontrovertible because you did not try to
controvert it.  Instead, what you did was to immunize your
interpretation against falsification.  Rather than just admit that
you had been wrong, you invented a third definition of revenue.

That was an immunizing strategy because the sole function of this
"third definition" was to shield your interpretation from
falsification.  It just "overcame" the contradiction between the
evidence and your interpretation in an  hoc way.  It added an

Remember my paper, "The Determination of Value in Marx, and in
Bortkiewiczian Theory"?  I presented a whole slew of textual
evidence that demonstrated that Marx consistently held that the
sum of value transferred from means of production to the product
depends on the cost of these means of production when they enter

You did not attempt to controvert the evidence.  Instead, in order
not to admit that your interpretation has been wrong all along,
you immunized it against falsification.  You claimed that these
passages exclude cases in which technology changes, because Marx
didn't explicitly say that such cases were included.   This was
another immunizing strategy meant to shield your interpretation
against evidence that falsifies it, another epicycle.

You have done the exact same thing now.  You are faced with
evidence that Marx held that, when (market) prices change, the
rate of profit and thus production prices also change.  Once
again, the evidence is incontrovertible -- you do not try to
controvert it and indeed this time you found it yourself.

What you have done instead is to immunize yourself against
falsification.  Rather than just admitting that you have been
wrong all along about the determinants of production prices, you
invent a second rate of profit!:

"Therefore, the rate of profit that is discussed in this chapter
and that
may be affected by a change of market prices is a more concrete
rate of
profit than the general rate of profit that determines prices of
production in Volume 3 of Capital.  The general rate of profit
determines prices of production is a more abstract rate of profit
that is
not affected by changes of market prices, as we have seen above."

This is an immunizing strategy.  The sole function of this second
rate of profit is to shield your interpretation from
falsification.  You have just added another epicycle.

The way you try to put it over is by means of the tried-and-true
"levels of abstraction" stuff.  As I have said in the past,
"levels of abstraction" is no term of Marx's.  When I hear it, I
always check to see that my wallet hasn't been lifted.

But even the "levels of abstraction" methodology requires a *wee
bit* of discipline in argument.  To employ it, what comes before
must be more abstract, and what comes after must be more concrete.
NOT the reverse.  But your assertion reverses it.  Your "concrete"
profit rate is discussed in Chapter 6 of Vol. III; your "abstract"
profit rate is discussed in Ch. 9.

Stick to this and your whole interpretation, based on Marx's
"logical method," falls to the ground.

As you know, in Diogenes-like fashion, I have been asking you and
other physicalists a simple question:  "Under what conditions
would you be willing to concede that your interpretation is
incorrect?"  Those who cannot answer it are guilty of dogmatism.
No evidence, no argument, is sufficient to get them to change
their minds.  They know they are right, and they can keep adding
epicycles which ensure that the fact that they are wrong is never
proven, at least not to *their* satisfaction.

That sucks.

Now I know that you *thought* you had answered my question.  You
said you'd concede if you were confronted with new textual
evidence that contradicts your interpretation.

This perhaps sounds good at first, but, as I pointed out, it is
really a pseudo-condition.  That's because you didn't provide the
information that the question in fact asks for -- the conditions
under which you'd be willing to concede that the new textual
evidence does in fact contradict your interpretation.

As we see from the above, there seem to be no conditions under
which you're willing to concede that.  There seems to be no
evidence that you will accept as providing a *definitive test* of
the validity of your interpretation.  Confronted with falsifying
evidence, you have again and again employed immunizing strategies
in order to disqualify the evidence and thereby to shield your
interpretation from falsification.

You write that "The general rate of profit that determines prices
of production is a more abstract rate of profit that is not
affected by changes of market prices, as we have seen above."

No, you showed no such thing.  What you actually did was just
interpret a few passages.  According to YOUR interpretation, the
passages suggest that the rate of profit referred to in Part 2 of
Vol. III isn't affected by changes in market prices.

But how do you TEST that interpretation?  There is the rub.

Do you test your interpretation against other textual evidence?
That's what you said you would do.  You answered my methodological
challenge by saying that, if other evidence contradicts your
interpretation, you would concede that you had been wrong.

But you have NOT done that.   When confronted with this other
evidence, from Ch. 6, you have NOT conceded that your
interpretation is incorrect.  Instead, you have chosen to
disqualify the evidence by inventing another epicycle -- a second
profit rate that exists solely to try to patch up your

You are not using the evidence to test your interpretation.  You
are using your interpretation as a test of the evidence, i.e., as
a way of determining the meaning and admissibility of the
evidence.  That is backwards.

Please propose a *definitive*, *evidentiary* test of the validity
of your interpretation.

In the absence of such a test, I do not "look forward to further

Andrew ("Drewk") Kliman
Dept. of Social Sciences
Pace University
Pleasantville, NY 10570 USA
phone:  (914) 773-3968
fax:  (914) 773-3951

Home:  60 W. 76th St. #4E
New York, NY 10023 USA

"The practice of philosophy is itself theoretical.  It is the
critique that measures the individual existence by the essence,
the particular reality by the Idea."

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