Weekend reflections

Should I call this thing Weekend reflections? Any suggested alternatives?

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Tony Harris
Tony Harris(@tony-harris)
15 years ago

Sorry to hear that Nicholas. Yesterday we had a seminar on drug addicts in residential treatment. One of their characteristics is high levels of suicidal thoughts, attempts and death. About ten or twenty times the population norm, but that norm itself is scary – 3.6% for lifetime attempts at suicide and about 0.5% for suicidal thoughts in the last year. So in a group of 200 people one has thought about suicide lately. Of course that means thinking about doing it, not as a result of reading this post.

This post was written for the John Quiggin site but his message box is malfunctioning.

John has been too busy or too unwilling to explain how Lakatos has improved on Popper’s philosophy of science but Alan Saunders on ABC radio did a program on Lakatos which illuminates the situation. This program shows how the problem has been shifted in a degenerative manner under the influence of the idea that there should be some logical criterion to distinguish the gold of science from the dross of pseudoscience. The quest for this criterion has been unhelpful on two counts (a) it did not succeed and this has led to widespread skepticism regarding science and reason (b) the quest diverted attention from the more helpful and important task of assessing the merits of alternative theories, using evidence as effectively as possible in the process.

Alan Saunders studied philosophy at the London School of Economics and one of his teachers was John Worral. Recently he did a program on Imre Lakatos, including an interview with Worral who was a favorite student of Lakatos. This is the transcript of the program.

Lakatos was a lapsed Marxist and when he reached England he became a bitter critic of Marxism. He saw the battle with Marxism very much in terms of defending science from pseudoscience. This put him in line with the positivists although he followed Popper in some ways and never tried to make the distinction in terms of meaning.

He wrote “The Communist Party persecuted Mendelians on the ground that their doctrines were pseudoscientific. But then the problem of demarcation between science and pseudoscience is not merely a problem of armchair philosophy, it is of vital social and political relevance”.

Formulating the basic problem

Actually this formulation of the problem is unfortunate and consequently most of the literature that has raged over the implications of Popper’s demarcation criterion has generated more heat than light. Popper was partly to blame by his own committment to the idea that the problem of demarcation is fundamental. However the more important issue is the capacity of theories to solve problems (whatever the problems may be, in science or in public policy) and to stand up to criticism and it is not really an issue whether they are classified as scientific because that is a matter of definition.

The most helpful way to think about Popper’s views on falsification is to see them as a commentary on the most effective way to use evidence. It is about evidence, not a definition of science or a theory of knowledge. Popper’s theory of knowledge is best called a non-authoritarian theory of conjectural objective knowledge and it it is very misleading to label it falsificationism because that only concerns a part of a larger structure of ideas about the nature of epistemic authority and the objective status of public knowledge in addition to subjective beliefs which are the focus of most epistemologies.

The focus on science

The definition of science became all important under the influence of the false theory that there was some way to establish scientific theories as “justified true beliefs”. Admittedly the problem shifted from conclusive justification to probability but in the hands of the positivists that was no improvement and the basic “justificationist”

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

Nick

Same thing happened where my kid went to school some while back. It was year 9 that time. Totally frightening. Kid was from a broken home. Let out some clues to his friends that people would soon take notice of him and finally understand what he was trying to convey. Kids obviously didn’t get it and he was found hanging from a tree in a park.

Scares the living crap out of you. The school was beside itself with worry because of copy cats syndrome, which we found out is very common shortly after….. Amazing.

Very difficult (and delicate) to figure out our kid’s view as we just didn’t want to go there. Luckily he informed us that he felt the suicide was a totally selfish terrble thing to do.

Bloody teenagers can be so unstable.

Vee
Vee
15 years ago

Where’s Shaun Cronin’s Rugby League updates, say on the Rugby League Tri-Nations?

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

This comes from what I consider to be the best Economics consulting group in the world IBCA (International Bank Credit Analyst).

Fred (Argy), you may wish to read it as it is strikingly different from the picture you have been painting about Swedens economy. It’s damning. It becomes obvious that the overall unemployment rate is not the thing to look at when comparing different countries. My guess would the participation rate is far better.

I also read recently about Demnark’s labor reforms in allowing for more flexbility.

The ruboff course is that there no free lunches.In sweden’s case the managed their high welfare/ rigid labor markets by simply devaluing against the rest of the world.

Special Report
Sweden’s September 17 elections will prove to be a watershed event that could mark the beginning of a sea change for the welfare state: The Social Democrats chalked up their worst ever showing in the polls, demonstrating the population’s clear demand
for change. The newly elected centre-right alliance of Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt is already planning aggressive fiscal reforms, including SEK 40 billion in tax cuts, a reduction in unemployment benefits and sick pay. These reforms are reminiscent of the “supply-side revolution”

Jc
Jc
15 years ago

IBCA is used by many of the worlds money managers as an excellent economics reference for country analysis.

Shaun Cronin
Shaun Cronin(@shaun-cronin)
15 years ago

I’m around Vee just been a bit busy in real life. You can find some League commentary here but I’ll get back into Troppo league post soon with one on the Tri-Nations final and after that a 2006 NRL review.

Vee
Vee
15 years ago

Oh yeah. Thanks I forgot about that site. Mainly because it talks mostly about the bad sports. :P

whyisitso
whyisitso
15 years ago

The High Court has dismissed the challenge to the IR legislation, with Kirby and Callinan(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) dissenting. The government really can’t take a trick can it? Planting a right winger on the court and having him turn on them. You just can’t trust anyone these days, although thank heavens Kirby is still onside with his appointers! The left is so much more trustworthy. It must be their higher sense of ethical behaviour. Or something.