[OPE-L:1393] Re: Pythagorean number-worship

riccardo bellofior (bellofio@cisi.unito.it)
Sat, 9 Mar 1996 01:01:42 -0800

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At 14:22 8-03-1996 -0800, Alan Freeman wrote:

>As Anwar has insistently pointed out, the Sraffian concept of
>determination is that of *mathematical deduction*. It replaces
>objective causality with algebraic calculation. In the Sraffian
>system the equation *is* the real. Thus values determine prices
>according to the Sraffians if we can *calculate* prices from
>values, an idea that has nothing whatsoever to do with either a
>scientific or a Marxist concept of determination.

Alan, may you expand on this, because I am a bit puzzled. I recognise there
is a distinction between the object of knowledge (what we are talking about
in our theories) and the 'real' object to which the object of knowledge
refer. The justification of our propositions refers only to the first, to
the object of knowledge - it is a discursive, contextual, justification.

Of course, as I've just admitted, *for me* the object of knowledge is in
some way linked to 'reality': but here we are shifting outside the
epistemic domain, the one in which we can *discuss* with proponents of
theories different from ours. Rather, we are going into a sort of
metaphysical (no negative overtone implied) domain, which BTW is highly
relevant for the generation of theoretical propositions and for their
practical implementation, but only if you 'believe' in that metaphysics -
to speak in a very loose way.

The real existence of the world of entities of which we are talking can
(perhaps!) be taken for granted when we are working within a definite
outlook with comrades who do not question it. Traditional materialism - the
idea that there is a primacy of the object precostituted to the subject is
simply the other side of idealism.

When we criticize other approaches we should only, as theorists, criticize
them on internal grounds, or maybe fight them on political grounds: we
cannot impose on them our metaphysics, or 'justify' our conclusion through
our metaphysics or thorugh our political views.

Thus, in a sense, yes, Sraffa's equations *are* the reality, as represented
in their object of knowledge, just as your equations and words are the
world as you see it. And nobody is allowed to say that there is something
in the world out there which is not in Sraffa's model (or in your model).

As an aside: the relation between Sraffa's equation and the 'world out
there' is an hot topic for Sraffians too ...
>Their 'essence' of the economy is an equilibrium model of which
>awkward reality is nothing more than an 'imperfect expression'.
>The standard Marxist approach is deeply impregnated with this

They deny theirs is an equilibrium model.


Riccardo Bellofiore e-mail: bellofio@cisi.unito.it
Department of Economics Tel: (39) -35- 277505 (direct)
University of Bergamo (39) -35- 277501 (dept.)
Piazza Rosate, 2 (39) -11- 5819619 (home)
I-24129 Bergamo Fax: (39) -35- 249975