George H. Smith

My Cato Essays

Recommended Posts

1 hour ago, Samson Corwell said:

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.

For me it makes it interesting.

--Brant

thanks for the heads up

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Samson Corwell said:

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

This is not a problem in the physical sciences.  In the so-called social sciences, it is not clear what an assertion of fact looks like.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

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

--Brant

You cannot say that one scientific theory has a problem without having other scientific theories that are taken to be confirmed, and falsification does not provide a way to confirm theories.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, BaalChatzaf said:

This is not a problem in the physical sciences.  In the so-called social sciences, it is not clear what an assertion of fact looks like.

You are correct that it is not a problem with the "hard" sciences (I recognize no such distinction). It is a problem with falsificationism.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

For me it makes it interesting.

--Brant

thanks for the heads up

I actually haven't read it. I have read what Krauss says he does (or claims to do) and I've read/heard the ideas of his that he put into the book. He claims that physics can explain why there is "something" instead of "nothing". His explanation boils down to: the conditions in quantum fields (or something of the sort) are such that they give rise to particles and space. That's a fine explanation—if he were explaining why there are particles instead of just quantum stuff. The giant hole: quantum fields are something rather than nothing. His explanation doesn't address that big question at all.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Samson Corwell said:

You are correct that it is not a problem with the "hard" sciences (I recognize no such distinction). It is a problem with falsificationism.

There is no problem with falsification.  It is nothing but the basic logical proposition if A  implies B   then not-B implies not-A.  If the hypothesis H  implies the observable O   under conditions C    then if  an experiment done under conditions C  shows that  O  is not the case, then the hypothesis  H  is false. Which means  that either the conditions C  are not completely specified or the experiment was not sound  (problem with the instruments)  or hypothesis H  must be fixed or replaced with another hypothesis. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, Samson Corwell said:

You cannot say that one scientific theory has a problem without having other scientific theories that are taken to be confirmed, and falsification does not provide a way to confirm theories.

It's not supposed to. Theories are tentative and valid qua theory if they can be theorecticaly falsified. If they are actually falsified then they are discarded or modified. Now if Einstein's theories about relativity were falsified but not yet replaceable one has to also consider that in practical applications they so far work anyway. In such a case physics would require a new genius to come along. The applications will continue insofar as they can. Confirmation is in the application(s) but even that is somewhat tentative. The search for absolutism is a trap laid out by ideologues to catch followers who need mental rest. There is no rest.

--Brant

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Reason and Ethics

Smith criticizes Hume’s claim that reason cannot motivate actions, and explains how moral sense philosophers dealt with the problem of differing moral standards.

 

My L.org Essay #219 has been posted.

 

Ghs

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On August 6, 2016 at 0:08 PM, 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.

This has bothered me. If the fact that we cannot "conduct controlled experiments" is the problem, then shouldn't this also rule out astronomy as an empirical science. After all, all we have are observations, much like economic history. And why does the "singular facts do not come attached with their own meanings" not also apply to astronomy (or any of the other "hard" sciences)? Didn't Popper say something about fact (or maybe it was observations) being theory-laden?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Samson Corwell said:

This has bothered me. If the fact that we cannot "conduct controlled experiments" is the problem, then shouldn't this also rule out astronomy as an empirical science. After all, all we have are observations, much like economic history. And why does the "singular facts do not come attached with their own meanings" not also apply to astronomy (or any of the other "hard" sciences)? Didn't Popper say something about fact (or maybe it was observations) being theory-laden?

It's not a problem. A lot of hard science is mere observation and analysis, like geology.

The universe is thus like the economy. It's understood, insofar as it is understood (so far) by understanding the parts--as many as possible, but the economy is "human action"--not the universe (except for some human trifling). The economists and astronomers throw blankets called "theories" over what is going on so they can be, might be, at least for a while, almost as smart as Einstein. Some of these theories are good for pointing the way to more supporting facts, making them even more important.

--Brant

and the beat goes on

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
George H. Smith said:

[…]although I do not hold the philosophical theories of either Schopenhauer or Nietzsche in high regard, the same is not true of their psychological insights, which are frequently sagacious and highly suggestive.

What are some of these insights of theirs?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 8/27/2016 at 7:35 PM, Brant Gaede said:

The economists and astronomers throw blankets called "theories" over what is going on so they can be, might be, at least for a while, almost as smart as Einstein. Some of these theories are good for pointing the way to more supporting facts, making them even more important.

--Brant

and the beat goes on

The astronomers and astro-physicists make full use of physical theories.  The discovery of  the spectral signature for the make-up of hot gases enables astronomers and astro-physicists to figure out how stars work.  Atomic (and sub-atomic theory) plus relativity tell us that stars generate their energy by nuclear fusion of the lighter elements into heavier elements.  The astronomers could not have gotten that without the physics.

Observation alone is not sufficient.  Ptolemy used the incorrect geo-centric model of the solar system to plot the course of planets.  He was close enough for stellar navigation  but way off in formulating trajectories.   Ptolemy had no notion of the forces that move the celestial bodies.  He did not have a theory of gravitation.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Back to the Ethics of Belief

Smith resumes his discussion of whether beliefs per se can be immoral.

My Libertarianism.org Essay #220 has been posted. I was given two weeks off to work on  the next L.org Reader: Critics of State Education. The manuscript should be complete by next Friday.

Ghs

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Belief and Doubt

Smith discusses various meanings of "belief" and "doubt."

My Libertarianism.org Essay #222 has been posted.

I neglected to post a link to last week's essay, "Do We have a Moral Obligation to be Rational?" It may be found here.

Ghs

 

 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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.

 

How long has this back-and-forth over science between you and Bob been going on for? It appears to me that you and him have been at it for at least six years, but I get the feeling it might be longer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/7/2016 at 3:10 PM, George H. Smith said:

Belief and Doubt

Smith discusses various meanings of "belief" and "doubt."

My Libertarianism.org Essay #222 has been posted.

I neglected to post a link to last week's essay, "Do We have a Moral Obligation to be Rational?" It may be found here.

Ghs

 

 

 

internally held mental states that do not produce externally observable actions  cannot be morally judged.  Such states  have no moral or ethical  import therefore cannot be judged either moral or immoral.  To but it more briefly  only external actions can be moral or immoral.  

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Brant Gaede said:

Except to oneself.

--Brant

As in approval or disapproval.   That is very subjective...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/14/2016 at 6:31 PM, BaalChatzaf said:

As in approval or disapproval.   That is very subjective...

Not when the consequences are identified.

--Brant

the consequentalist

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Brant Gaede said:

Not when the consequences are identified.

--Brant

the consequentalist

Inferred consequences.  Still subjective in part.  Even if one uses sound Bayesian reasoning the  prior probabilities are based largely on belief or expectation  which is subjective.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...