apparent self-sacrifice -Reply

Hans Despain DESPAIN at econ.sbs.utah.edu
Tue Jul 18 13:08:25 MDT 1995


Lisa R., your efforts have not been wasted, nor do I believe
misunderstood.  I have no problem with a c-b approach to evolution,
but you continuely argue that it can explain everything.  And it is
this which I would like to protest.  It simply cannot.

Moreover, I am not claiming that c-b approach is neo-classical, but
that it is rooted in a neo-classical economic approach.  This does
not mean that it is not better applied to evolution than it is to
economics.  Also, there is no doubt in my mind that even evolutionary
c-b approach is assuming *rationality* assumptions, again not good or
bad, but it is there.

Thus, my purpose is to point out that c-b approach has historical
roots, namely Karl Popper among others, who believed, has seemingly
Lisa does, that it can be applied to "everything."  This is also
currently the stance of C. Becker and the Chicago school of
economics.  This seems to me to be a mistake.  It is specifically in
the case of economics the c-b analysis tends not to be concerned with
ethical questions, they can always enter, but one must struggle for
there consideration.  This is because the c-b analysis is meant to
abstract away from ethical considerations, so they must enter in
second hand.

Lisa claims that she does not make a distinction normative and
postivist issues, but it seems to me that she does this quite often.
Perhaps I am wrong about this.  But she continued your post my asking
me why "should be" cannot be seperated from "what is."  Simply
because "what is" cannot, in any meaningful way, be seperated from
our perception of what it is.  This implies that we always
implicitly begin a problem with what it "should be."  This is not just
a problem in social science, but also in natural science.  The goals,
for the problems to be solved set the direction of science and in
part the method to approach these problems, along with, in part also
determines the "facts" to be found.

With regards to "ethics" there are some sciences which must begin
with questions of ethics, viz. political economy.  Thus, again my
protest is in your claim that c-b analysis can apply to everything.
But if it is true that there is no meaningful way to seperate our
perception from the objects of science, even the biologists may
find great benefit in investigating her scientific goals, and why
these are her or the scientific communities' goals.

It seems to me that science should concern itself not only with how
things are, but with how this understanding benefits human kind.
This will also form the questions to be asked.

Let me repeat one more time, my concern is not with c-b analysis in
evolution, but the claim that it can be applied to everything.  This
seems to me to be a misunderstanding of its very possibilties
as a method along with its limits.

Hans Despain
despain at econ.sbs.utah.edu
hans.despain at m.cc.utah.edu


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