January 2, 2015

Total scientific Dadaism

Comment on Lars Syll on 'Axiomatic economics ― total horseshit'


In the intro, Lars Syll writes: “Studying mathematics and logics is interesting and fun. It sharpens the mind. In pure mathematics and logics, we do not have to worry about external validity. But economics is not pure mathematics or logics. It’s about society. The real world.”

Economists have their philosophical roots in Bentham's utilitarianism. And it seems that they never dare to get out of this shallow intellectual puddle and to swim in deeper waters. Have they never heard what real scientists have said about mathematics and axiomatization? Have Galilei or Newton or Einstein said that mathematics is fun? That a little intellectual gymnastics is good against mental enfeeblement?

Above all: did one of these three better-known scientists ignore the problem of external validity?

Exactly the contrary! For all of them, mathematics was the key to reality ― to the very reality that is producing what the myopic utilitarian experiences when he looks in all his nativity out of the window.

“Experience can of course guide us in our choice of serviceable mathematical concepts; it cannot possibly be the source from which they are derived; experience of course remains the sole criterion of the serviceability of a mathematical construction for physics, but the truly creative principle resides in mathematics.” (Einstein, 1934, p. 167)

Lawson's ontology suffers from several misunderstandings (2013).

“The central message of Lawson’s critique of modern economics is that an economy is an “open system” but economists insist on dealing with it as if it were “closed.” (see parallel intro)

This is true for equilibrium economics. And it is true that Orthodoxy is a failure. But now comes the logical blunder: “Modern economics has become increasingly irrelevant to the understanding of the real world. In his seminal book Economics and Reality (1997) Tony Lawson traced this irrelevance to the failure of economists to match their deductive-axiomatic methods with their subject.”

While Orthodoxy indeed applies the axiomatic-deductive method there is no necessary connection between the method and closed systems. Physicists apply mathematics and the axiomatic-deductive method for the description of a universe that certainly displays no equilibrium and no closure in the sense of orthodox economics. What has to be rejected is the notion of equilibrium/closure and not the axiomatic-deductive method.

Because they are fixated on equilibrium economics Tony Lawson and Lars Syll misunderstand the role of the deductive-axiomatic method for scientific research.

Methodological discussions among economists are total scientific Dadaism.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Einstein, A. (1934). On the Method of Theoretical Physics. Philosophy of Science, 1(2): 163–169. URL
Kakarot-Handtke, E. (2013). Crisis and Methodology: Some Heterodox Misunderstandings. SSRN Working Paper Series, 2083519: 1–25. URL