Re: Hume

From: Ian Wright (ian_paul_wright@HOTMAIL.COM)
Date: Fri Nov 14 2003 - 13:10:14 EST

Hello Ajit,

>If you are referring to Sraffa's book, then, of
>course, Sraffa is not developing any causal theory

In its typical form it's a constraint-based theory,
in the sense that it defines a set of logically possible
configurations of an economy given the assumption of
reproduction and information regarding technical constraints
between commodity types. I agree it is not a causal theory.
The fact that mathematically it is expressed as
solutions to a set of simultaneous equations (i.e,
constraints on possible values of variables) is a sign
of that.

But this isn't a good thing. It's a limitation.
Although this is not to deny that an initial
abstraction from change can be illuminating. So I
think there's no need to justify a constraint-based
theory by implying that philosophy tells us we
can't hope to do any better. We can and should build
dynamic, causal theories of the economy.

(As an aside, mathematical logic does admit of
causality, as computer science has shown, although I admit
this is an obscure point for those not trained in computer

>Hume's challenge on causation has never been answered.

There's been lots of answers to Hume, not least Kant
and Hegel. A modern approach is Bhaskar's critical
realism, in particular "A Realist Theory of Science".
Related to Andrew's point: he holds that critical
realism doesn't fully answer Hume either, and that to
fully answer him requires a more forceful identity between
thought and reality.

But really it is very silly to deny the reality of
causal change independent of our knowledge of it.
And Wittgenstein was regularly quite silly in his
reduction of ontology to epistemology, his empiricism
of language, and belief that philosophy was essentially
about analysing implicit common-sense theories.
Here I agree with Popper that philosophy (and reality)
is much more than that.


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