[OPE-L:4746] Re: Parsimony

Michael William (mwilliam@compuserve.com)
Sat, 12 Apr 1997 13:26:46 -0700 (PDT)

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I would like to continue the dialogue with Paul C. started by his
invocation of 'parsimony' as a criterion of theory choice/appraisal:-

> > > Mike williams
> > > > 1. Reality is complex, so 'parsimony' may conflict with realism.
> > Paul C.
> > > No conflict. Reality is complex but one should not build more
> complexity
> > > into ones theory than is necessary.
> > Necessary for what?
> Paul C:
> --------
> than is necessary to explain what is happening

Then you and I have a disagreement either about what is necessary for this
explanation, and/or about what explanation is. In the face of such
disagreement, aesthetic criteria are not relevant.

> > > The principle is that 'entities should not be multiplied without due
> > > cause',
> > Is this parsimony of ontological commitment identical the conceptual
> > parsimony you evoked to rule out the 'value is determined in the
> > intersection of production and exchange' position?
> >
> Yes

> > > What is the due cause for assuming that both price and value vary in
> > > response
> > > to demand?

> > The intuition that value cannot be quantitatively determined in
> production
> > alone, backed up by accounts such as Reuten and Williams (1989)
> value-form
> > account, whose claim to fame is that they identify more precisely that
> > which is necessary for the reproduction of the capitalist economy (and
> more
> > broadly the bourgeois epoch) as a system, and the insights about the
> > actuality of manifestations of that system thereby engendered.

> You may have such an intuition, but it would help those of us not privy
> to your hunches, and have not read your book, to give some summary
> of your intuition.

I have said much in my interventions on OPE-L and in my draft paper on
Money that indicate the nature of the Value-form approach. Within that
context, Value cannot vary quantitatively independent of Price, because
Price is the only actual quantitative manifestation of Value. (This does
not mean that we should, parsimoniously, collapse Value into Price. They
are both needed to adequately conceptualise capitalism.)

> > > I tend to favour the australian materialist school of Smout, Price
> >
> > Could you elaborate, briefly?
> I consider that Smout, Price, and Dennet are the best contemporary
> materialists that I have read. The work of Price on determinism and
> causation in his recent book Times Arrow Archimedes Point, is absolutely
> brilliant, also his article 'Cosmology, times arrow, and that old double
> standard', in Savitt: Times Arrow Today, gives a good summary of
> the 'block universe' determinist standpoint.

I am not a materialist. Wrt social science (the object of which is, IMO,
irreducibly teleological and intentional) I am not sure that the dichotomy
between materialism and idealism is a useful one. Similarly, I think Marx's
account is best interpreted as transcendental idealist.

> > > > 3. Your naturalism is not self-evident, but needs to argued for.
> > > >
> > > Yes, Lenin did this in Materialism and Empiro Criticism.
> >
> > Without an indication of the key points in this that persuade you, this
> > looks like an appeal to authority. IMO, whilst a case could be made
> > the 'progress' of economics has been largely negative since Marx, 120
> > years of science and social science, and of further philosophical
> > reflection upon them *may* just have led to new insights into
> > epistemological criteria and ontological commitments appropriate to an
> > understanding of society and economy.
> It is not so much an appeal to authority as a statement of political
> position. I share the Leninist view of philosophical disputes as being
> fundamentally political, and that the dispute between materialism and
> idealism is that between progress and reaction in the political sense.

I do not agree. Are scientific disputes also fundamentally political?
Philosophy of science proceeds by reflecting upon science to try and
discern its implicit epistemology and ontological commitment. Of course its
practitioners are ideologically conditioned - but the philosophical
positions that emerge can be evaluated in their own right. I prefer my
politics to emerge from my best understanding of how the social world is,
rather than the other way round.

Dr Michael Williams
"Books are Weapons"

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