(reposted from elsewhere)
The scientific method consists of a set of moral rules on what scientists must consider truthful testimony. Otherwise no ‘method’ exists. The scope of these moral rules has evolved during the twentieth century in ways that I think very few people, scientists included, understand. (I will go into this a bit later if need be.)||
Scientists do not practice (or even pay any attention to) philosophy or philosophers. Philosophers tend to be justificationists, but scientists do not practice justification. So no, scientists do not defend arenas using logic at all. That is what philosophers do when they try to defend one epistemological justification or another. Scientists demonstrate. They do not justify.
Philosphers justify. So no, they did not evolve nor are they practiced by similar means. Rationalism and science are practiced by opposite means: justification versus demonstration and warranty.
Scientists, and the discipline of science operate upon these epistemological principles:
(a) we know nothing for certain, and may never be able to know anything for certain. (the most parsimonious non tautological statement possible).
(b) we know what works and what doesn’t work. Everything else we say is just hypothesis, theory and law
(c) all knowledge is theoretical (intuition, hypothesis, theory, or law)
(d) we can combine theories to create models, which themselves are theories.
(e) To publish a theory (‘distribute an intellectual product for consumption’) one must subject it tests (Provide a Warranty) stating that it is:
i) consistent (logical)
ii) correspondent (correlative)
iii) empirical (observable)
iv) operational (existentially possible)
vi) reasonably falsified
The scientific method consists, if anything, in meeting these moral constraints upon their statements. It is their job to speak truthfully. But they never claim to state the truth. Even mathematicians (of any degree of sophistication) will say that truth is a problem of philosophy, while proof is a problem of mathematics.
Mises’ argument is false because there are no non-trivial, non-tautological, certain, premises. If, as Einstein demonstrated, even time and length are concepts that we cannot count upon (length is the argument used to demonstrate the fallacy of even geometric premises). While we may imagine a point or a line, we cannot construct one. While we may imagine infinite sets, we cannot construct one. While we may imagine the square root of two, it cannot exist without a physical context to determine its arbitrary precision and therefore its existence.
So no. Mises’ rationalism is a good story. But it’s just a story. An analogy.
In order to warranty a statement as truthfully represented, it must meet the criteria that scientists have put forward. Science is merely a moral discipline for the purpose of truth telling. If we cannot say it scientifically then we cannot warrant that we are saying it truthfully: free of all possible error, bias, and deception.
Mises was trying to combat the abuse of pseudoscience in economics, but he did not, as Brouwer did in math and Bridgman did in physics, discover Intuitionism, Operationalism and Operationism: the necessary test of existential possibility that checks our premises against the context in which we apply them. Praxeology was very close. But he got it wrong. If we see him in this light, as failing in economics where others succeeded in math and science, we can see Mises as part of a triumvirate that tried to add a new moral constraint to the sciences consistent with, or perhaps as an extension of falsification.
It is unfortunate, since the reason Brouwer and Bridgman were not influential was that they failed to grasp that they were making a moral argument to the externalities caused by failing to demonstrate tests of existential possibility. whereas in economics, EVERYTHING WE WORRY ABOUT IS A PRODUCT OF EXTERNALITIES.
Had Mises gone with Science rather than Rationalism we might have saved a century of semi-pseudoscientific argument only recently overthrown. Because in economics, externalities matter. It matters that Keynesian macro is an attempt to justify the manufacture of vast, slowly accumulating, negative externalities that burn down social and genetic capital. It matters that mathematicians talk about a mathematical reality that does not and cannot exist; that Cantorian sets are a bit of verbal nonsense by which to substitute quantity in timeless state, with frequency in a state where time is present. It matters that mathematical physics has seem to be nearly fruitless compared to physical experimentation, and that the entire multiple-world hypothesis was as nonsensical as we intuited.
Externalities matter. And that is before we start talking about postmodernism: the most elaborate lie developed since the invention of theism.
So the truthful, testifiable statement, is not the one Mises makes, but that no economic statement that cannot be reduced to sympathetically testable operations can be true. AND any economic proposition that has not been reduced to a sequence of sympathetically testable operations can be stated to be ethical and or moral.
So no statement that is not open to sympathetic testing (falsification) by operational means (sympathetic testing) can be ‘true’, nor ‘scientific’ since ‘scientific’ refers to morally warrantable constraint upon one’s statements.
Curt Doolittle The Propertarian Institute