[OPE-L:6242] Re: Realism regularities and prediction

From: howard engelskirchen (lhengels@igc.org)
Date: Sun Dec 02 2001 - 00:56:25 EST

With regard to both Paul in 6239 (copied below) and Steve in 6241, these
are misreadings of Bhaskar.

The discussion you are referring to is at pp 69-79 of THE REALIST THEORY OF
SCIENCE (RTS).  At p. 76 you'll find Table 2.1 entitled "Limit Conditions
for Closure" which presents the conditions of isolation, atomicity, and
additivity you identify.

But these conditions are the REGULARITY DETERMINIST'S conditions; the point
of Bhaskar's argument is precisely to show that these conditions cannot
hold and that regularity determinism cannot be defended.  In other words,
you are attributing to Bhaskar the position he is attacking.

Bhaskar actually defines a closed system as follows at p. 70:  "I will
define a 'closed system' simply as one in which a constant conjunction of
events obtains."

Now a constant conjunction of events can in fact be produced in the work of
science, but, it is one of the major claims of RTS that what is actually
required in science for experimental activity to take place is completely
undertheorized.  Thus compare the discussion at 69ff, "Regularity
Determinism and the Quest for Closure," with the discussion of how closure
must be produced by the activity of science in "The Analysis of
Experimental Activity" at pp 33ff.  A scientific experiment is artificially
produced and deliberately controlled and normally under conditions that can
be reproduced.  Bhaskar argues that the world is open, not closed, that the
mechanisms of nature (and society) are generative causal agents, not
events, and that these mechanisms are internally structured, that is, not
atomistic, nor additive either in themselves or in their relation to other
agents (ie there is the possibility of composites irreducible to the sum of
their parts).  

The scientific realist critique of the Hume-Hempel positivist theory of
science has developed significantly over the last quarter century.
Bhaskar's early work, e.g. THE REALIST THEORY OF SCIENCE, and also CAUSAL
POWERS by Harre and Madden (Rom Harre was Bhaskar's teacher) are among the
best.  But from whatever quarter, some familiarity with this critique seems
to me required for doing natural or social science today.  Certainly this
is true of economists insofar as mainstream economics assumes postivist
scientific methodology.  Especially this is true also for marxist
influenced social science.  In other words, it is easy to misread Marx by
taking for granted that the assumptions of genuine science must be postivist.


At 10:30 PM 11/30/01 +0000, you wrote:
>I have read with interest Allins paper of the above name, which does
>seem relevant to the debate on econometrics which has been going
>on on the list.
>I would like to make a few observations about it though. 
>First I must admit to ignorance of Bhaskar's work, so that I may
>be misunderstanding part of what Allin is saying.
>Allin says that Bhaskar defines a closed system, one capable of
>generating a constant conjuction of events as requiring 3 conditions:
>1. Outside influences must either be negligable or must be constant
>over time.
>2. The individuals of the system must be atomic (lacking in internal
>structure) or their internal conditions must be unchanging over the
>period in question.
>3. The overall states of the system must be capable of representation
>by an additive function of the individual components of the system.
>I want in particular to question the last condition since this seems to
>be seriously at variance with any reasonable calculus of states.
>Suppose that I have a system with two sub components A and B.
>Let us suppose that A has two possible states and B has 3 possible
>states. Then the system (A,B) has, in the absence of some extra
>constraints 6 possible states, not 5, since each possible state of
>A can be combined with each possible state of B. Thus one would
>normally say that the state of a combined system is the cartesian
>product of the states of its components. The relevant principle is
>multiplicative rather than additive.
>In order to obtain an additive principle for states, one has to take
>the logarithms of the number of possible states of the sub-systems.
>Now the logarithm of the number of possible states of a system is 
>proportional to its entropy or information content, and it seems reasonable
>to argue that the information content of the system is the sum of
>the information content of the parts, but this is not the additive principle
>Allin gives.
>My question is does Bhaskar really mean the states of the system must
>be additive, or does he mean that the entropies must be additive?
>If he means that the states must be additive he is imposing remarkably
>strict constrains on state composition.
>Secondly relating to Lawsons argument that the reality of free human
>choice implies that we can expect to see few if any regularities in the
>social realm.
>It strikes me that were this objection to be true, then it would not apply
>to the social realm alone. At a microscopic level, quantum indeterminacy
>implies that particles can chose which path to follow in an non-deteministic
>fashion.  This would apparently rule out the detection of regularities in
>the physical realm. Of course this turns out not to be the case: although
>individual events are unpredictable, the mean rate of such events can
>exhibit remarkable regularities.
>		One of the facts which appears to have excited the greatest
>                             alarm, out of all pointed to in my work, is
naturally that relating
>                             to the constancy with which crime is
committed. From the
>                             examination of numbers, I believed myself
justified in inferring,
>                             as a natural consequence, that, in given
circumstances, and
>                             under the influence of the same causes, we
may reckon upon
>                             witnessing the repetition of the same
effects, the reproduction
>                             of the same crimes, and the same convictions.
>                             Now, what do these facts teach us? I repeat,
that in a given state
>                             of society, resting under the influence of
certain causes, regular
>                             effects are produced, which oscillate, as it
were, around a fixed
>                             mean point, without undergoing any sensible
>                             Observe, that I have said under the influence
of the same
>                             causes; if the causes were changed, the
effects also would
>                             necessarily be modified. As laws and the
principles of religion
>                             and morality are influencing causes, I have
then not only the
>                             hope, but, what you have not, the positive
conviction, that
>                             society may be ameliorated and reformed.
Expect not, however,
>                             that efforts for the moral regeneration of
man can be
>                             immediately crowned with success; operations
upon masses are
>                             ever slow in progress, and their effects
necessarily distant. 
>		(Quetelet)
>Paul Cockshott

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