George H. Smith

My Cato Essays

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26 minutes ago, SteveWolfer said:

D

I heard him speak in Anaheim at a conference, just a few years before he died.  He had become one of the leading lights of Existential Psychology.  He stayed alive in the concentration camps by imagining that we was really in a comfortable study in his home and he was just remembering the horrors of his time in the camp so that he could write about it.  Branden called that kind of defense, "strategic detachment" - some kids are able to get through an abusive childhood that way.

Frankl didn't just survive the camps, but went on to flourish.

Another triumph for the Passive-Aggressive strategy.  Frankl painted his concentration camp hell to look like a comfortable room,  and god-damn if it didn't work!

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On ‎7‎/‎15‎/‎2016 at 6:47 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

Empirical falsifiability is always a useful notion.  It marks the difference between something meaningful and hot air.  If a statement cannot be falsified on the basis of observation or measurement within its applicable context then the statement is nonsense.  Think of Leonard P.  and his Arbitrary Statements. 

Popper never said this, of course. His falsifiability criterion was meant to distinguish between science and "metaphysics," or philosophy. Popper never claimed that  empirically unfalsifiable statements are "nonsense"; in fact, he wrote a good deal about philosophy himself.  You are reverting to the old logical positivist notion that has been demolished so many times that it is dead as a doornail in both philosophy and science. Popper was not a logical positivist, as he took pains to point out.

[Later edit] To be clear about this: The logical positivists said that propositions that cannot be empirically verified are meaningless. Popper said that only propositions that can be empirically falsified are scientific. But by nonscientific propositions Popper did not mean meaningless statements. Poppers line of demarcation between scientific and nonscientific propositions was not a criterion of meaning.

 

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19 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Popper's stuff is META-scientific.  It is -about- science,  not science.  My remarks are also META-scientific.  

I wish they would not call "social science"  science.  It is  not the least like physics,  chemistry, themodynamics  and such like. 

You cannot weasel out of Steve's point that easily. If we accept your argument that empirically nonfalsiifiable statements are "nonsense," and if you agree that the criterion itself cannot be empirically falsified, then the criterion itself is nonsense. You cannot magically make the criterion meaningful by calling it "meta-science." You might as well sprinkle some fairy dust on your meta-scientific statement to escape the problem.

Ghs

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On ‎7‎/‎8‎/‎2016 at 5:19 PM, Samson Corwell said:

Is there a difference between "reasonable" and "rational" here like the distinction Rawls drew?

I don't have a definitive answer to your question. Brand Blanshard, whom I quoted in the essay, spoke of the "Virtue of Reasonableness," but in another, lengthier discussion of the same topic (Reason and Goodness), he appears to use the terms "reasonable" and "rational" interchangeably. In my mind, "reasonable" is broader in scope thant "rational," which is usually used in the context of beliefs and knowledge claims. But when we call a person "reasonable," we may be referring to a broader scope, such as how the person interacts with others, how he deals with personal problems, etc. I have not read Rawls in decades, so I cannot address his views.

Ghs

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On ‎7‎/‎15‎/‎2016 at 2:46 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

To what extent are the (so-called) human sciences  capable of being falsified empirically?   Popper 101. 

Some statements in the human sciences are empirically falsifiable, while others are not. The relevant point here was made by Ludwig von Mises in Human Action. Mises held that economic (praxeological) theories cannot be empirically falsified, because any given fact may be interpreted in myriad ways, depending on the theoretical framework within which it is understood. Only a theory can refute a theory, according to Mises. For more details, see the last part of my essay on Mises here:

http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/social-laws-part-7

See also my discussion of Herbert Spencer's views on "science" here:

http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/social-laws-part-4

Ghs

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1 hour ago, George H. Smith said:

Some statements in the human sciences are empirically falsifiable, while others are not. The relevant point here was made by Ludwig von Mises in Human Action. Mises held that economic (praxeological) theories cannot be empirically falsified, because any given fact may be interpreted in myriad ways, depending on the theoretical framework within which it is understood. Only a theory can refute a theory, according to Mises. For more details, see the last part of my essay on Mises here:

http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/social-laws-part-7

See also my discussion of Herbert Spencer's views on "science" here:

http://www.libertarianism.org/columns/social-laws-part-4

Ghs

Imagine trying to to quantum physics at that level of sloppiness.  

And facts can refute a theory.  Try the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury.  It killed Newtonian gravitation dead as a general theory.  Fifty years later on Einstein invented the General Theory of Relativity.   All it takes is a stubborn fact or a replicated experiment contradicting a hypothesis to kill the hypothesis.  

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52 minutes ago, BaalChatzaf said:

Imagine trying to to quantum physics at that level of sloppiness.  

And facts can refute a theory.  Try the anomalous precession of the perihelion of Mercury.  It killed Newtonian gravitation dead as a general theory.  Fifty years later on Einstein invented the General Theory of Relativity.   All it takes is a stubborn fact or a replicated experiment contradicting a hypothesis to kill the hypothesis.  

If you think that QM is all there is in the world, then you live a very barren life.

I never said that facts cannot refute a theory. I specifically referred to economics. Mises was not referring to physics and experiments that can be conducted under controlled conditions. He was referring to the study of complex social phenomena in which there cannot be controlled experiments. 

Your use of the term "science" is quite arbitrary. For centuries the label "science" (scientia) was applied to any sustained and systematic discipline that can yield knowledge. Lots of disciplines other than the "hard" sciences meet those criteria. You are using "science" in an honorific sense, as a value judgment to express your opinion that the knowledge of physics, etc., is somehow of a higher status that other types of knowledge. That's nonsense.

 

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5 hours ago, George H. Smith said:

If you think that QM is all there is in the world, then you live a very barren life.

I never said that facts cannot refute a theory. I specifically referred to economics. Mises was not referring to physics and experiments that can be conducted under controlled conditions. He was referring to the study of complex social phenomena in which there cannot be controlled experiments. 

Your use of the term "science" is quite arbitrary. For centuries the label "science" (scientia) was applied to any sustained and systematic discipline that can yield knowledge. Lots of disciplines other than the "hard" sciences meet those criteria. You are using "science" in an honorific sense, as a value judgment to express your opinion that the knowledge of physics, etc., is somehow of a higher status that other types of knowledge. That's nonsense.

 

QM accounts for about 3/4 of our GDP.  Better barren than poor.

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On July 16, 2016 at 7:04 PM, George H. Smith said:

If you think that QM is all there is in the world, then you live a very barren life.

I never said that facts cannot refute a theory. I specifically referred to economics. Mises was not referring to physics and experiments that can be conducted under controlled conditions. He was referring to the study of complex social phenomena in which there cannot be controlled experiments. 

Your use of the term "science" is quite arbitrary. For centuries the label "science" (scientia) was applied to any sustained and systematic discipline that can yield knowledge. Lots of disciplines other than the "hard" sciences meet those criteria. You are using "science" in an honorific sense, as a value judgment to express your opinion that the knowledge of physics, etc., is somehow of a higher status that other types of knowledge. That's nonsense.

 

Well, I happen to think that Mises' proposition is nonsense. Perhaps he meant it in a broader sense. Could counter-examples "falsify" a theory in some way?

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On July 16, 2016 at 7:04 PM, George H. Smith said:

If you think that QM is all there is in the world, then you live a very barren life.

I never said that facts cannot refute a theory. I specifically referred to economics. Mises was not referring to physics and experiments that can be conducted under controlled conditions. He was referring to the study of complex social phenomena in which there cannot be controlled experiments. 

Your use of the term "science" is quite arbitrary. For centuries the label "science" (scientia) was applied to any sustained and systematic discipline that can yield knowledge. Lots of disciplines other than the "hard" sciences meet those criteria. You are using "science" in an honorific sense, as a value judgment to express your opinion that the knowledge of physics, etc., is somehow of a higher status that other types of knowledge. That's nonsense.

 

This doesn't seem to fit in with Lawrence Krauss giving the foreword to your book on atheism.

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6 hours ago, George H. Smith said:

Values and Facts

Smith discusses axiology (the study of value) and David Hume’s celebrated argument about “is” and “ought.”  

My Libertarianism.org Essay #217 has been posted. 

Ghs

 

 

That's a word I haven't heard outside of the Great Wiki.

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On July 16, 2016 at 4:58 AM, BaalChatzaf said:

Another triumph for the Passive-Aggressive strategy.  Frankl painted his concentration camp hell to look like a comfortable room,  and god-damn if it didn't work!

That seems a little harsh.

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On July 16, 2016 at 0:05 PM, George H. Smith said:

Popper never said this, of course. His falsifiability criterion was meant to distinguish between science and "metaphysics," or philosophy. Popper never claimed that  empirically unfalsifiable statements are "nonsense"; in fact, he wrote a good deal about philosophy himself.  You are reverting to the old logical positivist notion that has been demolished so many times that it is dead as a doornail in both philosophy and science. Popper was not a logical positivist, as he took pains to point out.

[Later edit] To be clear about this: The logical positivists said that propositions that cannot be empirically verified are meaningless. Popper said that only propositions that can be empirically falsified are scientific. But by nonscientific propositions Popper did not mean meaningless statements. Poppers line of demarcation between scientific and nonscientific propositions was not a criterion of meaning.

 

LP or LTV: which one is philosophically worse?

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24 minutes ago, Samson Corwell said:

That's a word I haven't heard outside of the Great Wiki.

You're one up on me. This is my first exposure to "axiology." (Spell checker says it's a not-word.)

--Brant

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18 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

You're one up on me. This is my first exposure to "axiology." (Spell checker says it's a not-word.)

--Brant

Ain't that a kick. Happens to my spell checker, too.

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3 minutes ago, Samson Corwell said:

Ain't that a kick. Happens to my spell checker, too.

Which is correct: traveling or travelling?

--Brant

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13 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

Which is correct: traveling or travelling?

--Brant

I'd go with "travellling", but it seems that a single L is also acceptable, as with a word like "labelling"/"labeling".

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15 hours ago, Samson Corwell said:

Well, I happen to think that Mises' proposition is nonsense. Perhaps he meant it in a broader sense. Could counter-examples "falsify" a theory in some way?

The point Mises made was essentially this: An economic theory can only be refuted by a better economic theory, not by the empirical facts of history. This is so because we cannot conduct controlled experiments on social (including economic) phenomena; there are too many complex variables than cannot be isolated. And singular facts do not come attached with their own meanings and theoretical significance. The empirical facts have meaning only when interpreted within a theoretical framework, so different economists working from different theoretical frameworks will assign different levels of significance to the same fact. This does not mean that empirical facts are completely irrelevant to an economic theory. When economic phenomena run consistently counter to what an economic theory would cause us to expect, then this may cause us to doubt the soundness of our theory and thereby reevaluate it. But the falsification would occur at the theoretical level, not at the empirical level.

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15 hours ago, Samson Corwell said:

This doesn't seem to fit in with Lawrence Krauss giving the foreword to your book on atheism.

I don't know what this is supposed to mean. For one thing, I had nothing to do with the choice of Krauss to write a foreword; that was a decision made by Prometheus. 

Ghs

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58 minutes ago, George H. Smith said:

The point Mises made was essentially this: An economic theory can only be refuted by a better economic theory, not by the empirical facts of history. This is so because we cannot conduct controlled experiments on social (including economic) phenomena; there are too many complex variables than cannot be isolated. And singular facts do not come attached with their own meanings and theoretical significance. The empirical facts have meaning only when interpreted within a theoretical framework, so different economists working from different theoretical frameworks will assign different levels of significance to the same fact. This does not mean that empirical facts are completely irrelevant to an economic theory. When economic phenomena run consistently counter to what an economic theory would cause us to expect, then this may cause us to doubt the soundness of our theory and thereby reevaluate it. But the falsification would occur at the theoretical level, not at the empirical level.

A clear indication that Economics is NOT a  science.  It is something, but I don't know exactly what.  I would refer to it as a discipline, since it does have an internal structure  and  logic is at work. 

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On August 6, 2016 at 0:12 PM, George H. Smith said:

I don't know what this is supposed to mean. For one thing, I had nothing to do with the choice of Krauss to write a foreword; that was a decision made by Prometheus. 

Ghs

Krauss is of the same mentality as Bob. His book A Universe from Nothing was a train wreck and his response to criticisms of it was that science, unlike philosophy, is "useful". Given that Bob's tact, which you've ridiculed as nonsense (which I agree with), is almost identical to Krauss', him writing the foreword is perplexing.

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On August 6, 2016 at 1:08 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

A clear indication that Economics is NOT a  science.  It is something, but I don't know exactly what.  I would refer to it as a discipline, since it does have an internal structure  and  logic is at work. 

One gaping hole in falsification is that it needs a theory on what constitutes confirmation.

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1 hour ago, Samson Corwell said:

One gaping hole in falsification is that it needs a theory on what constitutes confirmation.

This is a little too short for me. So my question is, why?

--Brant

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