Bart's World @ Chapman University



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On drawing conclusions from experiments:

[I]t is in the transition from experiment to conclusion, from knowledge to application, that all one's inner enemies lie in wait as at a mountain pass–imagination, impatience, rashness, self-complacency, rigidity, conventionality, prejudice, sloth, frivolity, fickleness, and all the rest, all lurk in ambush here to surprise and overpower the active man of the world...

~Goethe, Goethe's Botanical Writings (p. 223)

On reviewing other people's work:

In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new.

    ~Anton Ego, Ratatouille

On experimental economics and i-pis-tuh-mol-uh-what?

One who aspires to explain or understand human behaviour must be, not finally but first of all, an epistemologist.

  ~Frank H. Knight, The Ethics of Competition (p. 77)

On economics and human behavior:

Economics is a branch of aesthetics and ethics to a larger degree than of mechanics.

  ~Frank H. Knight, The Ethics of Competition (p. 97)

On thinking in economics:

It is probably true that economic analysis has never been the product of detached intellectual curiosity about the why of social phenomena, but of an intense urge to reconstruct a world which gives rise to profound dissatisfaction. (p. 122)

Even to-day it is regarded almost as a sign of moral depravity if the economist finds anything to marvel at in his science; i.e. if he finds an unsuspected order in things, which arouses his wonder. And he is bitterly reproached if he does not emphasise, at every stage of his analysis, how much he regrets that his insight into the order of things makes it less easy to change them whenever we please. (p. 124)

By combining elementary conclusions and following up their implications [an economist] gradually constructs, from the familiar elements, a mental model which aims at reproducing the working of the economic system as a whole. Whether we use as a basis facts which are known from everyday experience, or facts which have been laboriously collected by statistical or historical research, the importance and the difficulty of this further task remains the same, and the only test of its usefulness as a tool of interpretation is whether, by impeccable logic, it yields a model which reproduces movements of the type which we observe in the modern world. Only when we have carried to its logical conclusion this task of fitting the known parts together, so that we realise all the implications of their co-existence, are we able to say whether the known facts from which we have started are sufficient for the explanation of the more complicated phenomena. (p. 128, my emphasis)

    ~F.A. Hayek, "The Trend of Economic Thinking," Economica,   May 1933.

Our idealized notion of theory:

A theory is something other than myself. It may be set out on paper as a system of rules, and it is more truly a theory the more completely it can be put down in such terms…A theory on which I rely is therefore objective knowledge in so far as it is not I, but the theory, which is proved right or wrong when I use such knowledge…A theory, moreover, cannot be led astray by my personal illusions…a theory on which I rely as part of my knowledge remains unaffected by any fluctuations occurring within myself. It has a rigid formal structure, on whose steadfastness I can depend whatever mood or desire may possess me…Since the formal affirmations of a theory are unaffected by the state of the person accepting, theories may be constructed without regard to one’s normal approach to experience.

Until we humbly come to grips with the observation that:

Symbols must be identifiable and their meaning known, axioms must be understood to assert something, proofs must be acknowledged to demonstrate something, and this identifying, knowing, understanding, and acknowledging, are unformalized operations on which the working of a formal system depends. (my emphasis)

    ~Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge (pp. 4 and 258)




This site was last updated 12/19/11.