May 11, 2015

Physics as obsessive windmill

Comment on Lars Syll on ‘Why the ergodic theorem is not applicable in economics’


From equilibrium to ergodicity economists have misunderstood and abused physical concepts. One should think that after more than two hundred years of consistent failure at least Heterodoxy would be out of physicalism. That much is clear from this thread, Fred Zaman is not.

One cannot by any stretch of the imagination enlist Einstein for ‘macroeconomic anthropology.’

“Like Planck, Einstein viewed the human element of any physical theory as essentially arbitrary, something that should be purged on realization of the final true theory.” (Mirowski, 2004, p. 159)

One cannot by any stretch of the imagination enlist Einstein for ‘ontological falsification.’

“On the contrary the scientists of those times were for the most part convinced that the basic concepts and laws of physics were not in a logical sense free inventions of the human mind, but rather that they were derivable by abstraction, i.e. by a logical process, from experiments. It was the general Theory of Relativity which showed in a convincing manner the incorrectness of this view. For this theory revealed that it was possible for us, using basic principles very far removed from those of Newton, to do justice to the entire range of the data of experience in a manner even more complete and satisfactory than was possible with Newton's principles. But quite apart from the question of comparative merits, the fictitious character of the principles is made quite obvious by the fact that it is possible to exhibit two essentially different bases, each of which in its consequences leads to a large measure of agreement with experience.” (Einstein, 1934, p. 166)

What Einstein lays out here is the axiomatic-deductive method which has been applied with overwhelming success by Newton.

“Could all the phaenomena of nature be deduced from only thre [sic] or four general suppositions there might be great reason to allow those suppositions to be true.” (Newton, quoted in Westfall, 2008, p. 642)

Stop physicalism, stop psychologism, stop sociologism: start at long last with economics proper. It is not science that has to be reinvented, it is economics.

Egmont Kakarot-Handtke

Einstein, A. (1934). On the Method of Theoretical Physics. Philosophy of Science, 1(2): 163–169. URL
Mirowski, P. (2004). The Effortless Economy of Science? Durnham, London: Duke University Press.
Westfall, R. S. (2008). Never at Rest. A Biography of Isaac Newton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 17th edition.