From: Howard Engelskirchen (howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM)
Date: Sun Jul 15 2007 - 01:50:57 EDT
Hi Fred and Paul, Thanks. If I understand, you both agree that generalizations in the empirical sciences are not logically proved. So Paul, I agree with your project of extending the more sophisticated formal resources now available to us to clarify and amplify Marx's argument (and your article looks very interesting!), but in the end, we still do not establish the validity of Marx's argument regarding the role of objectified labor in regulating the ratio in which goods exchange, or the argument of any other natural or social scientist, by means of the resources of a formal system alone. We have to ground our argument on some other foundation. And some other foundation than 'assertion' or 'conciseness' also. Originally you both proposed empirical adequacy as the other side of the coin -- the counter to logical proof. And, Paul, you argue in your response to me that if the correlation between prices and labor content was only 50%, whereas the correlation between prices and energy content was 98%, then we'd have to reject the hypothesis that labor was the scalar conserved in exchange. But, and this is a question for you both, without more, is this true? Suppose I'm able to show that the incidence of allergies in Glasgow correlates most adequately with the fluctuation of spring prices on the Lisbon stock exchange -- the price record in Lisbon connects the most data points in Glasgow. Must I reject whatever alternatives I'm considering and replace it with the Lisbon stock exchange explanation, whatever that is? Of course not. But then that means there is something else we're after other than just empirical adequacy. Agreed you must be willing to put a hypothesis to an empirical test to call it scientific, but that in itself is not enough. And I notice, Fred, that in your explanation of Marx's argument earlier in response to Paul and then in your recent post in response to Claus, you don't appeal to empirical adequacy at all, but to other features of strength in Marx's theory. Don't we need to make what it is we're after clear? Isn't the point that an explanatory account must pick out a causal structure of social life capable of accounting for the empirical phenomena being investigated? And aren't the comparisons we want to make always in the last instance about causally grounded explanatory mechanisms? We want to identify generalizations that are causally sustained. Suppose a university medical research team identified a virus that plausibly explained 50% of the data whereas the Lisbon exchange record correlated with 98% -- we'd still prefer the research team's explanation. And isn't the difference between objective properties and subjective choices an effort in the direction of identifying competing causal structures offered to account for the ratio in which goods exchange? It seems that before saying Marx doesn't logically prove, which no one does, or that we will decide by whatever theory satisfies the most data points, we ought to situate our discussion with regard to the respective background theoretical contexts on offer and the causal structures and explanatory mechanisms proposed to account for empirical phenomena. That seems a more appropriate way to engage controversy over the role that objectified labor, or any other candidate, plays in regulating the ratio in which goods exchange. All of which is to say that my concern here has been to argue that proposals of the sort that say there's no logical proof in Marx, so we look to empirical adequacy to determine whether objectified labor regulates exchange miss something important. Howard ----- Original Message ----- From: "Fred Moseley" <fmoseley@MTHOLYOKE.EDU> To: <OPE-L@SUS.CSUCHICO.EDU> Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2007 10:13 PM Subject: Re: [OPE-L] equality versus equivalence Quoting Howard Engelskirchen <howarde@TWCNY.RR.COM>: > Hi Fred and Paul, > > Paul, you mentioned in an earlier post that Marx's choice of labor (actually > objectified labor) as a scalar was an assertion and was not logically > proved. And Fred you responded (to Andy and Paul, I think) by saying that > Marx's argument did not constitute a logical proof, but rested instead on > its empirical explanatory adequacy. I read your arguments in this post on > the strength of Marx's argument, but first I want to understand what it is > you have in mind by insisting that Marx has not offered a logical proof. > Equally (or is it equivalently?), Paul, I want to understand what you mean > that Marx's argument about labor is only an assertion. > > Neither of you may intend this, but the argument always seems inevitably to > sound as if this were somehow a failing of Marx's argument: that he should > have offered a logical proof, but failed to do so. > > For example, Paul, is bare assertion the only alternative available to > logical proof in science? > > And Fred, does anyone offer logical proofs of such things? Induction, of > course, doesn't prove. And deduction proves what is already implicit in the > premises. So why do we say that Marx has not logically proved? Can you > offer an example of a generalization in the natural or social sciences that > *is* the result of logical proof? > > Thanks; I've enjoyed the exchange. > > Howard Hi Howard, thanks for your comments. I agree completely with what you say, and this has been one of my main points (sorry if I was not clear about this). Marx has been criticized, from Bohm-Bawerk on, for having "failed to provide a logical proof of the labor theory of value in Section 1". (Indeed, the reviewer in the Centralblatt made the same criticism in 1868, and Marx replied that this comment reveals "complete ignorance both of the subject dealt with and of scientific method.") But NO OTHER ECONOMIC THEORY provides a logical proof of his basic assumptions. The bar is always set so much higher for Marx's theory than for other theories. Theory appraisal should always be COMPARATIVE, so that one could not get away with these debating tricks. I think that Marx provides a strong argument for the plausibility of the labor theory of value, from his objective (or materialist) point of view; but it is not a logical proof, because it depends on this point of view. Similarly, arguments for the plausibility of the utility theory of value are not logical proofs, but depend on the neoclassical subjective point of view. The choice between these two theories cannot be made on the basis of purely logical arguments, but should be based primarily on the RELATIVE explanatory power of the two theories. And the most important phenomenon to be explained in a theory of capitalism is PROFIT, and all the important phenomena related to profit (conflicts, technological change, crises, etc.) Comradely, Fred ---------------------------------------------------------------- This message was sent using IMP, the Internet Messaging Program.
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