Where Can We Find Knowledge?

 

shutterstock_170848478During one of Ricochet’s big Same Sex Marriage debates during the run-up to Obergefell, @jamesofengland said this:

I think I’ve been clear that I don’t share Augustine’s confidence in specific bad outcomes […] I tend to think of Burke and Hayek as telling basically the same story, a story that I’ve been boringly obsessive about for decades now (before law, I took theology up to a Master’s degree, spending quite a lot of that time dealing with Derrida and Pseudodionysus, who I also believe to be in the same epistemically humble tradition). […] It’d be good to shift the conversation in that direction, because if the subject isn’t [Same Sex Marriage], but Hayek, I’ll have [another Ricochet gentleman] on my side, along with [a Ricochet lady] and [a third Ricochet gentleman]. I don’t know how much Augustine really backs that side, but I think [another Ricochet lady] has a higher epistemology (a sense that we can know more about the world than Hayek thought), meaning that we could pretty completely reshuffle the teams.

Ever since then, I’ve wanted to start a conversation on the subject. Initially, I wanted to write a long essay explaining and defending my own views, but, frankly, I don’t want to put much time into it. Maybe it’ll be a better conversation anyway if I keep it short! So short it is.

My View

Roughly, my view is that it’s easier to know things about family and the structure of human society than it is to know about economic productivity and the structure of the economy.

In other words, it makes sense to be a Hayekian on macroeconomics, but something else (a Thomist or Augustinian, perhaps) on family and community and friendship. And perhaps a third thing (say, a Calvinist or a Pseudodionysian) on theology, and an as-yet-unnamed thing on something else.

One Reason It Matters

This is one of the reasons I (and, no doubt, others) are SoCons and FiCons but not exactly libertarians: We fear action taken on the inevitable human ignorance of economic matters even as we also fear inaction on social matters where knowledge is possible.

Explanation

I’m not giving a proper argument and haven’t properly thought this through, so I’ll offer just this brief explanation in hopes of starting a conversation from which proper arguments may emerge.

Let’s contrast the production of a human and of a pencil. (Any old widget would do, but let’s stick with the classics!) No individual knows how to make a pencil. But most people know how to make a baby. (And many who don’t . . . find out before the second trimester.)

Now expand this a bit. Pencils are one thing. The healthcare system of a -hundred-million-person country is another. At that level, the knowledge of how to achieve economic productivity moves even deeper into the realm of impossibility for the individual.

What about human relationships? Well, some relationships have an aspect that becomes more complex in the aggregate. (National networks of churches or of chess clubs, for example.) But some things don’t change a bit. For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same, no matter how big the economy gets. For any particular romantic pairing of citizens, things are pretty much the same, again, no matter how big the economy gets. The basics of parenthood aren’t changed by the size of the economy, though though how birthday presents are procured for the kids gets more complex, along with some other details. Friendship is basically the same in a big country, and the same things make it work, things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness. (Internet friendships, if they are friendships at all, might be an exception here.)

I also tend to think individual knowledge in one sphere tends to get easier over time, the other harder. Long ago, the Torah told us “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and Aristotle noted that there is no right way to commit adultery. Even now, I suspect (I admit I haven’t done the homework), careful social science would only confirm that adultery causes a lot of harm. Not to mention fatherlessness and other social ills.

But the process by which a widget is made gets more complex every day. It’s getting harder all the time to know how to efficiently make one and accurately price it.

A Disclaimer or Two

I mentioned above that this has something to do with being a SoCon rather than a libertarian. And so it does. But there are a lot of other details to consider and I’m only addressing one of the fundamental ideas that many SoCon-FiCon types probably have lurking in their brains.

Some SoCon-FiCon types probably don’t have it lurking there at all. And, after you work out what social situations are worthy of governmental interest, you might still be a libertarian!

And after you work out whether things that do merit governmental interest merit at from the states or the feds, and whether they’re Constitutional or not, there’s a lot of room to be be a libertarian of one sort or another — or something similar — if you think that kind of economic knowledge is a delusion for the individual but other kinds of knowledge aren’t.

So, I’m talking about knowledge here: not attacking libertarianism or saying anything about same-sex marriage.

So I’ll stop the opening post now. Hope to hear from you in comments!

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  1. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Yes, as a hypothetical it is easier to make a baby from scratch than to make a pencil from scratch.  However, as a practical matter, it is a lot easier to get your hands on a good pencil than it is to get your hands on a good marriage.  I feel sure, Auggie, that you are not suggesting that there is nothing more to marriage than pumping out a baby.

    • #1
  2. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Before we discuss anything, I must point out that that the referenced comment was number 621 of a post over a year old.

    I therefore declare automatic forgiveness for making any point (or more likely, missing any point) that was made in that discussion.

    Carry on …

    • #2
  3. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    KC Mulville:Before we discuss anything, I must point out that that the referenced comment was number 621 of a post over a year old.

    I therefore declare automatic forgiveness for making any point (or more likely, missing any point) that was made in that discussion.

    Carry on …

    Awesome.

    Actually, if I remember rightly, these points were almost totally ignored.

    At least until now.

    • #3
  4. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Larry3435:Yes, as a hypothetical it is easier to make a baby from scratch than to make a pencil from scratch. However, as a practical matter, it is a lot easier to get your hands on a good pencil than it is to get your hands on a good marriage. I feel sure, Auggie, that you are not suggesting that there is nothing more to marriage than pumping out a baby.

    Larry!  My biggest friend-mesis from all of Ricochet, and one of the biggest from that very thread!  Welcome!

    • #4
  5. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Larry3435:However, as a practical matter, it is a lot easier to get your hands on a good pencil than it is to get your hands on a good marriage.

    Yes, indeed.

    I feel sure, Auggie, that you are not suggesting that there is nothing more to marriage than pumping out a baby.

    I am indeed suggesting nothing of the sort.

    • #5
  6. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. The challenges of parenthood vary wildly within families let alone across entire populations. I have a variety of friendships with different degrees of closeness, duty and respect and those three factors aren’t always correlated: I respect @jamesofengland a hell of a lot more than I do some of my closest friends for example (libertarians and their pot, sheesh; also don’t get me started on @tomdmeyer).

    While it may be easier to spot people acting beyond the scope of what is knowable in an economic sense that doesn’t mean that this doesn’t apply to other areas of life. The libertarian position is that what works for you may not work for me so let us each live life as we see fit. In the aggregate, this will work to SoCons favor as they believe they hold the best prescription for the good life. If this is, in fact true, I suspect many aspects of it are, then far more people will choose this life than one that leads to poverty and damaged individuals. Of course, this holds true absent the intervention of the state to protect people from their follies.

    • #6
  7. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right.  At best, I’ve overgeneralized.  (I’ll probably edit the opening post; hopefully that will help.)

    While it may be easier to spot people acting beyond the scope of what is knowable in an economic sense that doesn’t mean that this doesn’t apply to other areas of life.

    Indeed.

    The libertarian position is that what works for you may not work for me so let us each live life as we see fit.

    In principle, I agree–but with some limitations.  You have limitations too, I believe–the do-no-harm principle, perhaps?  (And, no doubt, you have fewer limitations than I have.)

    In the aggregate, this will work to SoCons favor as they believe they hold the best prescription for the good life. . . .

    I’m sure we’ll disagree on some particulars, but, generally, I concur with this notion.

    • #7
  8. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right. At best, I’ve overgeneralized. (I’ll probably edit the opening post; hopefully that will help.)

    While it may be easier to spot people acting beyond the scope of what is knowable in an economic sense that doesn’t mean that this doesn’t apply to other areas of life.

    Indeed.

    The libertarian position is that what works for you may not work for me so let us each live life as we see fit.

    In principle, I agree–but with some limitations. You have limitations too, I believe–the do-no-harm principle, perhaps? (And, no doubt, you have fewer limitations than I have.)

    In the aggregate, this will work to SoCons favor as they believe they hold the best prescription for the good life. . . .

    I’m sure we’ll disagree on some particulars, but, generally, I concur with this notion.

    I think  you’d be surprised at what we actually agree on in principle. @ryanm and I have been around the horn on this a few times, but there is such a thing as a socially conservative libertarian (*cough* Molly).

    • #8
  9. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right. At best, I’ve overgeneralized.

    Now that I think about it again, I see you were actually wrong.  I was talking about the fact that individual romances, friendships, etc. don’t get more complex just because we live in a big country.

    But I still aim to edit the original post in hopes of clarifying.

    • #9
  10. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    I think you’d be surprised at what we actually agree on in principle. @ryanm and I have been around the horn on this a few times, but there is such a thing as a socially conservative libertarian (*cough* Molly).

    Don’t be surprised at what I’m not surprised at.  I heard that podcast.

    And I had some remarks from @midge in mind in the penultimate section of the opening post.

    • #10
  11. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right. At best, I’ve overgeneralized.

    Now that I think about it again, I see you were actually wrong. I was talking about the fact that individual romances, friendships, etc. don’t get more complex just because we live in a big country.

    But I still aim to edit the original post in hopes of clarifying.

    I’m a tad confused as to what scale has to do with ones ability to know things about relationships one is not a part of.

    • #11
  12. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    Saint Augustine:

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right. At best, I’ve overgeneralized.

    Now that I think about it again, I see you were actually wrong. I was talking about the fact that individual romances, friendships, etc. don’t get more complex just because we live in a big country.

    But I still aim to edit the original post in hopes of clarifying.

    I’m a tad confused as to what scale has to do with ones ability to know things about relationships one is not a part of.

    Precisely nothing.

    That’s why Hayekianism on economics can coexist with Thomism or Confucianism (or whatever) on family and community and friendship.

    • #12
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Saint Augustine:

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:The pretense of knowledge is as equally applicable to SoCons as it is to libertarians.

    Saint Augustine: For any particular pairing of citizens, how to make a baby is the same–no matter how big the economy gets. Romance is the same. Parenthood is the same. Friendship is the same, and the same things make it work–things like humility, respect, honesty, and forgiveness.

    Here is a perfect example. Romance is not always the same from couple to couple. . . .

    Now that you mention it, you’re right. At best, I’ve overgeneralized.

    Now that I think about it again, I see you were actually wrong. I was talking about the fact that individual romances, friendships, etc. don’t get more complex just because we live in a big country.

    But I still aim to edit the original post in hopes of clarifying.

    I’m a tad confused as to what scale has to do with ones ability to know things about relationships one is not a part of.

    Precisely nothing.

    That’s why Hayekianism on economics can coexist with Thomism or Confucianism (or whatever) on family and community and friendship.

    How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    • #13
  14. KC Mulville Inactive
    KC Mulville
    @KCMulville

    Jamie Lockett: In the aggregate, this will work to SoCons favor as they believe they hold the best prescription for the good life. . . .

    Let’s make distinctions, however, between a SoCon prescription for a good life, versus a SoCon warning against something that would detract from the good life.

    An analogy …

    I may not know whether adding ginseng to your diet would help, but I do know that adding arsenic won’t. My uncertainty about ginseng and my certainty about arsenic can’t be aggregated into “he’s not certain about nutrition.”

    In the same way, I may not be certain of every aspect of SSM, but I am certain about the aspect of eliminating the dimension of child-rearing. That can’t be aggregated into “uncertainty” about relationships in general.

    • #14
  15. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    Let’s start with the basics.  The main idea in the opening post is that my inability to know in economic matters does not entail my inability to know in these other matters.

    I believe you have a separate objection to my ability to know in these other matters–i.e., an objection not attacking the main idea in the opening post.

    To be precise, you think one can’t have generalized knowledge about human relationships without being part of them.

    Now, about that objection, . . . .

    • #15
  16. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    How can you have knowledge about medical situations you’ve never experienced?  How do I know that dengue fever is painful despite not having ever had any involvement with it?

    My friend, a good deal of knowledge is empirical.  Empirical knowledge in medicine, in science generally, and in ethics depends in large part on the experiences of others.

    • #16
  17. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    Let’s start with the basics. The main idea in the opening post is that my inability to know in economic matters does not entail my inability to know in these other matters.

    I believe you have a separate objection to my ability to know in these other matters–i.e., an objection not attacking the main idea in the opening post.

    To be precise, you think one can’t have generalized knowledge about human relationships without being part of them.

    Now, about that objection, . . . .

    Your main argument is that economics and sociology are not the same disciplines?

    • #17
  18. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    Let’s start with the basics. The main idea in the opening post is that my inability to know in economic matters does not entail my inability to know in these other matters.

    You’re main argument is that economics and sociology are not the same disciplines?

    Let’s not get ahead of myself.  I’m not sure I even have a main argument.  Just a rough attempt to articulate why I hold to that main idea.

    And let’s not get way behind that main idea!  This ain’t about sociology.  This is about something more than sociology.  This is about ethics, which sociology may help to illuminate but which is more than sociology.

    The main idea, a bit more precisely, is that the objects of knowledge in economics, on the one hand, and in family and social ethics, on the other hand, are different objects of knowledge–the former less easily known by one person than the latter.

    • #18
  19. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    A relatively minor point here!

    Saint Augustine:

    The main idea, a bit more precisely, is that the objects of knowledge in economics, on the one hand, and in family and social ethics, on the other hand, are different objects of knowledge–the former less easily known by one person than the latter.

    That qualifier was included (and added to the opening post here and there) because–if I understand Hayek, von Mises, et al correctly–they think that knowledge of how to produce and rightly price a widget is possible.  It just isn’t possible for an individual, or a small group of people.  The knowledge is the collective achievement of a vast aggregate of economic actors.

    • #19
  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:How can you have knowledge of relationships you aren’t a part of?

    Let’s start with the basics. The main idea in the opening post is that my inability to know in economic matters does not entail my inability to know in these other matters.

    You’re main argument is that economics and sociology are not the same disciplines?

    Let’s not get ahead of myself. I’m not sure I even have a main argument. Just a rough attempt to articulate why I hold to that main idea.

    And let’s not get way behind that main idea! This ain’t about sociology. This is about something more than sociology. This is about ethics, which sociology may help to illuminate but which is more than sociology.

    The main idea, a bit more precisely, is that the objects of knowledge in economics, on the one hand, and in family and social ethics, on the other hand, are different objects of knowledge–the former less easily known by one person than the latter.

    Got it, but then I think my criticism still holds once you try to apply that knowledge beyond one’s own circumstances.

    • #20
  21. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:A relatively minor point here!

    Saint Augustine:

    The main idea, a bit more precisely, is that the objects of knowledge in economics, on the one hand, and in family and social ethics, on the other hand, are different objects of knowledge–the former less easily known by one person than the latter.

    That qualifier was included (and added to the opening post here and there) because–if I understand Hayek, von Mises, et al correctly–they think that knowledge of how to produce and rightly price a widget is possible. It just isn’t possible for an individual, or a small group of people. The knowledge is the collective achievement of a vast aggregate of economic actors.

    This is correct. But the analogy doesn’t stop there. Producing a child is one thing, but you are making claims beyond the simple mechanical and biological act. You would be making claims on how to raise that child and form a family around it. This would be analogous to an economist claiming that no one person can know how to best to use the pencil after it is created. Is it best used to do accountancy? Or to write a screenplay? Or to sign the Declaration of Independence?

    • #21
  22. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:This is correct. But the analogy doesn’t stop there. Producing a child is one thing, but you are making claims beyond the simply mechanical and biological act.

    Slow down!  I’m not doing that at all!  I’m just talking about why I think it’s actually possible to make and justify those claims.

    You would be making claims on how to raise that child and form a family around it.

    As far as this thread is concerned, “would” is correct.  Right now I’m only hypothetically making those sorts of claims.

    This would be analogous to an economist claiming that no one person can know how to best to use the pencil after it is created. Is it best used to do accountancy? Or to write a screenplay? Or to sign the Declaration of Independence?

    I don’t see where this analogy is coming from.  I think it makes sense to believe in the possibility of an individual having some knowledge of family and social ethics while not believing in the possibility of his knowing what is a fair price for a pencil.  How is that like an economist saying no one can know how he ought to use a pencil?

    • #22
  23. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Saint Augustine:

    Jamie Lockett:This is correct. But the analogy doesn’t stop there. Producing a child is one thing, but you are making claims beyond the simply mechanical and biological act.

    Slow down! I’m not doing that at all! I’m just talking about why I think it’s actually possible to make and justify those claims.

    You would be making claims on how to raise that child and form a family around it.

    As far as this thread is concerned, “would” is correct. Right now I’m only hypothetically making those sorts of claims.

    This would be analogous to an economist claiming that no one person can know how to best to use the pencil after it is created. Is it best used to do accountancy? Or to write a screenplay? Or to sign the Declaration of Independence?

    I don’t see where this analogy is coming from. I think it makes sense to believe in the possibility of an individual having some knowledge of family and social ethics while not believing in the possibility of his knowing what is a fair price for a pencil. How is that like an economist saying no one can know how he ought to use a pencil?

    Ok now I really don’t know where you’re going. You seem to be making a really false comparison between basic knowledge of biology: we know that it takes a male and a female copulating to fertilize an egg and create a new human to complex economics: extrapolating data of specific events to large order effects. The correct analogy would then be something simple like “how to make a baby” to “the relationship between supply and demand” – which is something easily knowable and testable through econometrics.

    • #23
  24. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Saint Augustine: And I had some remarks from @midge in mind in the penultimate section of the opening post.

    Hmm… having some family business to prepare for later this afternoon, I’m not sure what to say…
    Pascal
    Bayes
    Hayek
    Sowell
    Michael Polanyi
    ET Jaynes…

    We know more than we can tell, but less than we need to know for central planning.

    I sympathize with what Jamie has said about romance and friendship, despite revering the Christian family as a kind of living icon. I think because of my own family and romantic life, I’ve often found myself in an in-between place. Not as regards to some moral prohibitions, but as regards to others – my dear husband is not yet a Christian, for example, though he may be changing his mind about that (at his own pace – it is not something I can force!) So, how do we know about those intimate, personal things?… especially when the good we have or think we can have doesn’t match our ideal archetype…

    Sometimes I think about the analogy between moral fitness (or, say family fitness) and physical fitness. We know it is good to be fit, that some are so almost without trying and for others it’s a struggle. We also know that even those who find it easy to at least look fit should cultivate healthy habits, because their good luck can easily change: another decade, an injury – sometimes it doesn’t take much to change fitness from effortless to effortful! But I think most conservatives understand that the visible “results” aren’t the whole story – most of us would not, for example, despise overweight people for trying to keep fit, even if the results never looked terribly impressive. Of course, physical fitness is just one good among many – it truly is more important to not be evil and not foster family chaos than it is to not be fat. So there’s only so far this analogy can be taken.

    • #24
  25. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Saint Augustine:

    Or to sign the Declaration of Independence?

    Only barbarians sign things with pencils.

    • #25
  26. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Jamie Lockett:Ok now I really don’t know where you’re going. You seem to be making a really false comparison between basic knowledge of biology: we know that it takes a male and a female copulating to fertilize an egg and create a new human to complex economics: extrapolating data of specific events to large order effects. The correct analogy would then be something simple like “how to make a baby” to “the relationship between supply and demand” – which is something easily knowable and testable through econometrics.

    Generally we are free to interpolate between discrete points of known data.  Extrapolation is essentially Speculation and should be frowned upon.

    • #26
  27. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Jamie Lockett:

    Ok now I really don’t know where you’re going.

    I concur.  See below.

    You seem to be making a really false comparison between basic knowledge of biology: we know that it takes a male and a female copulating to fertilize an egg and create a new human to complex economics: extrapolating data of specific events to large order effects.

    First, and most importantly, that doesn’t sound to me at all like what I’m doing.

    (Second, it would be better to say I’m making a contrast than a comparison.

    Third, the economic knowledge I’m talking about is how to efficiently produce and effectively price a widget.  I don’t think that has much to do with the extrapolation you mention.)

    The correct analogy would then be something simple like “how to make a baby” to “the relationship between supply and demand” – which is something easily knowable and testable through econometrics.

    Well, yes, I never said it’s impossible for a person to have no economic knowledge at all.  There might well be good comparisons between economic knowledge and the moral knowledge I’m concerned with.

    • #27
  28. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Majestyk:

    Jamie Lockett:Ok now I really don’t know where you’re going. You seem to be making a really false comparison between basic knowledge of biology: we know that it takes a male and a female copulating to fertilize an egg and create a new human to complex economics: extrapolating data of specific events to large order effects. The correct analogy would then be something simple like “how to make a baby” to “the relationship between supply and demand” – which is something easily knowable and testable through econometrics.

    Generally we are free to interpolate between discrete points of known data. Extrapolation is essentially Speculation and should be frowned upon.

    That was an awesome distinction.

    • #28
  29. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    KC Mulville: I may not know whether adding ginseng to your diet would help, but I do know that adding arsenic won’t. My uncertainty about ginseng and my certainty about arsenic can’t be aggregated into “he’s not certain about nutrition.”

    Great example: Arsenic in small doses can actually be used to treat certain illnesses. In the past it was used to treat syphilis and dysentery. And it is currently used to treat cancer. As my grandfather was fond of saying: there are no poisons only poisonous doses.

    All this is a roundabout way of saying: what people know isn’t always truth.

    • #29
  30. Saint Augustine Member
    Saint Augustine
    @SaintAugustine

    Better to say that what we think we know isn’t always true.

    • #30
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