Is Scientific Methodology Axiomatic?

{} My paper entitled “Deification of Science and Its Disastrous Consequences” makes the argument that math, science and humanities each have distinct methodologies suitable for the subject matter. These methodologies cannot be interchanged. In particular, a methodology suitable for study of inanimate objects subject to laws is not suited to the study of human beings and societies. This is because individuals and communities choose goals, and strive for them, and are free to change these goals. My paper “The Methodology of Polanyi’s Great Transformation” shows that an appropriate methodology for “social science” must be sensitive to historical and socio-cultural context, unlike scientific theories, which are universal invariants. This implies that “social science” itself is a misnomer, since the project of applying scientific methodology to the study of human societies is misconceived. I therefore suggest reverting to the older name of “humanities. The paper itself is complex and makes a number of related and linked arguments. Among these, I would like to highlight two Propositions listed below:

  1. Mathematics uses an axiomatic or hypothetico-deductive methodology, whereas science uses an inductive methodology. These two are dramatically different from each other.
  2. Economics uses an axiomatic methodology, based on a misunderstanding that this is scientific methodology.

Proposition 2 reflects a DOUBLE mistake. Mistake Number One: Economists believe that scientific methodology is axiomatic and hypothetico-deductive, whereas actual science uses a radically different inductive methodology. Mistake Number Two: Economists believe that scientific methodology is appropriate for economics, whereas economics (and all “social sciences”) require a radically different methodology. Current economic methodology goes back to Lionel Robbins (1935), who argued that “The propositions of economic theory, like all scientific theory, are obviously deductions from a series of postulates. And the chief of these postulates are all assumptions involving in some way simple and indisputable facts of experience…” This quote shows the double mistake clearly – economics uses scientific methodology, and scientific methodology is axiomatic. I will not deal with Proposition 2 and the double mistake in this post. Rather, I am only concerned with Proposition 1, establishing that Science is not based on axiomatic methodology, unlike Mathematics. This is partly to counter assertions of Egmont to the contrary in several comments, but more importantly, to clarify a common confusion among economists. Even though the point is almost obvious, the contrary is widely believed, and so I will give several arguments to establish my point.

DEFINITIONS: The Axiomatic Methodology is familiar to all readers from their study of Euclidean geometry, which starts with some simple postulates and then derives many complex properties of triangles and other figures using logic. Deductions from these axioms, which may be termed Theorems, are logically valid, without reference to the real world. The notion of logical truth was subjected to intense study in the early twentieth century, as a part of an effort to prove the consistency and completeness of axiomatic formulations of mathematical knowledge. This effort ended with the surprising results described in “Gödel’s Theorems & the Limits of Reason“. I will try to provide a simplified account of a complex and tangled story here.

ANALYTIC & SYNTHETIC TRUTHS: Within the axiomatic system of Euclidean geometry, all theorems (including Pythagorean) are analytic truths – true by virtue of definitions and logic alone, without reference to any empirical reality. To study the relation between a formal axiomatic system and the real world, one has to construct a mapping – what is the interpretation of the abstract notions of point, line, and angle in the real world. In some mappings, Euclidean geometry holds in the real world to a good approximation. In other mappings, it does not. For example, if we map the surface of the ocean into a Euclidean plane, we would make serious navigational errors (as actually happened). ALL statements of the type that Euclidean geometry holds in the real world are SCIENTIFIC statements and can only be synthetic – that is subject to empirical verification. Like ALL scientific truths (and unlike mathematical truths), such a statement can never be proven. Measuring triangles from mountaintops is an attempt to establish a synthetic truth that Euclidean geometry holds on the surface of the planet – under certain mappings, this would prove false since the surface is curved. Other mappings, which respect the curvature would validate and verify Euclidean geometry. It is always the validity of the mapping as a whole which is under consideration, and never Pythagorean Theorem as such – The Pythagorean Theorem is an analytic truth, which automatically holds if the world is Euclidean. Whereas initial investigations confirmed the validity of Euclidean geometry in the real world under a suitable mapping, later investigations discovered that the appropriate model for our universe is a Riemannian geometry. This did not make the Pythagorean theorem false, but it did mean that this theorem is irrelevant because the axioms of Euclidean geometry do not hold in the space time continuum.

SUMMARY: Mathematical axiomatic systems lead to analytic truths, which do not require empirical verification, since they are true by virtue of definitions and logic. It is a startling discovery of the twentieth century that sufficiently complex axiomatic systems are undecidable and incomplete. That is, the system of theorem and proof can never lead to ALL the true sentences about the system, and ALWAYS contain statements which are undecidable – their truth values cannot be determined by proof techniques. More relevant to our current purpose is that applying an axiomatic hypothetico-deductive system to the real world can only be done by means of a mapping, which creates a model for the axiomatic system. These mappings then lead to assertions about the real world which require empirical verification. These assertions (which are proposed scientific laws) can NEVER be proven in the sense that mathematical theorems can be proven. Even if we measure thousands of real world triangles and find that they have Euclidean properties, tomorrow we may find one which does not. Induction based on the assumption that an observed pattern will continue to be valid can never lead to logically certain conclusions. Even if the sun rises every day for billions of years, it may fail to rise tomorrow. Indeed, the reason that Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions is ranked among the top books of the twentieth century is because he established that historically, scientific laws are frequently replaced by alternatives which make previous formulations obsolete. Post-Kuhnian philosophy of science replaces the earlier naïve understanding that science takes propositions which are certain and builds upon them logically. If this was true, then science would never reach a wrong conclusion, when in fact, scientific journals are full of articles announcing that previous theories are proven wrong, and proposing more viable alternatives. Again this strongly differentiates them from mathematical journals which never state that a new empirical finding has led to the negation of a theorem previously held to be valid.

Many more arguments can be given to explain the difference between analytic and synthetic truths, which corresponds to the difference between mathematical and scientific truths. As I have explained in greater detail in my paper, the scientific method arose as a rejection of the axiomatic method used by the Greeks for scientific methodology. It was this rejection of axiomatics and logical certainty in favour of empirical and observational approach which led to dramatic progress in science. However, this did involve giving up the certainties of mathematical argumentation and learning to live with the uncertainties of induction. Economists need to do the same – abandon current methodology borrowed from (a misunderstanding of) scientific methodology,  and develop a new methodology suited for the study of human beings and societies.

PostScript: Some additional arguments as to why the axiomatic method is not suitable as a formalization for scientific knowledge are given in my comment  on Egmont’s assertions to the contrary. The project of deification of science led to an apparently successful conclusion in the early 20th Century with the Emergence of Logical Positivism, a philosophy which ‘proved’ that science led to certain truth, while religion was pure superstition. Even though this philosophy had a spectacular collapse, it’s central propositions continue to be widely believed. In fact, one could say that Logical Positivism is now almost the common religion of mankind, with the largest number of adherents – cutting across all other religions. For a collection of essays, see link to Reading and Videos on Logical Positivism

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23 thoughts on “Is Scientific Methodology Axiomatic?

  1.; it seems that science here is being unequivocally rested upon a proposition of its truth under specific methods of axiom referenced rationality. Truth is a question of construct, coherence, correspondence and/or consensus to name just a few arenas. Verification is meaningful and even the formulas of math based “proofs” must, in turn, find verification in empirical applications that establish confirmation and invariability establishes that degree of so called truth. But Veritas is a virtue not a measure; veritably in nature and divine in human metaphysical realism. But science is not about absolute or relative truth. It is a process of knowledge building and axioms must be tested for falsehood as rigorously as they are subjected to empirical true reliability. Axioms are given with proofs; if you adopt an axiom and suggest that it is the presupposition to science that is simply not accurate. Theory building is a blueprint for reality and if the blueprint has predictive value, it is engineering. Science is a process of observations made and hypothesis tested; true or false. Solid verifiability requires replication that is methodically consistent. A scientific construct of knowledge must have meaningful discovery of some magnitude beyond its own methodology. To say that Social inquiry is not science or is outside of science is to misconstrue science in an age of post modern cynicism and techno-scientific domination that markets quantity as reality. Yet even here the process of phase change not paradigmatic quantum disputes is a subtle hint that states of physical nature can not all be predicted by their atomic or molecular measures. Life and social existence can and should be approached methodically and with a rigorous and vigorous set of measures that human lives can depend upon for verified reliability and tested grounded theory. But axioms are veritable reality in themselves and must have demonstrated proofs to the extent that proof is possible. Otherwise they are configurations and semantic symbols of potential projections from unreliable but obviously self evident …”invisible hands” balancing the books.. Science literally means knowledge. Are we now to say that Social Knowledge, in that regard, is not possible? Scientia potentia est; Scientia est potentia: Science is power. Well, if we are to work in the current vernacular then Science is Capital. If we see it that way than axiomatic science is a utilitarian tool for neoclassical convictions and consensus. If we see it that way then perhaps Social Capital is the failure to see the distinctions and the difference.

    1. I should add that in the current “phase change” of intellectual history “knowledge” is capital. so perhaps we might qualify that as organized and organic knowledge is the purpose and telos of science in the classic sense and, as Norman L. Roth has indicated, it should be distinguished from technos in our market minded reality.
      Telos and Technos: The Teleology of Economic Activity and the Origins of Markets
      Oct 7, 2007
      by Norman L. Roth

  2. Bruce: I could not understand your first comment — the other two provide references which I have not read. I think you are arguing against Proposition TWO — whereas my post is mainly about Proposition ONE. So the question of central concern in this post is: Does Science Use an Axiomatic Methodology or does it use an Inductive Methodology — I am arguing for the latter. Your position on this issue remains unclear to me.

  3. In the course of my academic work the question of the humanities as science has been a relatively perennial concern. Theoretical materialism and positivism have had some very mechanical rigidity and as disciplinary orientations are often appraised as reductive and deterministic. The results has been that, at least within the social sciences, most of the 20th century delineated into a predominantly deductive process under the presumption that deductive is more powerful than inductive inference. But this is totally dependent upon the premise or the comprehensive scope of a theoretical orientation. Presuppositions often go unmentioned that are socially “self evident” and can be the foundation for bias and defensive rationalizations follow that line of inquiry. I can not follow ‘axiomatic’ formulas based upon similar grounds. The social network of market mentality that orients much of the epistemology being used is not corrected simply because it is quantified and derived from a axiomatic presumption. The fact is that any validity appears tautological and systems theory actually can diagram such input/output formulations without the confirmation bias implicit to axioms.

    Instead i tend to favor a systematic approach that is self assessing and lends itself to testing the premises created by hypothetical assessments of empirically derived problems. In effect, abductive reasoning can test conclusions before they are set up for inductive inferences that extend the anticipation or probability; or, deductive statements that can challenge the foundation of premises or theories by demonstrating reproducible and predictable results. Under complexity, the quest for causality is an open question. Axioms do not seek either independent causality or contingency variables that have corollary and contextual meaning. Any “science” of the humanities (and I perceive this as methodological without denying either art or counter-intuitive critical thinking), has little use for axiomatic mechanistic reductions. These may have more favor in market transactions of fixed nature, but i hesitate to call that the heart and soul of science.

  4. When I read the original premiss of Asad, I am immediately drawn to the question: If the need for mapping allows us to better understand the observed subject, then how good can the mapping be? and why in macroeconomics is there no determined effort to make the mapping more exact?

    In macroeconomics the mappings were originally expressed by block and flow diagrams and the first ones were very simple (F.H.Knight, 1933) having only firms and households. This helped the Keynesian Theory status of the general subject to provide a rather poor explanation of the behavior of macroeconomics. However, subsequent developments did not concentrate on improving the mapping but jumped straight to trying to better explain the subject. There have been better maps devised but until mine came along the 3 factors of production and their 3 returns (Adam Smith, 1776) were never formally included. (See Wikimedia, commons, macroeconomics, DiagFuncMacroSyst.pdf )

    Regardless of the kind of mathematical analysis, these mappings are the result of a combinations of empirical study and logical analysis. So actually what we should be discussing is not whether mathematics has a part to play here, but if our axioms and assumptions are satisfactory, and if not why, how and where to correct them.

  5. You comment is sharp and perceptive. Even though the mapping is of vital importance to assessing the validity of an axiom system, economists generally pay no attention to this mapping. Technical assumptions like continuity of utility functions are imposed, but no attempt is made to assess whether real world consumers have preferences which satisfy these assumptions. Thus the theorems hold together in an idealized system, but have no link to the real world. This is why Ronald Coase said: “Existing economics is a theoretical [meaning mathematical] system which floats in the air and which bears little relation to what happens in the real world”. In my paper entitled “ Empirical Evidence Against Neoclassical Utility Theory: A Survey of the Literature ” I have examine what happens when we do make a mapping and assess its validity. The results are disastrous for economic theory, which is perhaps WHY the mapping is never examined in detail.

  6. The expression “squaring the circle” is sometimes used as a metaphor for proposing to do the impossible. Quantification can create a smoke screen for manipulation and self services presented as essential, efficient, necessary or naturally selected expedience that express rules of order. on the other hand, Neoclassical economic theories appear to take the arena that used to be occupied by a previous enthusiasts attempting to square the circle. Indeed, the “market” is the playground for what in New York theater is called the circle in the square. The inference here includes the question of deductive and inductive methods in science and the question of pure science as a realm of irrational historic understanding as much as a measure of rational verifications of virtual realities.

    One special note here: “”Aristotle did not seem to appreciate the contributions of those who had attempted to square the circle. He wrote in his work Physics :- The exponent of any science is not called upon to solve every kind of difficulty that may be raised, but only such as arise through false deductions from the principles of the science: with others than these he need not concern himself.”

    Here are a sequence of excerpts along with the links to follow up on details. Please note that these are all excerpts and are directly adopted from the original text on-line



    “The famous Victorian-age mathematician, logician and author, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better known under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll”) also expressed interest in debunking illogical circle-squaring theories. In one of his diary entries for 1855, Dodgson listed books he hoped to write including one called “Plain Facts for Circle-Squarers”. In the introduction to “A New Theory of Parallels”, Dodgson recounted an attempt to demonstrate logical errors to a couple of circle-squarers, stating:

    The first of these two misguided visionaries filled me with a great ambition to do a feat I have never heard of as accomplished by man, namely to convince a circle squarer of his error! The value my friend selected for Pi was 3.2: the enormous error tempted me with the idea that it could be easily demonstrated to BE an error. More than a score of letters were interchanged before I became sadly convinced that I had no chance.

    “Perhaps the most famous and effective ridiculing of circle squaring appears in Augustus de Morgan’s A Budget of Paradoxes published posthumously by his widow in 1872. Originally published as a series of articles in the Athenæum, he was revising them for publication at the time of his death. Circle squaring was very popular in the nineteenth century, but hardly anyone indulges in it today and it is believed that de Morgan’s work helped bring this about.”

    “The mathematical proof that the quadrature of the circle is impossible using only compass and straightedge has not proved to be a hindrance to the many people who have invested years in this problem anyway. Having squared the circle is a famous crank assertion. (See also pseudomathematics.) In his old age, the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes convinced himself that he had succeeded in squaring the circle.”

    “After the exact problem was proven unsolvable, some mathematicians applied their ingenuity to finding elegant approximations to squaring the circle, defined roughly and informally as constructions that are particularly simple among other imaginable constructions that give similar precision.”

    Augustus De Morgan was a 19TH Century British mathematician and logician. He formulated De Morgan’s laws and introduced the term mathematical induction, making its idea rigorous.

    There are, we say, three types of problem in geometry, the so-called ‘plane’, ‘solid’, and ‘linear’ problems. Those that can be solved with straight line and circle are properly called ‘plane’ problems, for the lines by which such problems are solved have their origin in a plane. Those problems that are solved by the use of one or more sections of the cone are called ‘solid’ problems. For it is necessary in the construction to use surfaces of solid figures, that is to say, cones. There remain the third type, the so-called ‘linear’ problem. For the construction in these cases curves other than those already mentioned are required, curves having a more varied and forced origin and arising from more irregular surfaces and from complex motions.

    “The problem of squaring the circle in the form which we think of it today originated in Greek mathematics and it is not always properly understood. The problem was, given a circle, to construct geometrically a square equal in area to the given circle.”

    [Now from this time]… “the expression ‘circle-squarers’ came into usage and it was applied to someone who attempts the impossible. Indeed the Greeks invented a special word which meant ‘to busy oneself with the quadrature’. For references to squaring the circle to enter a popular play and to enter the Greek vocabulary in this way, there must have been much activity between the work of Anaxagoras and the writing of the play. Indeed we know of the work of a number of mathematicians on this problem during this period: Oenopides, Antiphon, Bryson, Hippocrates, and Hippias.

    Oenopides is thought by Heath to be the person who required a plane solution to geometry problems. Proclus attributes two theorems to Oenopides , namely to draw a perpendicular to a line from a given point not on the line, and to construct from a given point on a given line, a line at a given angle to the given line. Heath believes that the significance of these elementary results was that Oenopides set out for the first time the explicit ‘plane’ or ‘ruler and compass’ type of construction. Heath writes [2]:-

    … [Oenopides] may have been the first to lay down the restriction of the means permissible in constructions with ruler and compasses which became a canon of Greek geometry for all plane constructions…

    There is no record of any attempt by Oenopides to square the circle by plane methods. In fact it is a rather remarkable fact that the Greeks did not produce fallacious ‘proofs’ that the circle could be squared by plane methods. The few claims for such false proofs rather seem to result from less able mathematicians failing to understand exactly what some of the more brilliant contributions to the problem were intended to show. Sadly later mathematicians did not follow the good example shown by the ancient Greeks and indeed many claimed incorrectly to have discovered a ‘ruler and compass’ proof. Amateur mathematicians, greatly attracted to the classical problems, have produced (and still continue to produce) thousands of false proofs.”

    “Aristotle did not seem to appreciate the contributions of those who had attempted to square the circle. He wrote in his work Physics :- The exponent of any science is not called upon to solve every kind of difficulty that may be raised, but only such as arise through false deductions from the principles of the science: with others than these he need not concern himself.” “Pseudomathematics is a form of mathematics-like activity that does not work within the framework, definitions, rules, or rigor of formal mathematical models. While any given pseudomathematical approach may work within some of these boundaries, for instance, by accepting or invoking most known mathematical definitions that apply, pseudomathematics inevitably disregards or explicitly discards a well-established or proven mechanism, falling back upon any number of demonstrably non-mathematical principles.”

    “In mathematics, a statement presenting itself as a mathematical truth is provably incorrect (that is, not a mathematical truth statement) if even one counterexample showing it to be false can be found. Indeed, a statement cannot rightly be called a “theorem” if a counterexample disproving it exists. While it is possible to call something a conjecture until a full formal evidence is given, until and unless that evidence is provided, it does not become a theorem. Conjectures, too, may be shown to be false if a counterexample exists.”

    “Any statement purporting to be a theorem must hold within the framework of the pre-existing definitions about which it purports to assert a truth. While new definitions may be introduced into a framework to substantiate a theorem, these new definitions must themselves hold within the framework addressed, without introducing any contradiction within that framework”
    From : Pseudomathematics

  7. Excerpt from Michael Hudson:
    The Use and Abuse of Mathematical Economics
    September 24, 1999

    “Economics vs. the Natural Sciences: The methodology of “as if”

    What is even more remarkable is the idea that economic assumptions need not have any relationship to reality at all. This attitude is largely responsible for having turned economics into a mock-science, and explains its rather odd use of mathematics. Typical of the modern attitude is the textbook Microeconomics (1964:5) by William Vickery, long-time chairman of Columbia University’s economics department, 1992-93 president of the American Economic Association and winner of the 1997 Nobel Economics Prize. Prof. Vickery informs his students that “pure theory” need be nothing more than a string of tautologies:

    Economic theory proper, indeed, is nothing more than a system of logical relations between certain sets of assumptions and the conclusions derived from them. The propositions of economic theory are derived by logical reasoning from these assumptions in exactly the same way as the theorems of geometry are derived from the axioms upon which the system is built.

    The validity of a theory proper does not depend on the correspondence or lack of it between the assumptions of the theory or its conclusions and observations in the real world. A theory as an internally consistent system is valid if the conclusions follow logically from its premises, and the fact that neither the premises nor the conclusions correspond to reality may show that the theory is not very useful, but does not invalidate it. In any pure theory, all propositions are essentially tautological, in the sense that the results are implicit in the assumptions made.”

    1. Since the axioms and assumptions in this subject must be related to it and not to something else, it is incorrect to claim that there is not necessarily any relationship at all. As the science develops and greater amounts of knowledge are accumulated about the extent that the theory agrees with the practical cases (as it inevitably must, even if at the beginning this amount of agreement is small), so too does our knowledge vindicate the modifications and additions to the assumptions made–and also to the quality of the analytic methodology used.

      This attitude applies to all science and even partially to past (poor) macroeconomic theories, which might be called pseudo science. Even so, the process is one of improvement in the quality of the knowledge. So I beg to differ with some of these comments whose authors think that in macroeconomics the theories count for nothing.

      Naturally I am writing this in the belief that I have developed a superior theory, the model of which is in: DiadFuncMacroSyst.pdf on Wikimedia, commons, macroeconomics. Can anyone improve on this level of knowledge?

  8. For Pseudo-mathematics (in the above comment) please read Pseudo Science.

    Provided it is consistent in itself, the mathematics and the associated analysis must be correct. However when the axioms and assumptions are not stated (but actually implied), and/or when they don’t fit the subject, then the analysis goes the wrong way and the results are unsatisfactory. It seems to me that we have 2 schools of thought which are getting mixed up: theoretical macroeconomics and intuitive macroeconomics. In the latter case one can say almost anything, because there is no formal boundary outside of which one cannot go. Whilst in theoretical macroeconomics when treated as a logical science the pseudo part drops out. The latter is certainly not all there is to macroeconomics but as our knowledge grows it is most likely to take a greater part and to be more certain.

  9. The faith that knowledge based on axiomatics will grow and provide greater certainty is unlikely to hold up in light of Godel’s findings of undecidabilty and incompletes. Other serious problems with the axiomatic approach are discussed in my comment on Egmont’s response to this post (which was prompted by his stance on axiomatization). This comment has been posted here:

  10. It never ceases to amaze me that Klingon continues to be the language of choice spoken on these blogs. Small wonder then why it is appears to be impossible to associate its distinctions with the world in which we “humans” live. Flat space and the difference it pretends as opposed to curved space and the difference it pretends? Give me a break people! What does that really mean? In fact, what does the word “space” pertain to at all? And while we are at it, what is this thing called “time” that everybody keeps assuming is directly related to ‘space’ in some understandable way?

    From our rather SUBJECTIVE position in all this, ‘time’ is “infinitely” regressible — just as it is infinitely viable in the form of the present as well as the future. And for us (in the meager throws of SUBJECTIVITY) they are necessarily different. So, are we talking about ‘time’ as it pertains to the past, the present or the future, as we contrive these illusions of grandeur that seem so important to us? Or, have we perhaps, in our claim to fame, now graduated our thinking to a Trinity of ‘time’? Assigning it (knowingly or unknowingly) to the station of being an eternal. And if so, what a novel idea that is. While we are trying to make sense out all this mystery, in order to assign priorities to our golden idols (economics, math, science, philosophy, theology, psychology, etc.) please tell me how it is that we believe ourselves to be able to talk about anything that pertains to that which exceeds our understanding as it is necessarily constrained by our physicality?

    We need to get real here. There are only two options open to us as we contrive thought – like it or not. Either we fixate on the construction of tautologies as a means to establish a foundation for SUBJECTIVE certainty, which is reducible to nothing more than mental masturbation; or, we fixate on the progression of linearity that offers us only a relative understanding of our unfixed nature within the time of our self. That’s it! Those are the only two options that the “grand” assumption regarding the relevance of space to time affords those who make it, while having no DIRECT access to either. To lay claim to the vagaries of the past as a means to try and ascertain what we inherently can’t know is an exercise in futility. If the answers lay in the past, we wouldn’t be facing the uncertain future that is now before us. Our world is on the verge of self annihilation and yet the babbling never ceases. We need a workable approach to stabilizing a very untenable situation, before we become its final victims. Does no one really care?

    1. I am reminded of the poetry of one our greatest poets of the twentieth century — Faiz Ahmad Faiz — I will butcher it in the translation, but this is inevitable since the original is too exquisite to be translated:

      A thousand crosses have been planted on my doorsteps
      Each colored by the blood of its savior
      Each carrying the hopes of salvation

      My interpretation — A thousand sincere, honest and committed men, deeply devoted to their cause, so much as to sacrifice their lives for it, offer me the path to salvation — how am I to choose? This is truly the dilemma we face as human beings — the search for truth is desperately important and desperately difficult. To make matters worse, there are people who are deliberately trying to deceive us. Incredible as it seemed to me when I first learned of it, there are people who fund groups to sow doubt about climate change, so that they can continue to profit from the destruction of the planet. Hollywood makes movies to celebrate torture, to accustom people to the idea. The pursuit of pleasure, at expense of all social commitments is celebrated as individualism. With so many sugar coated poisonous ideologies around, it become difficult to sort out the truth from the lies.

      What is to be done? I believe that we need to pursue a minimalist agenda — We do not insist that others have allegiance to the same set of axioms that we believe in. Rather, let us agree to work together for common goals — like saving the planet, and attempting to feed the hungry, and to provide lives of honor and dignity for all human beings. We can agree to these goals, without agreeing on ideologies motivating these goals. The Millenium Development Goals represent an embodiment of this approach and have worked to a certain extent. This provides a base to build upon which can be strengthened, in creating a global coalition of the bottom 90% against the top 0.1% perhaps.

      1. Asad, it is clear that one does NOT have the capability to choose between “truth” and that which masquerades as truth within the confines of their ability to see. That is the first thing that one must admit in order to place their feet upon the path of true understanding. It is also clear that everyone is a victim of the process by which they come to know of their own existence, whether they understand it or not. In short, we’ve been deceived. Into doing what? Into characterizing the endless limitations that comprise the possibility inherent in self realization — as though they are necessities in our quest to maximize our potential.

        We need to get this straight — complexity is not a means to understanding our potential, but only an albatross around the neck of all who struggle to refine it into the myth of ultimacy. In the process of the attempt, it consumes the most important thing we have — time. The time needed to know that we are, as opposed to trying to prove that we are, by pointing to that which is forever past. We are out of sync with everything we successfully diminish when we carve its true potential up into finite pieces of distinction. And, no amount of conceptualizing by the best and brightest from among us can change that. We need to wake up and get out of this witch hunt. If we don’t, we will inevitably find ourselves face to face with the witch we’ve created. And, consistent with the characteristics of those creating it, its wrath will be relentless.

        If one has never spent time considering the “mechanics of thought,” as opposed to “the result of its application,” the following might prove difficult. However, an understanding of it is absolutely essential to everything else. Hence, due diligence is in order.

        We initially link space and time together intuitively. This union remains unquestionable so long as they remain “word absent states.” As such, there in no priority in evidence between them. Therefore, space/time and time/space are equally cogent. This duality within sameness makes it impossible for us to distinguish between something and nothing. That is why we can’t know if something is a form of nothing or nothing is actually a form of something. The ability to be two different things at once sets up a unique dynamic that constrains the very foundation of reflection. As such, it reduces its potential to manifesting succession within simultaneity. It also does another thing. It establishes the “place” of the self in which and by which reflection validates its difference. Successive contemplation of the paradox that results from the joining of space and time thereafter establishes a foreign yet relevant difference subsequently known as SUBJECTIVE time — or, the time of the self as it finds form within the place of the self.

        As I said in my prior post, these mechanics leave us with only two options. Either we fixate on the construction of tautologies that attempt to mimic the wordless joining of space and time as a means to establish a foundation for SUBJECTIVE certainty; or, we fixate on the progression of linearity that offers us only a relative understanding of our unfixed nature within the time of our self.

        That’s it people! Those are the only two options that the “grand” assumption regarding the relevance of space to time affords to those who make it. For, we have no DIRECT access to either due to the contamination that our segmented process (represented by words) contributes to our quest. To lay claim to the vagaries of the past as a means to try and ascertain what we inherently can’t know is simply futile. If the answers lay in the past, we wouldn’t be facing the uncertain future that is now before us — a world on the verge of self annihilation. And yet, the babbling never ceases. We need a workable approach to stabilizing a very untenable situation, before we become its final victims.

        Since it is evident that more complexity does not lead to unity, but only to greater division, a new paradigm thus becomes essential — if, we hope to slow mankind’s current rush to the sea. And, it must focus upon celebrating the unity of INTENT that underlies the effort of the concerned regarding the threats that now lie before us. The Millennium Development Goals are admirable just as the goals of a number of NGOs are similarly admirable. The problem is that none of them are geared to get us to where we need to go in the time left to get there. What we need is an effort that is global in nature and can positively impact in real time. For those interested in what I believe can do the trick, e-mail me at eden1(at) Replace (at) with @.

      2. Asad: I believe this is the true spirit of any human economy. One that is deeply authentic and seeks to find the path that serves us all. Thank you for your message and reflection.

  11. Asad your Summary of the Great Transformation by Polanyi as a #1 revisited post may well indicate that “substantivism” appeals more to the 99% of people than formalism. Perhaps the forest for the trees is an appropriate analogy? But perhaps that also indicates that “axioms” as formalistic method presumes an authenticity that it professes but does not demonstrate. The formalist vs substantivist debate created a fertile ground for research and theoretical alternative models for several decades. Perhaps a renewed interest in reinterpreting and bringing the dichotomy into contemporary perspective is the challenge of reinventing economics itself. Grounded theory need not be between “Developed and Undeveloped” presumptions. In fact the dichotomy between local and global fits just as well (and there is no reason to limit it to that dichotomy alone). You might contemplate how you would approach some of this : and bring such perspectives up to par with your insightful and very accurate assessments of a reinvention (if not a quiet revolution) in Economics proper.

    1. New Edition:

      A Handbook of Economic Anthropology, Second Edition (Elgar Original Reference) Hardcover – July 31, 2012
      by James G. Carrier (Author, Editor)

    Something That Changed My Perspective: Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation
    Posted on January 2, 2015 by Yves Smith
    “…as Polanyi demonstrates, the market economy isn’t a beautiful self-correcting machine, as neoclassical economists would have you believe. It instead voraciously consumes the society and natural environment in which it sits unless it is curbed. But this process isn’t orderly; the trajectory is more like a barely controlled fall in which the market system grinds onward until it becomes so destructive in terms of stability as to rally opposition. The Great Depression and World War II were sobering enough experiences for social democracies to remain intact for about 30 years.

    The combination of perceived failure due to large fiscal deficits when the economy was at full employment in the 1960s generating the stagflationary hangover of the 1970s gave considerable impetus the efforts of well-funded, radical conservatives* to roll back New Deal and New Society social welfare programs. That counterrevolutionary project is now well advanced.

    And in contrast to the implosion that began in 1914, not only is the social order at risk, but so to is the environment on which we depend.”

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