May 24, 2016

Still in the proto-scientific wood

Comment on Asad Zaman on ‘The emergence of science’


Heterodoxy once had a methodological edge over Orthodoxy. To see this one needs only compare Georgescu-Roegen with Zaman.

“Yet even Plato, Aristotle's teacher, had no idea of syllogism. He did talk of scientific propositions following from some basic truths, but a clear picture of the logical edifice of knowledge did not appear before Aristotle. And the important fact is that even Aristotle himself was inspired by some Elements of Geometry which existed in his time and have come down to us in highly polished form from the hands of Euclid.” (1966, p. 6)

“We are therefore justified in saying that with Euclid's Elements the causa materialis of geometry underwent a radical transformation; from a more or less amorphous aggregate of propositions it acquired an anatomic structure. Geometry itself emerged as a living organism with its own physiology and teleology, .... And this true mutation represents not only the most valuable contribution of the Greek civilization to human thought but also a momentous landmark in the evolution of mankind comparable only to the discovery of speech or writing.” (1966, p. 9)

Or compare Einstein with Zaman: “We honour ancient Greece as the cradle of western science. She for the first time created the intellectual miracle of a logical system, the assertions of which followed one from another with such rigor that not one of the demonstrated propositions admitted of the slightest doubt — Euclid’s geometry. This marvellous accomplishment of reason gave to the human spirit the confidence it needed for its future achievements. The man who was not enthralled in youth by this work was not born to be a scientific theorist. (1934, p. 164)

This obviously refers to Asad Zaman who maintains: “It was precisely overcoming this idea that led to the creation of modern science. Instead of going from axioms and logic to the study of observations, Scientific method goes in the opposite direction, from observations to theories.”

Obviously it escaped Asad Zaman’s attention that the Greeks did not observe atoms but first developed the concept of atom by pure logical thinking which eventually led to the observation.

Obviously it escaped Asad Zaman’s attention that science is ultimately the perfect SYNTHESIS of logic and experience: “Hilbert and Einstein again agree that geometry is a natural science based on real experiments and measurements. Thus, similarly to Einstein, Hilbert can assert: Geometry is nothing but a branch of physics; in no way whatsoever do geometrical truths differ essentially from physical truths nor are they of a different nature.” (Majer, 1995, p. 280)

The scientific method is well-defined: “Research is in fact a continuous discussion of the consistency of theories: formal consistency insofar as the discussion relates to the logical cohesion of what is asserted in joint theories; material consistency insofar as the agreement of observations with theories is concerned.” (Klant, 1994, p. 31)

Logical consistency is secured by applying the axiomatic-deductive method and empirical consistency is secured by applying state-of-the-art testing.

Science was there before economics was there. Economists either conform to well-defined scientific standards or they are thrown out of science: they are in NO position to redefine scientific criteria. This holds for Orthodoxy AND Heterodoxy.

As Schumpeter put it: “We are not yet out of the wood; in fact, we are not yet in it.”

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Einstein, A. (1934). On the Method of Theoretical Physics. Philosophy of Science, 1(2): 163–169. URL
Georgescu-Roegen, N. (1966). Analytical Economics, chapter General Conclusions for the Economist, pages 92–129. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Klant, J. J. (1994). The Nature of Economic Thought. Aldershot, Brookfield, VT: Edward Elgar.
Majer, U. (1995). Geometry, Intuition and Experience: From Kant to Husserl. Erkenntnis, 42(2): 261–285. URL