Essays In Positive Economics

Essays In Positive Economics-22
It is intuitively obvious that a logical argument only has substantive meaning if its premises are true even to those who lack a formal understanding of logic.

At this point it should at least be apparent that Friedman’s assertion that the law of falling bodies “is accepted because it works” is not nearly as clear cut as Friedman tries to make it seem.

Friedman, himself, expounded on but a few of the innumerable situations in which this law, , does not work, and, in fact, there are relatively few practical applications for Friedman’s statement of this law other than as a basis on which high-school physics students can construct lab experiments.

Aside from the fact that this argument makes absolutely no sense at all as a foundation for scientific inquiry, it begs the question: Why should mainstream economists be taken seriously if their theories and, hence, their arguments are based on false assumptions?

This question is particularly relevant with regard to the policy recommendations of mainstream economist when the realism of the assumptions on which the arguments that justify their recommendations are blithely ignored.

The fact is that Galileo accepted his understanding of this law, not simply because it works, but because his understanding of this law is the physical universe.

Newton’s cosmology made it possible to understand and explain astronomical observations with a degree of accuracy that was heretofore impossible.Such is the power of Friedman’s methodology within the discipline of economics. If physical scientists had taken this approach to science throughout the course of history—relying on “folklore” and “the tenacity with which hypotheses are held” and on those who have been exposed to “the ‘right’ scientific atmosphere” as they ignored the realism of assumptions—we would still be living in a Ptolemaic universe cataloging the situations in which Aristotle’s assumptions do and do not work. which distinguishes the ‘crackpot’ from the scientist.” That line is not thin.The Ideological Nature of Friedman’s Logic Even more problematic is Friedman’s attempt to give substance to his engineering view of science by arguing that after all of the situations in which hypotheses work and do not work have been cataloged within a discipline, , the scientist should look to “the tradition and folklore of a science revealed in the tenacity with which hypotheses are held” to find the truth. Friedman is quite wrong in his assertion that there is a “thin line . It is the clear, bright line that exists between those who accept arguments based on circular reasoning and false assumptions as meaningful and those who do not.“Consider the problem of predicting the shots made by an expert billiard player. complicated mathematical formulas” may be an interesting analogy, but it tells us nothing about billiard players.It seems not at all unreasonable that excellent predictions would be yielded by the hypothesis that the billiard player made his shots as if he knew the complicated mathematical formulas that would give the optimum directions of travel, could estimate accurately by eye the angles, etc., describing the location of the balls, could make lightning calculations from the formulas, and could then make the balls travel in the direction indicated by the formulas. It was obvious to me at the time that Friedman’s argument to the contrary is circular: How do we know expert players play this way?It is the form of a logical argument that makes it valid, irrespective of the truth of its premises.The argument a) all men with blue eyes are infallible, b) I have blue eyes, therefore, c) I am infallible is meaning, in spite of its logical validity and my blue eyes, because it is based on the demonstrably false premise that all men with blue eyes are infallible.He also that heavier bodies fall with a greater velocity than lighter bodies. 61)] This seemed to make perfect sense as an explanation of the way in which a feather falls compared to a stone, but Galileo observed that heavier stones do not fall at greater velocities than lighter stones and that the longer a stone falls the greater its velocity becomes (up to a point) even though the force of gravity acting on it (apparently) does not change.As a result of his incredibly complex and thorough analysis of falling bodies Galileo concluded that the differences in the behaviors he observed could be : 1) the existence of momentum (i.e., that a body at rest tends to remain at rest and a body in motion tends to remain in motion) and 2) that when a constant force is applied to an object it causes that object to were enough to arrive at Galileo’s understanding of the law of falling bodies it was not until Newton had integrated the observations of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo to arrive at Newton’s three laws of motion and theory of universal gravitation that the Newtonian understanding of this law emerged.18-9)] Now it seemed quite clear to me back in 1967, and it still seems quite clear to me today, that it is the purview of engineering, not science, to catalog the circumstances under which a theory works and does not work and to estimates the errors in the predictions of theories along with the cost involved in using one approach or another.The purview of science, as I saw it then and still see it today, is to the subject matter of a scientific discipline.


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