[OPE-L:5511] William of Ockam's Razor and Political Economy

From: Rakesh Narpat Bhandari (rakeshb@Stanford.EDU)
Date: Mon May 07 2001 - 21:41:00 EDT

re 5510
>On Sat, 05 May 2001, you wrote:
>>  Inspired by Nicky's [5487] -- excerpts of which
>>  Does Ockham's Razor then not suggest that we
>>  should embrace VFT in preference to Marx's
>>  theory? By the same token, does Ockham's Razor
>>  suggest that we should embrace surplus approach
>>  theory in preference to either VFT or Marx's
>>  theory?
>>  1) to what extent can an appeal to empirical
>>  evidence 'settle' the question of the superiority
>>  of alternative paradigms?  
>There  is an extensive literature on the  relationship
>between Occams  razor and choice between theorems.
>This goes under the heading of the Mininum
>Description Length principle, for an exlanation see:
>or do a web search on Minimum Description Length.

Paul C,
I may be missing the point of Occam's razor but this website does not 
seem to understand it. As Schumpeter notes, the debate was one 
between nominalists and realists, though the realists in maintaining 
that only ideas and general concepts had real existence were at odds 
with the contemporary meaning of realism. The nominalists on the 
other hand argued that there were only singular individuals so that 
words designating a group of individuals or concept were only useful 
conventions but did not designate a reality and were thus to be 
mistrusted. Occam thus maintained that "one should not needlessly 
increase the number of abstract entities," that principle of economy 
being known as Occam's razor.

Just the simple injunction to minimize constants in a regression 
formula does not seem to get at the heart of Occam's razor.

In fact the relationship of Occam's razor to contemporary statistical 
work is at another level. For insofar as modern statistical knowledge 
attempts to substitute "synthetic substitutes for multiple things", 
e.g., THE price index, for increases in price; THE unemployment rate, 
for unemployed persons, it attempts to constitute and support 
realities of a superior level, while still being grounded in 
nominalist and individualist conventions. That the status of reality 
is granted to two levels indicates the ground that has been covered 
since Occam--as argued by Alain Desrosieres, The Politics of Large 
Numbers: A History of Statistical reasoning. p. 70

Yours, Rakesh


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