"To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity."

H. H. Benedict XVI. Caritas in Veritate Encyclical. June 29, 2009

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A manifesto on the epistemology of economics

1. The prime cause of economic phenomena is purposeful behavior. Economics qua economics doesn't have any more to explain once it arrives at this prime cause.

2. Every economic phenomenon is caused ultimately caused by the prime cause. Something not linkable to the prime cause is, ex definitione, not economic.

3. Through logic, it is possible to develop explanations about economic phenomena whose logic concatenation could not be obvious at first sight.

4. The interaction of the purposeful behavior of different agents or of the same agent through time or of the same agent with regard to different goals could generate the emergence of spontaneous orders which are themselves purposeless.

5. The method of economic logic is useful to explain economic orders and, through this, to arrive at pattern predictions, empirically falsifiable.

6. Economic logic is logically falsifiable in the sense that the chain of reasoning can be proven wrong by not obeying the logic method.

7. Economic logic is empirically falsifiable in principle, in the sense that its primitive assumptions can be proven not to be present in a factual situation.

8. Economic logic is often empirically not falsifiable in practice, in the sense that there is empirically impossible sometimes or always to falsify some primitive assumptions. For instance, it is impossible to empirically falsify that an assumed agent is not such. At the end, the attribution of some assumptions to facts is often a matter of faith. For instance, there is an ultimate impossibility for you to falsify whether this text is the work of an agent (i. e. the external successful fruit of a will) or just characters randomly disposed. Under a model which assigns equal chance to a list of characters to be randomly disposed in each position for a string of some positions, the chance that this exact text be the fruit of pure chance is higher than zero. So, at the end there is an inextricable, this is a necessary, portion the faith, even if small, in your hypothesis that this text is a fruit of some will, a purposeful behavior, an economic phenomenon.

9. Whichever which is not logically and therefore generally modelable is history, is particular.

10. The particular can be approached through statistics, but this, to be sure, is not economic logic.


Anonymous said...

Number 6 is an especially important one that I think Misesians ought to stress more in discussing epistemology.

The only thing I would disagree with, and it seems like a minor disagreement at that, is that economic logic rests on a sort of faith. Faith is something different, faith implies lack of evidence or pragmatic reasoning. Even if I'm merely assuming you've posted this information and it's not a random concatenation of data falling into place, I think it's safe to say I'm not merely acting on faith. Maybe this is just a semantic qualm, but I feel like language like this can be misleading.

Adrian Brenes said...

Thanks for your comment Cosmic Runt.

In regard to this maybe just semantic disagreement, I put it otherwise: what I say, and I guess it's not a too important point at the end, is that in science in general and in economics in particular, when you associate a fact with a concept, there's always something which at the end remains unproved.

Maybe, it would sound more orthodox if I just remind that falsifiability implies the impossibility of definite acceptance of a theory.

But, an application to economics, seems to me, is the fact that you can never be apodictically sure that what you have in front of you is an agent. You always have to leave space for the chance, no matter how small as long as it be not null, that this is not an agent, not a willing, deciding, being. As I find this ultimately untestable through the methods of science itself I call the attention to this fact by calling it an act of faith.

As a disclaimer, I accept that as a believer myself (in religious terms, I say), I'm interested in sell the idea of an ultimate harmony between faith and reason, and I found an opportunity here to stress that harmony and relationship.