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zyphex
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#21
01-06-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by davobrosia View Post
I guess my but just tells me a deeper analysis of the qualitative and quantitative (if any) difference between conscious and unconscious valuation is pretty important, but maybe that's more a job for advertising theory and sociology than it is economics.
Sure, but I don't know whether you can ever get laws from these studies, but you can get concrete historical information. It is kind of how I feel about experimental and behavioral economics. You can discover strong tendencies empirically and can form explanations, but nothing can be formed into some type of "law". With that said, I think such studies are useful.

Quote:
Originally Posted by davobrosia
I think PM may have once asked a similar question but I couldn't find it if I tried, but how does ethics work without accounting for the differences in conscious and unconscious behavior/reducing it to intention vs. reflex?
That's a heck of a question that I don't think I'm prepared to get into, but I think the distinction between conscious and unconscious is certainly relevant in punishment theory, which is intimately connected with ethics.

As this question might relate to this discussion of Mises, he is a utilitarian, and I don't find him to be particularly convincing or strong on political theory. although he has some good insights when it comes to applying his economic theory to discredit other political theories. In any case, many people who write about Mises and Austrian theory in general like to mix and match the economic theory of "the Austrians" with their political beliefs. There is obviously a tie which makes Austrians more likely to be fans of laissez-faire, that much is empirically true. But there is nothing illogical with finding the Austrian approach to economics to be correct and yet remaining someone who prefers, for example, a Rawlsian theory of justice. In any case, what I am proposing is that just because the psychological conscious/unconscious distinction is not necessary for economics does not mean that it is not relevant for ethics or countless other studies.
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#22
01-06-2014
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Originally Posted by PM View Post
sorry for such a quick and simple response here-- hopefully i'll be around later so i can be more thorough. i'm also working out a response to your post in the other thread, however that may take quite a bit longer, since there are so many spoilers and bullet points and it's really becoming a hassle.



in other words, for you, we mustn't ask the question: but why do they want more of it?

but the why ties in to the whole point about the viennese legacy (the viennese school as a whole and not strictly related to the class you're familiar with): http://vimeo.com/61857758

in other words, your economical approach to economics isn't valid justifiable.
Well that was a very clumsy and heavy-handed mischaracterization of the points I was actually making.

I don't know where the hell you get that I, or Mises, thinks that "we mustn't ask the question 'why do they want more of it?'" The point that was being made is that such a question is relevant in psychology, and not relevant in economic theory. In history, including economic history, such a question is of very high importance and Mises would agree. But in economic theory, it does not matter, just as it does not matter for physics whether the person consciously or unconsciously jumps; he is still going to come down due to gravity.

And yes, it rejects positivism as a basis for constructing economic theory. For a sophisticated argument as to why, read Hayek's Counterrevolution of Science, Part 1: Scientism and the Study of Society.

Also, there is a distinction between economic theory, political theory and ethics, psychology, and history. Just so we are clear.
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#23
01-06-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zyphex View Post
I don't know where the hell you get that I, or Mises, thinks that "we mustn't ask the question 'why do they want more of it?'" The point that was being made is that such a question is relevant in psychology, and not relevant in economic theory.
okay, so then for mises, you shouldn't ask the question of why since it is irrelevant in economic theory.
my point is that you should. the question is "why do consumers tend to act in such and such a way", and if the theory cannot account for that (but only that they do tend to act in such and such a way), then the theory is only good insofar as it is applicable to these consumers that for some certain reasons and in some certain time and context tend towards acting in such and such a way. i.e. it is specific to that specific context.
it's only by situating the theory in a larger and more meaningful context that you can get at the why which makes the theory scientific (viz. which makes it work). you must have an account of cultural practices and the structures which engender such practices if you're to be able to predict anything. but what this really means is that, to predict anything, you must be able to keep constant the structures which engender that predictable activity.—and this is how your misesian economic theory validates itself in practice: by shaping these very structures so as to 'validate' itself.
Quote:
But in economic theory, it does not matter, just as it does not matter for physics whether the person consciously or unconsciously jumps; he is still going to come down due to gravity.
the equivocation you're making between economic theory and physical theory (RE the validity/justifiability each theory can claim in denying the importance of the qualitative ucs/cs distinction) is laughable at best. what you're really showing is how economists think about their science. (cf. habitus.) this is comparable to the way wall street bankers think about "the market".

to be really clear: economists who are developing mathematical models about consumption, etc., start with certain assumptions about human nature-- and of course mises and the rest try to make these apparent to themselves and their readers-- but these are in themselves structured predispositions, and so, are necessarily unconscious.
in other words, physicists describing e.g. gravity as a natural phenomenon are working in a different register than economists describing human nature (tendencies) as a natural phenomenon.
Quote:
And yes, it rejects positivism as a basis for constructing economic theory. For a sophisticated argument as to why, read Hayek's Counterrevolution of Science, Part 1: Scientism and the Study of Society.
Spoiler!

here hayek is lauding popper.
here hayek is saying one thing in the context of a symbolic ceremony which awarded him with a symbol of prestige and humanitarian excellence (the Nobel), but his theory has done another in actuality (that is, literally, in practice, it has destroyed less-than-visible subsistence civilizations.)
bourdieu has a word for this.
Quote:
Also, there is a distinction between economic theory, political theory and ethics, psychology, and history. Just so we are clear.
what this really means is that to look at economic theory you shouldn't look at other things like e.g. the psychology of the theorists or the political theories implicit in their economic theories or the histories which give birth to their ideas.

for an economist looking at economic theory, sure, these are distinctions to be respected.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cursed Lemon View Post
Here's the problem - I am not a means to the end of rape culture, I am the end. I am literally the termination of this whole ordeal.
here's the problem

Last edited by PM; 01-06-2014 at 02:14 PM.
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#24
01-06-2014
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I don't necessarily have a desire to be involved in this discussion because there's probably very little I could contribute. However, I would like to try and understand what it is that PM and Zyphex fundamentally disagree on (if that is actually the case), and ultimately learn something from the discussion.

Thanks to anyone who's willing to respond.

Edit: I'm referring to the most recent posts.
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#25
01-07-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nv1ncible View Post
I don't necessarily have a desire to be involved in this discussion because there's probably very little I could contribute. However, I would like to try and understand what it is that PM and Zyphex fundamentally disagree on (if that is actually the case), and ultimately learn something from the discussion.

Thanks to anyone who's willing to respond.

Edit: I'm referring to the most recent posts.
It's a heavily contextual discussion.

You'll notice that none of the three of them are asking "well what do you mean when you say this" - because they're all talking inside a pre-established framework of understanding.

So you'd have to know what Davo means when he says "unconscious valuation", or what PM means when he says "agents-seeking-capital", or the source of any number of ideas being tossed back and forth. It's contextual jargon that implies acceptance of many underlying assumptions .

You would also need to be well-versed in the socio-psychological effects of economy and theories of motivation as expounded upon by such-and-such and whomever.

Look at the discussion; they're practically not even covering the subject of habitus at this point.

However, the locus of disagreement might be found here:

Quote:
Originally Posted by zyphex
Farther down the line, it becomes a little clearer that the psychology of the actor does not matter for economic theory. If a group of consumers all of the sudden demand more of a good at each possible price because of an unconscious urge, or if they demand more of the same good at each possible price because of some conscious reason, this matters not on the effect it will have in the market place. This represents an increase in the market demand in either case and, other things being equal, the price in the market will increase. The price change is not dependent on the reasons why people want more of a good; rather, it only depends on the fact that they want more of it.
Or, more specifically, that PM's assumption is that current trends in economic theory could benefit from a view tilted more towards the field of psychological motivation, which is where "habitus" comes from.


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#26
01-07-2014
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RE that last part: in short: my point isn't to say that economic theory could just benefit from this-- but that the current dominant discourse (i.e. neoliberalism) habitually misrecognizes how it even works and that it assumes its own success on faulty grounds-- viz. without even realizing or caring to realize the reasons why it is the dominant discourse



recall that this thread is titled 'habitus' with the apostrophes intended and note that i'm not the one who brought up mises itt itfp

linked earlier: http://ptw.uchicago.edu/Schiff09.pdf
see page 13-14 for this author's explanation of habitus
see page 17- for an explanation of the word 'misrecogntion' and its relationship to habitus; this is the word which i was alluding to in the last post RE hayek's speech

see in this connection also the thread on The Viennese Legacy
Quote:
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Here's the problem - I am not a means to the end of rape culture, I am the end. I am literally the termination of this whole ordeal.
here's the problem

Last edited by PM; 01-07-2014 at 12:34 PM.
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#27
01-07-2014
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Thanks Cursed, your response was actually quite helpful. That post by zyphex does seem to help me understand where the discussion currently lies. From what I can tell, PM may be questioning where our decision making originates, and what externalities may play a role in what we do and why we do it. From the brief bit of reading I've done so far, it seems that PM is focusing on society as a collective's influence on human action, or to take it a step further, societies determination of our actions. I think it's an interesting question and would like to learn more. Then again, maybe I got that all wrong. I'm sure PM would be happy to elaborate.

In regards to the statement made by zyphex, which based on how I comprehended it could be summed up as: the underlying complexities of human action need not necessarily be understood in order to validate economic theory and the idea that individuals pursue valued ends.

His example being:
Quote:
Originally Posted by zyphex View Post
But in economic theory, it does not matter, just as it does not matter for physics whether the person consciously or unconsciously jumps; he is still going to come down due to gravity.
I would give a slightly different (but related) example. In the late 1600s Isaac Newton wrote Principia and outline the laws of motion and gravity without understanding relativity. That didn't invalidate his work, and the laws of motion were mathematically verifiable, but could not truly be explained until Einstein's work on relativity.

So could that not also be the case here PM? I'm not trying to sweep the importance of deep understanding of human psychology under the rug by any means. To me it just seems like you could both be right?
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#28
01-07-2014
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This should prove edifying to interested parties:
http://www.marxists.org/reference/ar...0/ideology.htm
Especially scroll down to Ideology Interpellates Individuals as Subjects.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nv1ncible View Post
Thanks Cursed, your response was actually quite helpful. That post by zyphex does seem to help me understand where the discussion currently lies. From what I can tell, PM may be questioning where our decision making originates, and what externalities may play a role in what we do and why we do it. From the brief bit of reading I've done so far, it seems that PM is focusing on society as a collective's influence on human action, or to take it a step further, societies determination of our actions. I think it's an interesting question and would like to learn more. Then again, maybe I got that all wrong. I'm sure PM would be happy to elaborate.

In regards to the statement made by zyphex, which based on how I comprehended it could be summed up as: the underlying complexities of human action need not necessarily be understood in order to validate economic theory and the idea that individuals pursue valued ends.

His example being:


I would give a slightly different (but related) example. In the late 1600s Isaac Newton wrote Principia and outline the laws of motion and gravity without understanding relativity. That didn't invalidate his work, and the laws of motion were mathematically verifiable, but could not truly be explained until Einstein's work on relativity.

So could that not also be the case here PM? I'm not trying to sweep the importance of deep understanding of human psychology under the rug by any means. To me it just seems like you could both be right?
I don't think that example is so much appropriate because relativity supersedes Newtonian physics, so it wasn't just that the knowledge of relativity was "black box" that Newton just used correctly, more like he didn't know what was in the box and didn't know that he didn't know, and also he was wrong and couldn't figure out why because he couldn't see into the black box.
Spoiler!

Last edited by davobrosia; 01-07-2014 at 01:12 PM.
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#29
01-07-2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
okay, so then for mises, you shouldn't ask the question of why since it is irrelevant in economic theory.
Maybe it's just the way you are wording this that is giving me grief, but I reiterate:

Quote:
Originally Posted by zyphex
I don't know where the hell you get that I, or Mises, thinks that "we mustn't ask the question 'why do they want more of it?'" The point that was being made is that such a question is relevant in psychology, and not relevant in economic theory. In history, including economic history, such a question is of very high importance and Mises would agree. But in economic theory, it does not matter, just as it does not matter for physics whether the person consciously or unconsciously jumps; he is still going to come down due to gravity.
The bolded sentence for emphasis. Mises does not say we shouldn't ask the question at all. He is saying that investigating into the answers to such a question is the proper realm of psychology and (economic) history. To be sure, the economic historian should utilize both psychological and economic theory for their study to be complete. Mises is not saying that people should not ask "why," he is just making known the line that separates economics from psychology.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
my point is that you should. the question is "why do consumers tend to act in such and such a way", and if the theory cannot account for that (but only that they do tend to act in such and such a way), then the theory is only good insofar as it is applicable to these consumers that for some certain reasons and in some certain time and context tend towards acting in such and such a way. i.e. it is specific to that specific context.
The question for the psychologist or the historian is "why do consumers tend to act in such and such a way." The economic theorist is not looking for an answer to this question; rather, he is trying to uncover the categories of any action and answer the question, "what is logically implied from consumers (or producers) acting in such and such a way." When studying that question in the context of a market, he is looking to answer "how does a consumer (or producer) acting in such and such a way effect the market."

(For example, in the market context, how does an increase in the consumption of X effect the market, everything else being equal? Well, this represents an increase in demand for X, which will increase the price of X, which will increase the profitability of selling X, which induce more firms to enter the industry for selling X (and thus increase the supply of X) until price is reduced to a level such that all opportunities for money profits are exhausted.) << And behind that are assumptions such as existence of the market, free entry into the market, everything else being equal, etc. etc. But the fact that an increase in demand, other things being equal, corresponds to a rise in price is not dependent upon the fact that demand for X increased due to consumers fulfilling an unconscious urge, or because consumers were effected by an influx in advertisements telling them that they needed X in order to be cool and beautiful, or because it was the holiday season and they buy more of X around the holidays.

However, the reason for the increase in the demand would be of high interest for the (economic) historian and the psychologist (and the marketing departments of firms), and rightly so. It really tells the story of why such and such happened.

(For example, maybe the historian is trying to explain why the number of firms producing good X suddenly increased during a certain year. Using economic theory, they could look at data to help figure it out. They might look at the behavior of prices of X preceding the influx of firms and see that prices increase. Ok, now the increase of firms makes sense; it was because prices increased, thus increasing the relative profits in that industry. But this is an incomplete description of what happened. Why did prices increase? Maybe there was a reduction in supply or an increase demand...how do we know? Well, it might be clear which happened, but to be sure the historian might look at the data and find that not only had prices increased, but the total amount of good X sold also increased. Since that was the case, we know it must have been an increase in demand that was responsible for the increase in the price, which increased the profitability of the firms which then induced more firms to enter the industry. BUT STILL this is an incomplete historical description as to what has happened. Now the question remains, why did consumers act in such and such a way, that is, why did demand increase for good X? There are many possible reasons for this increase, but perhaps you check a bunch of data, maybe you run a statistical regression, and what sticks out as most significant is an increase in advertisement before the increase in demand. Now the question is, why or how did the advertisements effect consumers in this way? To answer this question, one should explore the content of the advertisements, and then use psychological, anthropological, and sociological theory to see why the content of the advertisements caused an increase in demand.)

So what is the point of these examples?

The point is that pure economic theory can only get you so far if you are trying to analyze any historical situation. It is a necessary, but not sufficient, part of an explanation. It takes an action as given and explains the consequences of it. It is merely a tool that connects events to each other. As in the last example, once all of the connections have been made by economic theory, you get to a point where economics becomes silent on the issue, but where more explanation is necessary (the question "why?" still remains). This is where psychology, sociology, and anthropology becomes indispensible tools for getting to the root of the issue (an answer to the question "why?"). Instead of taking an action as given, their task is to explain the action.

The fact that economics takes an action as given is not because economists think it is so, as if actions just happen and there is no explaining to be done as to why. Rather, it is so they can provide a general theory of the logical consequences of any action being taken, no matter the particular psychological factors determining the action. It is not to say that the questions as to why actions happen are unimportant; it is to make clear the sphere of economics as but one of the social sciences, as only one part of any historical explanation of the facts of any concrete event.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
it's only by situating the theory in a larger and more meaningful context that you can get at the why which makes the theory scientific (viz. which makes it work).
I disagree that economics is not scientific because it does not ask "why?" Rather, economics is not the only tool that ought be used in the study of any concrete historical event. It is insufficient in answering all questions (such as "why do people partake in these concrete action"), but it is necessary to answer some.

"An increase in demand for X, all other things being equal, results in an increase in the price of X." Such a statement can be made with full scientific validity.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
you must have an account of cultural practices and the structures which engender such practices if you're to be able to predict anything.
In a certain sense (although I'm not sure in the the sense you mean), this is correct. To make an economic prediction, you have to be cognizant of the general structure of society.

"An increase in demand for X, all other things being equal, results in an increase in the price of X." A statement like this presupposes a market system and presupposes that producers are trying to maximize profits in some way. These are the predictions economics tries to make.

But if you are speaking of some kind of prediction such as "will country A or country B have a higher savings rate?," it is correct that it will be insufficient to just use economic theory to make the prediction. Country A might be a culture of hedonists and Culture B might be a Protestant culture emphasizing the value of frugality. Obviously it is more than likely that Culture B would save more that Country A, other things being equal. But this is not a result of economic theory, but rather sociological theory. We can see that for this prediction, we need more than to just know that each country has a market economy. We need to know the culture and the history of the people in these countries. As you say, we "must have an account of cultural practices and the structures which engender such practices."

What is my point?
Economics can make certain types of predictions, but cannot make other sorts of predictions. In concrete historical studies, knowledge of the cultural practices and the structures which engender such practices is vital.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
but what this really means is that, to predict anything, you must be able to keep constant the structures which engender that predictable activity.—and this is how your misesian economic theory validates itself in practice: by shaping these very structures so as to 'validate' itself.
To make the prediction, you do need to know the structure of society, such as whether you are dealing with a market economy or a socialist economy.
But Misesian economic theory does not lose its validity or predictive power in a socialist commonwealth compared to a market economy. One of Mises' critiques and a reason why he wrote his books Socialism and Human Action was to generalize economic theory from just a study of the market economy to a study of action as such which could then be studied in a socialist context.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
what this really means is that to look at economic theory you shouldn't look at other things like e.g. the psychology of the theorists or the political theories implicit in their economic theories or the histories which give birth to their ideas.
Correct, these things are irrelevant to evaluating the truth of the theory. HOWEVER, there is not a political theory implicit in economics, so that part is assuming too much.

If you want to look at the historical background of the theory, sure, look at things like that, but such a study cannot disprove a theory. Mises could have been a nasty old liberal, but that does not preclude his economic theory from being correct.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
for an economist looking at economic theory, sure, these are distinctions to be respected.
Partial agreement! The distinction are not just for economists, but everyone. You can't really understand what pure economic theory is if you don't know what it isn't, that is, where its boundaries of analysis are.

Quote:
Originally Posted by PM
here hayek is lauding popper.
A large misreading there. Let's look at a section you quoted:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hayek
If we are to safeguard the reputation of science, and to prevent the arrogation of knowledge based on a superficial similarity of procedure with that of the physical sciences, much effort will have to be directed toward debunking such arrogations, some of which have by now become the vested interests of established university departments. We cannot be grateful enough to such modern philosophers of science as Sir Karl Popper for giving us a test by which we can distinguish between what we may accept as scientific and what not - a test which I am sure some doctrines now widely accepted as scientific would not pass. There are some special problems, however, in connection with those essentially complex phenomena of which social structures are so important an instance, which make me wish to restate in conclusion in more general terms the reasons why in these fields not only are there only absolute obstacles to the prediction of specific events, but why to act as if we possessed scientific knowledge enabling us to transcend them may itself become a serious obstacle to the advance of the human intellect.
He is here first acknowledging that Popper's theory is correct or at least plausible as applied to some fields of thought. But then note the bolded section, where his is saying that even though Popperism may be valid applied to the correct areas, "there are some special problems, however, in connection with those essentially complex phenomena of which social structures are so important an instance, which make me wish to restate in conclusion in more general terms the reasons why in these fields not only are there only absolute obstacles to the prediction of specific events, but why to act as if we possessed scientific knowledge enabling us to transcend them may itself become a serious obstacle to the advance of the human intellect."

So it is important to know what Hayek is lauding Popper for and what he isn't. If you want to know his views about these "special problems" where falsificationism is unfeasible because there are "absolute obstacles to the prediction of specific events", read Hayek's Counterrevolution of Science, Part 1: Scientism and the Study of Society, as I mentioned before.
GT: Zyphex

Last edited by zyphex; 01-07-2014 at 02:31 PM.
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#30
01-07-2014
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Also, not that it's entirely relevant here, but Popperian falsificationism has fallen out of fashion in philosophy of science. He even later disavowed that himself.
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