[OPE-L:4190] Re: Re: Re: Who agrees with Popper?

From: Steve Keen (s.keen@uws.edu.au)
Date: Fri Oct 20 2000 - 23:07:59 EDT

Hi Andy,

I have read Tony's book, and am quite familiar with his work--which is why
I decided to read Bhaskar. In far too brief a nutshell, I am moderately
sympathetic to Tony's arguments, but regard some of them as lacking an
understanding of complexity theory, so that his case is somewhat
overstated. Bhaskar, on the other hand... well, put in the "hate CR" camp
on that front.

My reaction to the absence of concrete discussion isn't because I lament
the discussion of core theory--far from it. It is more an observation that,
over a century after Capital III, marxists are still dominated by trying to
solve or circumvent the transformation problem. That, to me, is an
indication of a degenerative SRP--if I can use Lakatos's term in full
knowledge that I won't convince anyone else on this list of that judgement.
I would prefer our discussions of core theory to be about, for example,
implementing a multi-agent model of Marx's production schema, or results
from simulations of ODE models, rather than what we actually talk about.

At 11:41 20/10/00 +0100, you wrote:
>Some answers to queries and general comments:
>1) Steve, Bhaskar is indeed the main man behind critical realism. 
>As it happens critical realism has made really quite extraordinary 
>inroads into the 'economic methodology' field. This is largely due to 
>the efforts of Tony Lawson over the last 10-15 years - to get 
>acquainted with it, you simply have to read his 1997 book 
>'Economics and Reality' (Routledge). Some hate CR, some love 
>CR. It is something worthy of discussion, imo. Also, CR is quite 
>attached to some important Marxist theories. Thus, for example, 
>our own Hans Ehrbar (hello Hans) sees the 'new interpretation' 
>through (dialectical) critical realist lenses - and check out Hans' 
>home page for a magnificent annoted commentary on the whole of 
>Capital inspired by CR! (Hope you don't mind the plug Hans). 
>2) Steve, you lament lack of discussion of more concrete issues. 
>Maybe we can agree that there is a balance to be drawn here. 
>Discussion should always keep in mind every level of abstraction. 
>My take on the discussion of eg the transformation problem (eg 
>between Ajit and Fred) is, in fact, that it there would be some 
>benefit from some explicit focus on more abstract issue of method! 
>The thing is that there are surely some fundamental disagreements 
>at the methodologcal level, and that these will inevitably 'infect' 
>more concrete discussion, so it is helpful to address them 
>explicitly some time. This is, in fact, one reason why I took up your 
>assertion re Lakatos, since it seemed to be a methodological belief 
>so much at variance with my own which must therefore be one 
>reason why our readings of Capital are so different. Yet, I know 
>what you mean in being dissatified with the abstract theoretical 
>stuff being so predominant - I'm sure most people feel the same. 
>The last thing to be doing is to be spending the entire discussion 
>on abstract issues!
>3) Patrick asks 'what is the alternative to falsifiability?' and gives an 
>example of econometric falsification. More generally, alot of the 
>discussion seems to me to have taken as unproblematic the 
>meaning of 'empirical falsifiability'. (Though, it was questioned a 
>couple of times). Let me briefly problematise the notion by way of 
>reply to Patrick's question. Basically, the notion of 'falsifiablity', in 
>so far as it is a useful one, attempts to express something very 
>important, viz. materialism: our true concepts must be determined 
>by, they must 'reflect', the material objects. Yet, even as stated, 
>this principle of mateialism is hardly uncontroversial. For example, 
>as I have stated it, materialism embodies a 'reflectionist' theory of 
>truth and mind. I read critical realism, for example, as flatly denying 
>such a theory however! And for good reason, it would seem at first 
>sight. Since the object and its concept would seem to be entirely 
>different things (one a specifc external structure, another an 
>entirely different specific internal structure emergent from neurons, 
>and the brain / CNS more generally). How then can one be said to 
>'reflect' the other? [John Locke uses the term 'resemblance' and 
>never once even realises the problem!]. 
>But less abtractly let me just suggest that there are very different 
>processes caught up in the term 'falsification'. Patrick mentions 
>econometrics. OK there is one process. But then there is 
>'qualitative' research. I would say that this is 'empirical research' 
>and so must have something to do with 'falsifiability'. Ie. I would 
>argue against the positivist claim that falsifiability is all about fitting 
>numerical data to mathematical / statistical models. But, clearly, 
>econometrics and qualitative research are different processes, 
>problematising the meaning of the single term 'falsifiability'. Finally, 
>one can think of different levels of abstraction. At a very general 
>level we have the 'categories', of time space, materiality, cause, 
>etc. Or we have general truths like 'if i don't eat I die'. In view of 
>these it seems, on the one hand, ludicrous to assert the 
>'falsifiablility' critierion [this is a similar point to the example raised 
>of the moon being made of cheese]. But on the other hand, we 
>presumably want to say that the categories refer to a material 
>world so that in some sense they are 'falsifiable'! But this is a very 
>very different notion of falsifiablility to that surrounding the 
>hypothesising testing, using econometric techniques, of, say, the 
>magnitude of the marginal propensity to consume.
>Many thanks,
Dr. Steve Keen
Senior Lecturer
Economics & Finance
University of Western Sydney Macarthur
Building 11 Room 30,
Goldsmith Avenue, Campbelltown
PO Box 555 Campbelltown NSW 2560
s.keen@uws.edu.au 61 2 4620-3016 Fax 61 2 4626-6683
Home 02 9558-8018 Mobile 0409 716 088
Home Page: http://bus.macarthur.uws.edu.au/steve-keen/

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