Why Philosophers Hate Economists

 

I can’t be the first person on Ricochet to have noticed that philosophers and economists don’t always get along. The tension between the two bears some resemblance to the tension between conservatives and liberals. As the old trope goes, conservatives believe that liberalism is wrong, while liberals believe that conservatism is evil. Similarly, when economists and philosophers disagree, the economists believe it’s because the philosophers aren’t making sense, while the philosophers believe it’s because the economists are morally bankrupt.

Do you have a theory about this? I do. Here goes:

Perhaps the main reason philosophers hate economists is because philosophers and economists both use the same word to mean very different things. To be fair, philosophers used the word first (philosophers existed way before economists). But you’d think philosophers would have no problem understanding that some words are simply semantically overloaded, and this word is one of them.

If you haven’t guessed what the word is by now, it is “rational” (along with its sister word “rationality”). My understanding of philosophy is somewhat on the shaky side, but it seems to me that philosophers generally consider a rational actor to be one who is both self-aware and capable of discursive reasoning.

To an economist, being a rational actor requires neither self-awareness nor discursive reasoning. Rather, being rational in the economic sense simply means responding fairly predictably to incentives. By this logic, even trees could count as rational actors, as Milton Friedman hypothesized:

Let us turn now to another example, this time a constructed one designed to be an analogue of many hypotheses in the social sciences. Consider the density of leaves around a tree. I suggest the hypothesis that the leaves are positioned as if each leaf deliberately sought to maximize the amount of sunlight it receives, given the position of its neighbors, as if it knew the physical laws determining the amount of sunlight that would be received in various positions and could move rapidly or instantaneously from any one position to any other desired and unoccupied position.

Now some of the more obvious implications of this hypothesis are clearly consistent with experience: for example, leaves are in general denser on the south than on the north side of trees but, as the hypothesis implies, less so or not at all on the northern slope of a hill or when the south side of the trees is shaded in some other way. Is the hypothesis rendered unacceptable or invalid because, so far as we know, leaves do not “deliberate” or consciously “seek,” have not been to school and learned the relevant laws of science or the mathematics required to calculate the “optimum” position, and cannot move from position to position?

Clearly, none of these contradictions of the hypothesis is vitally relevant; the phenomena involved are not within the “class of phenomena the hypothesis is designed to explain”; the hypothesis does not assert that leaves do these things but only that their density is the same as if they did.

Despite the apparent falsity of the “assumptions” of the hypothesis, it has great plausibility because of the conformity of its implications with observation. We are inclined to “explain” its validity on the ground that sunlight contributes to the growth of leaves and that hence leaves will grow denser or more putative leaves survive where there is more sun, so the result achieved by purely passive adaptation to external circumstances is the same as the result that would be achieved by deliberate accommodation to them.

Most likely, a philosopher’s gut reaction is that calling a tree a rational actor debases the very concept of rationality.

Hopefully, his second reaction is that different disciplines may use the same word in different ways without debasing each others’ concepts, but I doubt many philosophers get that far. Not because philosophers are unusually obtuse, but because our own conception of rationality is so bound up in our self-identity that we instinctively want to defend “our” definition of the word in order to defend who we are:

Being human means being a motivated reasoner, even when you’re a philosopher.

Philosophers might find some consolation in the fact that good economists do indeed know how weak the economic notion of rationality is. As Ronald Coase (an economist so insightful that he won a Nobel prize for work that included no calculations beyond simple arithmetic) put it,

The rational utility maximizer of economic theory bears no resemblance to the man on the Clapham bus [the British equivalent of the man on the street] or, indeed, to any man (or woman) on any bus. There is no reason to suppose that most human beings are engaged in maximizing anything unless it be unhappiness, and even this with incomplete success…

[W]hatever makes men choose as they do, we must be content with the knowledge that for groups of human beings, in almost all circumstances, a higher (relative) price for anything will lead to a reduction in the amount demanded. This does not only refer to a money price but to price in its widest sense.

Whether men are rational or not in deciding to walk across a dangerous thoroughfare to reach a certain restaurant, we can be sure that fewer will do so the more dangerous it becomes. And we need not doubt that the availability of a less dangerous alternative, say, a pedestrian bridge, will normally reduce the number of those crossing the thoroughfare, nor that, as what is gained by crossing becomes more attractive, the number of people crossing will increase.

It’s unfortunate, in retrospect, that “rationality” should be the economic shorthand for “responding fairly predictably to prices in their widest sense”. If economists had simply used a different word, I think they’d get a lot less hate from philosophers. Moreover, us ordinary folk would have one less overloaded term to deal with. It’s difficult to carry on a conversation when people use the same cluster of letters to refer to such wildly different concepts, especially when both concepts are intimately tied to human identity.

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  1. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    JohnWalker: … the problem [is] that … mainstream economists … ignore … the “information problem”. The quantum of human economic action is the transaction, and the motivation for a transaction involves the (unknowable) mental state of the parties as well as innumerable exogenous influences, including not just present incentives but expectations for the future.

    Too many economists simply throw all of this data away, aggregate everything into statistics … and try to model behaviour based upon these aggregates … 

    I’m not sure philosophers get things right any more frequently, but their predictions are more difficult to test against actual future results.

    That the deep motivations of individual actors may be unknowable, or cannot be fully specified, is no obstacle to rational-choice economists or political scientists. It suffices for them simply to be able to make and test predictions about behavior, given a (utility-maximizing) individual with beliefs and preferences, who acts within certain constraints.

    That they can falsify their claims and predictions is why they claim superiority to philosophers. That they take beliefs and preferences as given, however, is precisely why they they should exercise modesty. We, including economists, all depend on philosophers to examine underlying human beliefs and preferences.

    • #31
  2. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    anonymous:
    I’ve long believed the problem that many people, not just philosophers, have with mainstream economists is that many of them ignore what Hayek called the “information problem”.

    Too many economists simply throw all of this data away, aggregate everything into statistics composed of millions or billions of individual transactions, and try to model behaviour based upon these aggregates.
    This results in a statistical anomaly in how frequently economists use the word “unexpectedly”.

    Having only an amateur’s interest in economics, I have read Hayek and felt acutely aware of the information problem. I’ve also had the luxury of never feeling pressure to get some sort of statistical “result” from economic data.

    It would greatly surprise me if economists ignored the information problem as much as you say, but perhaps it shouldn’t.

    • #32
  3. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Having only an amateur’s interest in economics, I have read Hayek and felt acutely aware of the information problem … 

    It would greatly surprise me if economists ignored the information problem as much as you say, but perhaps it shouldn’t.

    To me the information problem–all the unknowables about human behavior and motivation–is reason why economists and philosophers can peacefully co-exist. They each have their purview.

    And it’s not entirely true that economists ignore the information problem. They use probabilistic models to account for uncertainties. A big thing these days is the use of Bayesian statistical models to incorporate and update beliefs.

    • #33
  4. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Ahem — cough — game theory — cough — ahem …

    • #34
  5. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Snirtler: And it’s not entirely true that economists ignore the information problem. They use probabilistic models to account for uncertainties. A big thing these days is the use of Bayesian statistical models to incorporate and update beliefs.

     Well, that’s a relief!

    Inscrutable as people’s motives may be, I do suspect economists can sometimes benefit from reconsidering the motivations of the people they study.

    For example, in the original marshmallow test, the experimenters assumed that what was being tested was children’s innate self-control, not a combination of children’s innate self-control along with the children’s ability to trust the experimenters.

    The experimenters   knew  that, if a child didn’t eat the first marshmallow, the child would be rewarded with a second one. The children, however, did   not  know this. All the children knew is that some adult  promised  them a second marshmallow if they did not eat the first,  not  whether the adult would make good on that promise.

    Indeed, once children are habituated to experimenters who don’t fulfill their promises, children’s apparent self-control decreases.

    The original experimenters, in their certain knowledge of their  own  reliability, overlooked some of the knowledge that children actually have, which is that adults aren’t always reliable towards children.

    • #35
  6. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I have moved in all of these realms from time to time.  My field is politics, but I minored in math and philosophy and my graduate degree came from 50-75% economists.  My observations:

    1.) Clearly I should have taken a look at that job posting in Melbourne.

    2.) Everything is ultimately reducable to Philosophy or Theology -even Physics and Math (which rely on logical syllogisms -the realm of Philosophy).  Children hate to be reminded of their debts to their parents.

    3.) When economists confined themselves to explaining markets, no one objected.  Economics’ moving into other fields -politics, finance, and -yes-philosophy provoked a lot of griping about a-theoretic imperialism.  Finance has very detailed models of how firms work.  Economists roll in, wave their hands and chant “efficient market hypothesis” and wander off.  Accounting has detailed models of what is a cost and what is a profit.  Economists roll in, chant “competition” and wander off.  Politics has detailed models of institutional relations.  Economists roll in, chant “public goods” and wander off.  It engenders a great deal of dislike.

    4.) Probably also relevant that Economics’ imperialism was aimed solidly at the anti-imperialist academy.

    • #36
  7. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    5.) The other disciplines, though, have often become so fascinating by novel theories and their own lenses that they’d lost sight of their subject matter.  Feminism and Marxism are interesting ideas that shine new perspectives on politics, but no one actually thinks the American Government operates according to the Feminist or Marxist view.  Economists -who formally are not interested in novelty but in empirics -highlighted that -which is why economics was able to imperialize other fields.  No one likes to have the “so what” question put to them, but economics often does exactly that.

    6.) Philosophy in general has seen its authority wane.  It once rule supreme for a brief moment after the overthrow of Theology.  But then Science (and more generally reductive materialism) overtook Philosophy.  Economics is simply the vanguard of the anti-Philosophy powers.  The other sciences dislike Economics for taking the lead.  The only other major competitor is Biology.

    7.) But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms.  No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    • #37
  8. Suzanne Temple Inactive
    Suzanne Temple
    @SuzanneTemple

    Paul Dougherty

    Would it be off base to describe economics as the study of what people do while philosophy as being why they do what they do?

    Perhaps this … Economics: What do people do? Psychology: Why do they do it? Theology: Should they do it? Philosophy: How do we know the what, why, and should of the doings?

    • #38
  9. apaul1960@comcast.net Inactive
    apaul1960@comcast.net
    @WallyworldsRadioman

    Economics: at least somewhat  of a “science” that can be tested over time. Philosophy: often, sleaze masquerading as sophistication.

    • #39
  10. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    KC Mulville:
    Ahem — cough — game theory — cough — ahem …

     I saw the “Game Theory” movie “A Beautiful Mind” a few years ago, about John Nash.

    All I remember is the figments of his imagination.

    You apparently have some insight to share which is obvious to you and goes without saying.

    It is not obvious to me, and I would greatly appreciate if you elaborated.
    Apparently, I fail at reading between the lines.

    • #40
  11. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Sabrdance:
    4.) Probably also relevant that Economics’ imperialism was aimed solidly at the anti-imperialist academy.

     I have no idea what this means.

    Can you put this in layperson’s terms?

    • #41
  12. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    captainpower:

    Sabrdance: 4.) Probably also relevant that Economics’ imperialism was aimed solidly at the anti-imperialist academy.

    I have no idea what this means.
    Can you put this in layperson’s terms?

     I was being too cute, obviously.

    I was meaning that economists taking over territories that had previously been very liberal (anti-Imperialist or anti-Colonial) with economic/libertarian/conservative perspectives (Imperialist/Colonial) irritated them.  The objection is political, not substantive, I mean.

    • #42
  13. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Sabrdance:

    But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms. No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    But how does this make economics and science different from philosophy?

    I am currently reading the work of a philosopher highly regarded on Ricochet, Roger Scruton, and I keep running up against statements that he treats as axioms that seem wholly unobvious to me. For example, he says,

    When I am in pain, I know that I am in pain, without having to observe myself, or in any other way embark upon a process of discovery. This is something I just know, and it is even absurd to suggest that I might not know it.

    -p45, Sexual Desire

    Scruton treats this assertion as axiomatic, but to me, it reads as the assertion of a man who is perhaps unfamiliar with what it’s like to endure long-term, largely low-level pain, where the reality is that you often really don’t know whether you’re in pain or not.

    Especially when there is no obvious cause of physical pain, a person experiencing it may conclude that he’s not actually suffering pain at all. Life just sucks for some undefinable reason.

    • #43
  14. Snirtler Inactive
    Snirtler
    @Snirtler

    Sabrdance is spot on about the dislike of Econ and economists. 

    Like Philosophy before it, the field purports and dares to provide answers to every question under the sun (a bit of hyperbole there)–at a time when knowledge has become so fragmented. It has itself thrived because of that fragmentation (e.g., we note with interest that Aquinas wrote on usury, but don’t look to him to learn about modern-day central banking) , yet now it seeks to offer answers to questions not traditionally within its ambit (think of the popular success of Freakonomics).

    Economists also sometimes overstep their bounds and, as Sabr notes, often do so badly. Claiming the mantle of hard science, Econ encroaches on other fields and demands its due for being empirical, but won’t give Philosophy its due on subjects that are not subject to empirical observation and testing.

    • #44
  15. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    I spent the last couple years of my econ PhD program hiding out in the philosophy department, and found the philosophers to be accepting. Although I was a bit envious of the new assistant prof who could write journal articles with only a laptop and three volumes of Das Kapital on his desk. Typically, economists are said to suffer from physics envy.

    Economic rationality is a pretty low bar. One of my profs was an experimental economist who once showed experimentally that psychotics exhibit rational economic behavior.

    • #45
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Muleskinner:
    Economic rationality is a pretty low bar. One of my profs was an experimental economist who once showed experimentally that psychotics exhibit rational economic behavior.

    I believe it.

    If I heard nasty little voices in my head, but found that some activity (such as constantly listening to music on headphones) stopped the voices, or at least drowned them out, I would do it. It would seem irrational not to :-)

    If you don’t mind sharing, what were the details of your professor’s research?

    • #46
  17. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    captainpower:

    You apparently have some insight to share which is obvious to you and goes without saying. It is not obvious to me, and I would greatly appreciate if you elaborated. Apparently, I fail at reading between the lines.

     You’re right – that was rude of me. I apologize.

    Game theory is the study of interactive logic. It’s the logic of strategy, not just emotional or psychological anecdotes about  bluffing or ephemeral nonsense like that. Game theory is the study of what logic dictates about people interacting (as in economics). In a very real sense, game theory is the logic of economics. It’s where philosophy and economics meet. 

    Economics is both normative and descriptive. It’s normative when it describes what should happen, if everyone acted logically. Of course, groups rarely act logically, so economics is descriptive when it also describes what actually happens in real life. 

    Philosophy, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a descriptive component. It only studies how people should think, if they were logical. It doesn’t bother describing how sloppy we’ve thought in real life  … that’s what history is for.

    • #47
  18. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance:
    But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms. No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    But how does this make economics and science different from philosophy?

     
    I’m not sure I understand the question.  Let me try to be clearer, and if not, try asking the question again.  Economists and scientists frequently engage in philosophy, but they do so badly because they assume most of the important points.  The world is material, the world is rational, et cetera.  And people listen to them.  This galls the philosophers who see the begged questions (not really begged, these are the basis of Baconian science -but still axiomatically assumed).  The Holy Grail of philosophy has been the axiom which logically must be true (“Cogito Ergo Sum” for example).  And philosophers go into great debate about this.  Entire schools, like logical positivism, exist to argue this very point.

    Which scientists ignore and get away with.  That must gall.  Yet when philosophers point out the stolen base, everyone calls them anti-science fools.  Bad blood all around.

    • #48
  19. user_407430 Contributor
    user_407430
    @RachelLu

    Words can, as you say, carry semantic overload, but the problems arise when economists define rationality more or less as you have described (responding predictably to incentives), but then continue to treat it as having the same moral force that it would if you defined it in a broader, Aristotelian way.

    It’s sort of the old story of following out a hypothetical to see how far it can go, and then forgetting that it was a hypothetical in the first place. Economists get very frustrated sometimes when we moral philosophers explain that sometimes people’s conscious choices (purchasing preferences etc) *aren’t* a reliable guide to their real good. To an economist that’s pretty much cutting the only lifeline we could possibly have to reality. And yet, we’re so obviously right on this point.

    • #49
  20. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    As I recall, his research team set up a token economy in a psych ward, rewarding simple tasks with tokens that could be redeemed at a store for a few items. The economists changed the prices periodically and observed the patients’ buying behavior. About all that was required for rationality is that they bought less of any particular good when the price was high relative to the other goods, and more when the price fell.

    • #50
  21. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Sabrdance:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance: But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms. No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    But how does this make economics and science different from philosophy?

    I’m not sure I understand the question. Let me try to be clearer, and if not, try asking the question again. Economists and scientists frequently engage in philosophy, but they do so badly because they assume most of the important points. The world is material, the world is rational, et cetera. And people listen to them. This galls the philosophers who see the begged questions (not really begged, these are the basis of Baconian science -but still axiomatically assumed).

    I guess what I’m getting at is that when I witness philosophers engaging in philosophy, I not infrequently see them also assuming many of their most important points, such as the one I cited by Scruton earlier.

    If scientists do philosophy badly because they simply assume many important points, then are philosophers who assume many important points also doing philosophy badly?

    • #51
  22. captainpower Inactive
    captainpower
    @captainpower

    Sabrdance:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance: But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms. No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    But how does this make economics and science different from philosophy?

    I’m not sure I understand the question. Let me try to be clearer, and if not, try asking the question again. Economists and scientists frequently engage in philosophy, but they do so badly because they assume most of the important points. The world is material, the world is rational, et cetera. And people listen to them. This galls the philosophers who see the begged questions (not really begged, these are the basis of Baconian science -but still axiomatically assumed). The Holy Grail of philosophy has been the axiom which logically must be true (“Cogito Ergo Sum” for example). And philosophers go into great debate about this. Entire schools, like logical positivism, exist to argue this very point.
    Which scientists ignore and get away with. That must gall. Yet when philosophers point out the stolen base, everyone calls them anti-science fools. Bad blood all around.

     I wish I could favorite comments.

    • #52
  23. user_1938 Member
    user_1938
    @AaronMiller

    KC Mulville:

    captainpower: You apparently have some insight to share which is obvious to you and goes without saying. It is not obvious to me, and I would greatly appreciate if you elaborated. Apparently, I fail at reading between the lines.

    KC Mulville: You’re right – that was rude of me. I apologize.

    He wasn’t being rude. He was trying to be kind to the other Ricochet veterans who have heard him drone on and on and on about game theory. ;)

    Of course, we all bite our tongues our KC, lest he challenge us to chess.

    • #53
  24. user_86050 Inactive
    user_86050
    @KCMulville

    Aaron Miller:

    He wasn’t being rude. He was trying to be kind to the other Ricochet veterans who have heard him drone on and on and on about game theory. ;)

    You’re a dozen “and ons” short. But if you really want to hear about game theory — [sound of rifle shots … ]

    • #54
  25. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Rachel Lu:
    Words can, as you say, carry semantic overload, but the problems arise when economists define rationality more or less as you have described (responding predictably to incentives), but then continue to treat it as having the same moral force that it would if you defined it in a broader, Aristotelian way.

    Sometimes I wonder whether economists really are doing this, or if it just appears that way to philosophers because the economists are using a word (rationality) that philosophers are used to attaching more moral force to than economists do.

    I’ve met (well, met in book form) theologians I greatly admire who read more moral import into economists’ arguments than economists themselves do (DB Hart being the most memorable example).

    If there were (at least) two different words for the different meanings of rationality, say “blurglality” for the economic meaning and “snorflality” ( and “snarflality”, “snurflality”, etc) for the philosophic meaning(s), then it would be easy to ask an interlocutor the question, “Do you suppose you’re mistaking blurglality for snorflality?” or “I think I know what blurglality means, but I’m still not sure about snorflality. Could you describe snorflality to me?”

    As things are, though, I think communications sometimes just breaks down over divergent definitions of the same word.

    • #55
  26. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance:

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Sabrdance: But most galling to Philosophers is probably that economists and scientists do a great deal of philosophy -they just do it badly because of all their unexamined axioms. No one likes having their questionable premises pointed out, either.

    But how does this make economics and science different from philosophy?

    I’m not sure I understand the question. Let me try to be clearer, and if not, try asking the question again. Economists and scientists frequently engage in philosophy, but they do so badly because they assume most of the important points. The world is material, the world is rational, et cetera. And people listen to them. This galls the philosophers who see the begged questions (not really begged, these are the basis of Baconian science -but still axiomatically assumed).

    I guess what I’m getting at is that when I witness philosophers engaging in philosophy, I not infrequently see them also assuming many of their most important points, such as the one I cited by Scruton earlier.
    If scientists do philosophy badly because they simply assume many important points, then are philosophers who assume many important points also doing philosophy badly?

     Yes.

    • #56
  27. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Misthiocracy:
    Economics is a branch of philosophy.

    It is not. Economics is very much about what is. Philosophy is about a dream, what could or should be. Even the greatest “philosophical” dissertation in the modern world — Declaration of Independence — is truly about property rights.

    • #57
  28. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    On further reflection, maybe I should elaborate a little more (although there were 199 words in MFR’s comment, so the one word answer was too tempting!)

    Question begging is a fallacy regardless of who does it -so when philosophers do it, they are doing bad philosophy.  But every other branch of the university begs the underlying questions simply as a matter of course -so to a philosopher, the entirety of the university is bad philosophy.  Now, within narrow fields, the question begging can be excused on utilitarian grounds -Bacon and Hume don’t say that by assuming the world is material and mechanistic it is material and mechanistic, they say that assuming it is is useful because then we can do science.  So every scientific statement should have the preface: “if the universe is purely material and mechanistic, then…”  And that’s no longer a begged question, it’s just a conditional, it’s truth or falsity subject to philosophical and empirical investigation.

    Of course, the invocation of utility as the appropriate measure is also begging the question of what the relevant measure for academic investigation is…  Alas, we often omit the conditional and object when philosophers notice.

    • #58
  29. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Sabrdance:
    Question begging is a fallacy regardless of who does it -so when philosophers do it, they are doing bad philosophy.

    But are they?

    In reading both Scruton’s “Beauty, A Very Short Introduction” and “Sexual Desire”, I’m finding myself confronted by apparent question-begging all the time:

    That people always know whether or not they feel pain; that dogs are incapable of planning ahead (granted, dogs don’t seem to plan very far ahead) or being indecisive; that the topic of “Art and Eros” should limit itself to the human form and  not,  say, inquire about the erotic nature of dissonance and resolution in music…

    Yet, by the accounts of people I trust, Scruton is a good philosopher. He’s certainly a lovely writer. And, maybe by the time I get through with what he’s written, I will have learned something true about human nature, despite his question-begging.

    He may not make an airtight argument for his approach to aesthetics and sexuality, but he might nonetheless shed some light on what they are  like, if that makes sense. Is that not good enough?

    • #59
  30. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    MFR -there is too much in your comment to unpack tonight, and I don’t even know that I’m the one to be doing it.  I have not read Scruton, and have no view on him.  Nor do I have a dog in the economics-philosophy fight.  I move in both circles and am only reporting what I’ve seen, not evaluating their claims.

    From a philosopher’s view, the entire exercise of Science is an exercise in question begging.  That is a different thing from a philosopher who uses contestable assumptions.  At least philosophers know when they make assumptions.  From the scientist’s view, beginning all investigations with a proof of existence and logical consequence for ontology is a waste of time as no one seriously objects to the existence of existence and, after all, science works.  Who cares what the truth value is if it accurately predicts the world?  If this were the Matrix, what would it change?

    Generally, I’d just like everyone to be a bit more humble and remember that we’re overwhelmingly working with models of reality, and not the real thing -existence of existence notwithstanding.

    • #60
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