Sandpit

A new sandpit for long side discussions, conspiracy theories, idees fixes and so on.

To be clear, the sandpit is for regular commenters to pursue points that distract from regular discussion, including conspiracy-theoretic takes on the issues at hand. It’s not meant as a forum for visiting conspiracy theorists, or trolls posing as such.

8 thoughts on “Sandpit

  1. But my question still is – how to get the coalition to be the Coal & Lition? Divide & get sensible policies sooner.

    And how to get Labor & Greens on the same football field, if not the page?

    Any ideas not requiring 2 election cycles and 3 leader swaps?

  2. Ontology and Economics.

    Introduction.

    If a discipline does not get its ontology right then everything will be wrong after that. Take the example of the humors theory of disease in early medicine. While that theory of disease dominated, no real progress could be made in treating many kinds of disease. The humors ontology was false as a theory of base existents and interactions relevant to physiology and disease. The development of the “germ” theory of disease, following the discovery of disease-causing pathogens, enabled real progress in treating diseases caused by pathogens. The key was that the new ontology linked pathogens and diseases of pathogenic origin in a consistent cause and effect network: essentially a cause and effect taxonomy. “Human knowledge and human power meet in one; for where the cause is not known the effect cannot be produced.” [1] . Also, where the cause is not known the undesired effect cannot be prevented.

    If conventional economics has a false ontology (as I contend) then it can make no real progress in connecting socioeconomic or political-economic cause and effect. An ontology is the set of basic existents (things, relations and processes) held to be fundamental to a particular discipline or thought system. An ontology essentially is a set of discoveries and/or assumptions advanced as statments about basic discipline-relevant existents. Once accepted, an ontology becomes a system of a priori assumptions for an applied discipline. Conventional economics has misconceived its ontology of economics objects because it fails to understand, often willfully, the difference between “laws” and “rules”.

    In this discussion, the term “law” will mean a fundamental law of nature as discovered by one of the hard sciences. An example of such a fundamental law is the first law of thermodynamics. The term “rule” will mean a prescribed guide for conduct or action (meaning prescribed by humans for the conduct of humans). In physics we are concerned with fundamental law-bound behaviors only. In economics, we are concerned with behaviors governed by laws and rules. In particular, we concerned with the interactions of laws and rules.

    Of course, a concern with human rules and their instantiation in society and economics, equates to a concern with customs, legal laws, regulations and institutions. However, I have not yet seen, in anything I have read (and perhaps my reading is not wide enough), a concern with developing a unified ontology of the real and the formal. This would mean a unified ontology of fundamental laws and human rules. Indeed, the project sounds wholly paradoxical and contradictory. However, let us take as inspiration Arthur Schopenhauer’s aphorism: “A Truth is permitted only a brief victory celebration between the two long periods where it is first condemned as paradoxical and later disparaged as trivial.” Let us dare the attempt to unify the real and the formal.

    I have developed a formal deductive proof (philosophical not mathematical) that under a condition of priority monism of the concrete whole (the real cosmos), the formal must be a subset of the real. Every subset of a real system is a real system. This a priori insistence on complex real-system, priority-monist consistency across all systems results finally in the seemingly contradictory assertion that a Formal System is also a Real System. Yet this contradiction is only seeming, not actual. A Formal System is indeed also a Real System. It is simply a special case of a real system. Real systems and formal systems are nominally and epistemologically separate but they are not ontologically separate. In a unified Physicalist ontology, the “formal system” is still a real subsystem of the larger or full real system. It is in the transmission of information both ways and in the operations on and with that information, via human actions, that we see the Formal and the Real interact.

    I leave aside the details of this theory. I must content myself with this hint here. Of course, if the a priori assumption of priority monism is wrong, then the deduction is wrong. This philosophical caveat is unavoidable. Again, I deal with justifcations and objections in my developing work but leave them aside here. Let us provisionally entertain the possibility that the priority monism assumption is correct and thus the deduction that formal systems are subsets of real systems is also correct. Where might that lead?

    A Basic Monist Theory of Ontology.

    To begin on these matters, ontology may be divided into three broad categories.

    Table 1 – Ontological Categories

    1. Religious, ideological, dogmatic and speculative;
    2. Empirical; and
    3. Formal.

    Point one relates to arenas of belief, arguments from authority and speculative propositions. Point two relates to knowledge from experience and particularly to knowledge from the empirical hard sciences to high degrees of likelihood but not absolute certainty. Point three relates to matters of certain but formal knowledge; certain because we have created the objects of said knowledge by custom, formal naming or “pure reason” so-called. In this latter case, the ontological set and the epistemological set largely coincide. We know formal “things”, and theoretically should know all about them, because we formally made them; named them and specified their definitions, categories and relations. There are complex and emergent exceptions to this last assertion. We can and do create formal systems whose ramifications in use, real or potential, do escape our initial knowledge and predictions, often in the form of unforeseen consequences. Let us put that objection aside for now.

    To clarify matters, we need to introduce a set of basic definitions.

    Table 2 – Basic Definitions

    A. Model: A simplified representation of a more complex original.
    B. Monism: Attribution of oneness or singleness to a concept, entity or system.
    C. Ontology: The study of existence, and emergence, in terms of categories and relations.
    D. Process: A set of transformations over a period of time.
    E. System: A regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming an integrated whole. “Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.” – Wikipedia.
    F. Real System: Any system which obeys the discovered fundamental Laws of hard science.
    G. Formal System: Any system of signs based on or forming a language, including mathematics.

    Let us start with an examination of formal ontologies. A Formal Ontology sets out or prescribes a set of formal Ontological Objects, usually stated or defined in the form of axioms or rules. The game of chess provides an example of a formal ontology. All the entities, spaces and times are created by the formal rules of chess. The entities are the pieces and pawns. The spaces are the squares in a two-dimensional array. The (digital) time units are moves. Technically, the time unit is the “half-move”, a move by white or black. The depth of the move tree in “half-moves” is measured in “ply”. I have developed a ludic (game) theory and an aesthetic (arts) theory which covers the reasons why certain formal ontologies (like those of games and the arts) exhibit the requirement for time and space modelling. Essentially, this revolves around the issues of (a) the brute fact of our existence in perceived classical time and space at human scale, (b) the operations of our senses and in-brain constructed perceptions and (c) the psychological-conceptual necessity to be able to make sense of formal systems. A formal system which made no psychological-conceptual sense to the human brain would be indeciiprable and could not form the basis of communication for the sharing of information. Our games, arts and rules must model and deal with entities, space and time. This is where the basic ontological categories of human formal sub-systems of the real and all other systems of the real are ineluctably shared at least under an assumption of priority monism. Highly abstract human endeavors like abstract art and pure maths do challenge and “bend” this statement but do not break it. However, again I must leave extensive objections and responses aside for relative brevity.

    Euclidean geometry is an example of a Formal System with a formal ontology which yet somehow converges closer to empirical reality. We must examine its deivation from and its formal approach back towards the asymptote of the real. We further uncover that formal-real ontology runs on one monistically connected spectrum. Seemingly fully formal systems, like Euclidean geometry, commence, in exposition, with formalized axioms and define their suite of ontological objects formally. Yet, we can easily enough see the “empirical inspiration” for developing Euclidean geometry. The empirical inspiration comes from dimensioned flat or near flat space (or 3D spaces definable by two flat reference planes envisaged at right angles) and comes from how humans experience such space. Euclidean geometry was developed into an axiomatic system by a modelling simplification of reality. It is only by this modelling simplification that it can possess inviolable axioms. And it is by these inviolable axioms that it can possess a wide set of practical applications to one topology but NOT (and this is very important) a universal application to all topologies.

    It is clear that Euclidean geometry has useful applications for certain spaces and topographies, within given boundary conditions (eg flat and near flat surfaces), but not for other spaces, topographies and conditions. Euclidean geometry works, meaning it has practical uses, because it can exhibit a close, or approximate, but still useable, homomorphic correspondence with the space, topography or terrain types it is commonly used to model.

    This introduces both the specific idea of homomorphic correspondence and the general idea of a “Theory of Truth”. Essentially, the correspondence theory of truth is a theory of how formal signs are related to real existents. This incorporates the idea that some language statements and some mathematical equations, which function as compounded formal sign statements, can be related in some way to the signified real objects, forces, processes or systems that they refer to and model. This correspondence theory of truth perforce must hold that there can be true representations and false representations of real existents and real systems. This must be so, even if unavoidably in practice, a “true” representation is always an approach to truth rather than a complete, final or absolute truth. This correspondence of signs – as word statements, equations or models (real or virtual) – to the real is best interpreted as a homomorphic correspondence. This is when any kind of word based, mathematical equation based, material or virtual modelling is expressly or implicitly occurring. This does not include mere formal or customary naming as in “That man is Bill.” When referring to the correspondence theory of truth, a claim is being made that there is something in the structure and relations of the compounded model sign statement as a formal system, which homomorphically matches one or more essential structures and/or relations in the real objects/systems being referred to.

    As Betrend Russell writes, “we are driven back to correspondence with fact as constituting the nature of truth”. Homomorphism, as a concept, is the most suitable way in which to conceive of this correspondence. Homomorphism employed in active modelling practice may be considered as the procedure of generating a structure-preserving statement, equation, map or model of a real object or real system, a formal object or formal system, or a part or subsystem thereof. As an aside, models of models (meta-models) are also possible and sometimes useful. For a dynamic model (real or virtual) there will be process-mapping and topography-mapping components. In algebra, a “homomorphism is a structure-preserving map between two algebraic structures of the same type”. The preservation of essential aspects of structure, relation and dynamism in the model, in relation to the real object or real system, is critical to any claim that it be an accurate or true model in some sense; that it corresponds with at least some real and empirically verifiable facts.

    C. S. Peirce sums up very well the strict specificity attached to making truth claims.

    “That truth is the correspondence of a representation to its object is, as Kant says, merely the nominal definition of it. Truth belongs exclusively to propositions. A proposition has a subject (or set of subjects) and a predicate. The subject is a sign; the predicate is a sign; and the proposition is a sign that the predicate is a sign of that which the subject is a sign. If it be so, it is true. But what does this correspondence or reference of the sign, to its object, consist in?” – Charles Sanders Peirce.

    That last question I have considered long and deeply; as in “what does this correspondence or reference of the sign, to its object, ontologically consist in?” I believe I have made progress on this fundamental ontological problem and I more than hinted at that issue above when talking about formal systems as subsets of real systems. Now, let us consider the ontology of empirical disciplines.

    It is always necessary to generate and continuously review, by empirical research, the ontology of empirical objects and processes for any given empirical discipline. Empirical ontologies will be found to be discipline-relevant. A cosmologist is concerned with a different set of real objects and real processes from the medical doctor. There is a connection of these sets across the basics of the hard sciences. Both are concerned with the ontology of objects and processes in physics and chemistry and both use some of the fundamentals of both of those disciplines. The cosmologist is concerned with bodies like planets, stars, galaxies and black holes and processes from planetary orbits to Hawking radiation. The medical researcher is concerned with bodies from the human body to organs and tumours and also with physiological processes like metabolism, homeostasis and circulatory systems.

    In progressing the discussion to this point, I have moved from a discussion of formal ontology to a discussion of empirical ontology. I left for last the discussion of customary, religious, ideological, dogmatic or speculative ideas as ontological objects and processes. These “objects” might all be termed objects of the nomos. Here, “objects” is shorthand for ontological objects and processes. The nomos I define as all the ideas, as ontological objects, of culture, customary law, legal law, regulation, formalisation, belief and speculation but excluding those ideas and models which can be argued to possess some homomorphic correspondence to some aspect(s) of the physis meaning that which is physically, materially and objectively real and detectable. This last, for both scientific and definitional reasons, must be strictly defined as those real objects, processes and systems, some of whose characteristics at least, can be measured and aggregated in the objective scientific dimensions of the SI, the International System of Units.

    The scientific dimensions of the SI are, and we must understand them as, our modern essential base ontology for the physis as we experience it. The SI too is a humanly developed ontology and the base ontology of all our physical investigations. It was developed by an historical process of philosophical/empirical investigation, commencing in the West (sometimes derivatively from certain Islamic scholars) with Francis Bacon and even his forerunners, the medievalists Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. This is laid out in Appendix A. below.

    Conclusion of this Part.

    How can this above ontological approach be related to economics? I will attempt to lay that out in a subsequent post. However, I will only do this if I pique interest. Certainly, I hope at least John Quiggin or Ernestine Gross might reply, even if to say “I’ve read it and it piques my interest.” or “I’ve read it and it is nonsense for reasons X, Y and Z.

    When one is trying to come up with new ideas, it is quite possible that one will be (a) entirely derivative or (b) writing total nonsense. It is a necessary risk to take or else one must either stop thinking at all or think only in the paths per-assigned by current “common sense” as current ideological and ideational hegemony. It is anathema to me to only accept what someone else has thought and to accept such uncritically. I consider it necessary to be in constant revolt against mere common sense where it appears as opinions and views; that is to say to be against the opinions of others where it does not entail being against verifiable fact (as homomorphic correspondence of theory (models) to observable reality. Since current common sense, including in economics, is destroying the planet, we can take that as the ultimate and inescapable refutation of existing common sense, including conventional economics, and proof of the need to overthrow it.

    Appendix A.

    In the very processes of natural philosophy investigation and later of combined empirical philosophy and empirical science investigation (as the two are inseparable faces of the same “coin” of empirical exploration of our world) the SI was developed, defined and iteratively refined and redefined. That we may see an historical continuity of genuine empirical concerns in all of natural philosophical enquiry from the ancient Greeks onward, I shall note some approximate equivalences in Table 3 below. These equivalences are meant to indicate that thinkers down through the ages have been contending with essentially the same external reality presented by experience to human minds via the senses. Neither that reality nor human brains have changed too significantly in the last few thousand years, which is not to presuppose that there has been absolutely no human evolution in that time span. The early Western philosophers (the Greeks) attempted to understand reality’s nature and relationships by subjecting their own perceptions to a philosophical analysis. Genuine scientific analysis came later, arguably beginning with or after figures like Duns Scotus, Roger Bacon and Francis Bacon. Islamic and Indian philosophers also played a role.

    TABLE 3 – Ideas Through the Ages of the “Components of Physicalness”

    Classical Philosophy Classical Physics Modern Physics

    Stoicheion ≈ Matter, Material ≈ Mass
    Energeia ≈ Energy, Heat, Work ≈ Energy
    Place, Chronos ≈ Dimensions in space, time ≈ Space-Time Manifold
    Plenum ≈ Occupied Space ≈ Objects, Manifolds, Fields
    Void (Impossible) ≈ Void (Possible) ≈ Absolute Void (Impossible)

    Notes:

    1. Francis Bacon.

  3. Ikonoclast. Good work. Thanks.

    “False” is doing a lot of work in this para, and ass an absolute negative, may be tricky to justify with all economics & economists.
    “If conventional economics has a false ontology (as I contend) then it can make no real progress in connecting socioeconomic or political-economic cause and effect.”

    As you are aware, I am not a philosopher nor economist. Yet I applaud your consistency and passion. But doubt JQ will engage with ontology. He is creating knowledge, writing like there is no tomorrow and keeping up with the zeitgeist – and ahead of the economics zeitgeist. 

    I had been reading up on luck, fate re JQ’s chapter  https://johnquiggin.com/2021/01/16/luck-and-fate-in-politics/
    … and I just can’t let go of the word ‘luck’ as I find it:
    1) too broad and open to personal interpretation
    2) trigger word as it contains every meaning known to humanity -a bit of a catchall cop-out. but what do I know.
    3) libertarians / self made / faith based etc will get max cognitive dissonace when reading that chapter, diminishing the set the book will communicate too. Initial conditions + nature nurture and context – then luck. Luck is obviously causing me cognitive dissonance!

    So… I came across; (full references in extremis)
    https://www.informationphilosopher.com/problems/

    And then read:
    …/freedom/history/

    And
    …/freedom/luck.html

    Basically, I think you will like the site. And I’d say Bob Doyle would like to hear from you. You are pushing against economics. His focus is physics. He would perhaos provide, you a bridge to assist in delivering you ideas to JQ.

    And only mention I could find of monism… perhaps not to you liking. yet I’d say if you two were in a room you have a great dialogue. ymmv.

    “The Cosmic Creation Process in Three Stages – Matter, Life, and Mind

    January 15, 2018 bobodoyle

    …”We defend an emergent dualism of mind and matter, subject and object, idealism and materialism. Monists might like the idea that information is a neutral quantity that can ground a triple-aspect monism of matter, life, and mind. Information itself is an emergent that did not exist in the early universe. We will show that information structures emerge in three ways and in a temporal sequence, corresponding respectively to matter, life, and mind.”
    https://i-phi.org/2018/01/15/the-cosmic-creation-process-in-three-stages-matter-life-and-mind/

    Bob Doyle Ex Harvard / NASA
    https://www.skybuilders.com/Users/Bob/Bios/BioPics.html
    ****

    You said:
    “C. Ontology: The study of existence, and emergence, in terms of categories and relations.”

    Emergence is tricky. Here is an intelligent talk with a diagram of where emergence sits. 29min in…
    “Matti Heino: Studying motivation systems with data from self-assessments and wearable technology

    Via: … And Out Come the Systems | Käyttäytymisarkkitehtuuri
    COMPLEX SYSTEMS, HEALTH AND WELL-BEING WITH UNCERTAINTY
    https://mattiheino.com/2020/10/19/besp/

    I hope this is of assistance in some way, and you may just have an emergent aha.

    I replied to you once, after a comment where you sounded like giving up, to cheer up and write that book. I hope you do.

    Thanks Ikonoclast.
    And JQ for the space.
    ymmv

  4. KT2,

    Thank you for your post and links. I will endeavor to look at the links thoroughly as soon as I have time. I have a lot of self-set reading to get through this year. Meanwhile, “life won’t leave me alone” as Tolstoy noted: meaning a string of human, social and practical problems always arise to interrupt the reading and thinking of even a retired person.

    For the thorough-going scientific empiricist, dualism is philosophically dead in the water. It is not possible to consistently remain a dualist while paying attention to modern science. All of modern science indicates that all phenomena from the cosmos to the human brain to the quantum level are all complex system connected in the priority monist fashion.

    “Neither existence monism nor priority monism is accorded much respect in contemporary metaphysics, nor are they always properly distinguished. Indeed, the tradition associated with these doctrines has long been dismissed as being somewhere between obscure and ridiculous. But there are serious arguments for monism. Priority monism may especially deserve serious reconsideration, of a kind that it is only now beginning to receive.” – Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Revised 2014.)

    Dualism (of physical substance and mental or spiritual substance) only remains viable for religious people. They still can, with consistency, maintain dualism based on their a prioris. Or else, those who follow George Berkeley still can, with consistency, maintain a monist immaterialism based on Berkeley’s a prioris. But thorough-going scientific empiricists ought to adopt monist physicalism or monist “existent-ism” in order to retain deductive consistency: in other words to ensure their deductions are consistent with their a prioris. By “existent-ism” I mean a position which does essentialize the existent, does not assign an essential nature to it. Once one removes the dichotomy of physical / non-physical, the term “physical existent” loses meaning and must be replaced simply with “existent”. What remains for examination are the dependable relations between the existents (given that we are not confronted by utter chaos and indeed given that “we” would not exist under conditions of utter chaos).

    The hangover of dualism is immense in the West and many modern scientific and secular thinkers cannot escape it precisely because they have not thought deeply and consistently enough. I would recommend for them a course of reading of complex systems science and complex systems philosophy. At the same time I would recommend they read George Berkeley for his monist consistency, not for his immaterialist thesis. In a way, I regard my approach as one of turning Berkeley, not on his head, but through 90 degrees (metaphorically speaking) to develop a monist existent-ism. This approach is consistent with all the evidence from modern science and is also internally deductively consistent. This doesn’t prove I am right of course but I hold that it is the most plausible and consistent position given a metaphysics developed from an empirical scientific view of the complex relational system nature, and emergent / evolutionary nature of the cosmos at all levels.

  5. … wouldn’t want to sully the message board – said sarcastically – when economists “consider each other charlatans”.

    I do, every time. Especially so of economists ‘surveys’ – “consider each other charlatans”.

    YV says: “Have you wondered how two Nobel laureate economists, sometimes sharing the same year’s prize, can consider each other charlatans? This would never happen among Nobel laureate physicists or biologists. The reason it happens among economists is that markets and societies are nothing like the weather. Unlike in meteorology, if a venerable financial analyst predicts a sharp drop in the stock exchange, that drop will happen, even if the analyst was drunk when he made the prediction.”
    [JQ, I’d love to see a post by you on this]

    “Truth After Trump

    Jan 26, 2021
    YANIS VAROUFAKIS

    “This is why neither empirical success nor failure causes an economic theory ever to be dismissed. Like conspiracy theorists and theologians, economists of different schools – Keynesians, monetarists, and Marxists, for example – can explain every possible observation within the confines of their particular paradigm. And, like religions, the prevailing creed results from power struggles between groups hiding their interests behind different dogmas.

    “Herein lies Trump’s opening. For decades before his election, countless disempowered people had been listening to economic experts tell them that the policies wrecking their lives survived the scientific falsification process. It was a monstrous lie that allowed Trump to weaponize their despair against the “establishment” – and also against a scientific ethos tainted by its association with economics.

    “Trump is out, thankfully. But the view of economics that gave Trump his political toehold remains entrenched, its influence even greater under President Joe Biden.”
    https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/truth-after-trump-requires-an-economic-reckoning-by-yanis-varoufakis-2021-01

  6. JQ, maybe instead of deleting “a bunch of comments”, archive them for a future piece on “all the tricks of the ‘______ [insert category ] – to provide a basis future research relative to category. Obviously climate xhange global heating will be top of list. A juicy read and a set of flags for eg my kid. And most will end with – ad hom + bat and ball and going home.

    A nice title too ” Denialist dummy spits – why they don’t play the ball”. You must have 15+yrs of this?

    Ala Zombies, but still alive and ‘kicking’ – instead of building.

  7. Ikonoclast, I have read your post of 2 February but can offer only a very limited comment.

    I have not studied philosophy and therefore I am not educated in the methodology of establishing the logical consistency of an argument in this field. Moreover, like in other disciplines, reading up simple definitions of words – eg dualism, monism, priority monism – are often insufficient to comprehend the depth or extend of a concept that is represented by the “sign” (word).

    In the course of my PhD research, many years ago, and after having, lets say reached a stage of feeling comfortable with the technical prerequisites for my theoretical research, I did ask myself what kind of society am I actually representing in this abstract language. So I did a little bit of unstructured reading in philosophy to discover, what I call the ‘philosophical base’ of a society that is represented in the type of theoretical model I developed. My best guess is, that this line of reading belongs to moral philosophy. It does not take much imagination that there are or could be other societies, past, present or in the future, that have a different philosophical base (a priories as to what is considered ‘good’ or desirable; one society talks a lot about competition while another talks a lot about harmony whereby I would say that without proof to the contrary the notion of harmony as a socially desirable state is not implied by an equilibrium in a society where competition is a socially desirable state; they are not necessarily homomorphic). Yes, I did stumble across dualism and monism, without giving it much further thought (eg lets see whether I come across something in the future on this topic by chance.)

    You did talk about ontology for a long time and you wrote the more extensive post. All of which led me to peek into what is written about this word in easily accessible literature. It is, on first reading, a branch of philosophy I find interesting not least because the line of thought is, in some sense, similar to that of mathematical economic theory that uses concepts from pure mathematics (“math econ”) to find abstract representations of what is considered important in terms of categories and relationships. In this econ literature there are, to the best of my knowledge only 2 fundamentally important categories, called ‘primitives’, these are natural resources (eg the concept of a ‘commodity’, defined by its physical characteristics, time of availability and location of availability, the physical characteristics are assumed to be supplied by natural scientists) and people; each human is represented by preferences (by focusing on humans, instead of on each living creature, the boundary of economics is, so to speak, defined). A second order category is ‘the institutional environment’, of which a market – “price system” – is only a special case, although one that has attracted most attention. To what extent “customs, legal laws, regulations, and institutions” (such as a reserve bank or …..) require different types of theoretical models (ie a different characterisation of the ‘institutional environment’) is a question I cannot comment on. But I do know there is a lot of work going on and not only in the area of behavioural economics but also in math econ.

    Recently, Ross Gittins published an article in the smh in which he noted that academic economists object to criticisms of economics without realising that most people do not learn about economics from academics but from people who appear on TV or on radio or in print or on social media. He is of course perfectly right on this one. Ross tried to hold the academic economists responsible nevertheless to the extent that those who appear on TV etc have been taught by the academics. I don’t concur with him on this one because the academic economists are not really in charge of what is taught in which course (eg an economics subject in an accounting course or in law, or in management, …..). I can think of some academic economists who might like to have as a prerequisite for students to enter an economics course to have passed several subjects in philosophy, several in applied and pure mathematics, and some history. How small would departments of Economics be? Moreover, in some universities, Faculties of Economics have been either headed by a Professor of Accounting or they have been merged with Departments of Social Science, eg Sydney Uni.

    You ask: “How can this above ontological approach be related to economics?”
    The short answer is: I don’t know. But I can offer the following best guesses on how to proceed.

    As I have tried to indicate above, it seems to me the ontological approach is not strange in math econ. The line of thinking seems to be similar. But saying something seems to be similar is not satisfactory. Taking note of some of your earlier comments on other posts, recommending you work through this math econ literature is not helpful due to the language (“signs”) problem.

    Considering the issue of what is Economics as reflected in Gittins’ article, you face the question what is your critique of Economics. That is, on the philosophical level, the question of what you mean by Economics is crucial.

    Suppose you were to make life easier for yourself, one approach would be to work out your theory of the ‘formal system’ has to comply with the ‘real system’, using the methods of proof used in philosophical argument and then pick examples from Economics, which you know of and can reference, to show that these examples are inconsistent on ontological grounds as described in your theory. This approach would allow economists to make up their own mind whether or not the critique is applicable to their own work or that of others.

    After so many words, this is all I can offer. Best wishes for your book.

  8. Ernestine Gross,

    Thank you for taking the trouble to read and comment. My undertaking is idiosyncratic and quixotic. I realize that. My slowly developing monograph, such as it is, is simply part of my personal attempt to figure out a few things if I can. The excerpts or rather “notes towards” that I place in a blog or two are simply attempts to drop a few pebbles in other minds to generate possibly new ideas. Your comments on this blog at various times have very much illuminated and even changed my thinking on certain matters.

    It’s difficult for me to define “economics”. Margaret Thatcher remains infamous for saying: “There’s no such thing as society.” I would turn that on its head and say, “There is no such thing as economics.” By contrast, there certainly ARE societies. I would say that the subject under analysis is political economy or social economy.

    Of political or social economy I would say that it is about:

    The personal, social and political actions and decisions, of a compound, complex, convoluted, imbricated and involved cooperative-competitive nature, undertaken by humans in society, to effect individual and social resource collection followed by goods and services production and distribution via gifting, selling and buying, for the purposes of acquisition for use or storage, with a view to the survival and amenities of both individuals and society at large. Fully involved are both the operations of social modes of valuation via instrumental rationality (based on claimed-to-be objectively commensurate calculations) and via value rationality (moral philosophy and ethics) and the operations of social modes of power ranging the gamut from rational calculative and persuasive power to open violence and these once again are of a compound, complex, convoluted, imbricated and involved cooperative-competitive nature. All of these operations will be subject to the state, capacities and limitations of human biology, human knowledge and belief systems, the state of technology, the general state of the society in question and the surrounding state of nature (ecosystems and biosphere) in which exists the political or social economy or, more fully, the civilization in question.

    This is a first cut attempt at a definition and I am glad you pushed me to it. Only when someone is pushing with me or against me am I pushed to think more. The definition is intended to cover all known political economy systems to date, identifying the elements general to all of them while not adding ideologically conditioned elements existing in only some systems, past or present. For example, I talk of “goods” in the most general sense but not of commodities and more especially not of a commodity system, which appears only in some political economies over the course of history but in many or all today.

    With a bit of work we could extract my implied ontological base elements from this definition. This exercise would assist in refining the definition as we, or I, throw out or include the base elements or base existents which seem necessary for the discipline of political or social economy.

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