December 31, 2014

Prophets of Preemptive Vanitization (I)

Comment on Lars Syll on 'Proper use of math in economics'


You quote the neoclassical economist Erich Schneider saying: “The most that can be said is that a theoretically correct proposition is not relevant because its assumptions do not apply to the present situation.”

This, of course, is absolutely correct for neoclassical theory. In science, things are quite different.

“To give a causal explanation of an event means to deduce a statement which describes it, using as premises of the deduction one or more universal laws, together with certain singular statements, the initial conditions.” (Popper, 1980, p. 59)

Schneider has to be put into the group of people who think because they cannot solve a problem nobody else can. This logical error is known as the Fallacy of Composition. Let us call this large group of annoying bystanders the Prophets of Preemptive Vanitization. Typical statements of these prophets are that bodies that are heavier than air cannot fly or: “There is no objective truth in economics. Nobody understands the whole picture. Everybody gets a piece of it.” (Roosevelt)

The classical answer to Preemptive Vanitization is: “People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.” (G. B. Shaw)

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Popper, K. R. (1980). The Logic of Scientific Discovery. London, Melbourne,
Sydney: Hutchison, 10th edition.