In Defense of Herbert Spencer

by Mario Rizzo This my letter as it appears in today's Financial Times (July 10, 2013): Sir, John Kay (“Darwin’s  humbling lesson for business”, July 3) makes good points about evolutionary  theory and the social sciences. But he is wrong about Herbert Spencer, the noted  English philosopher and evolutionist. Spencer was not a Darwinist of … Continue reading In Defense of Herbert Spencer

The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences

by Gene Callahan Let's take social science broadly, in the sense of German wissenschaft, so that The Republic and Politics and The Social Contract are social science. (I would contend that they are, in fact, often much more scientific than the latest regression study of how detergent use correlates with the suicide rate.) So what, … Continue reading The Great Ideas of the Social Sciences

The Limits of Bayesian Inference

by Gene Callahan Dan Klein's Knowledge and Coordination has something interesting to say about Bayesian inference, although he never explicitly addresses that topic. Consider the following: Here, we have the distinction between responding to the realization of events within a framework of recognized variables and relationships and the discovery of a fresh opportunity to embrace a new … Continue reading The Limits of Bayesian Inference

“Rationality” isn’t always Rational

by Mario Rizzo Over the past two years I have been reading more than I ever dreamed about rationality in economics, especially in the standard neoclassical theory of choice. I have done this because I want to get at the root of the controversies concerning whether people’s behavior is, in particular contexts, rational or not.  Claims about … Continue reading “Rationality” isn’t always Rational

Risky Behavior at Wittenberg

by Chidem Kurdas Watching Wittenberg at the Pearl Theater in New York took a group of us back to our graduate school days. This is a surprisingly entertaining comedy, creating merriment out of a mash of classical characters, modern themes and serious philosophy. The year is 1517.  Two academics at Wittenberg University, Martin Luther and … Continue reading Risky Behavior at Wittenberg

Further Thoughts on The Sensory Order

by Roger Koppl Over at Austrian Addiction, Dan D'Amico responds to my recent post on The Sensory Order.  Dan wants to know "what Hayek's theory of neuorscience is really adding here that a more basic understanding of subjective preferences does not already imply?"  Dan is not the only one with this question.  I think enthusiasts … Continue reading Further Thoughts on The Sensory Order

The Method of History

by Gene Callahan I’m currently reading Bryan Sykes excellent book, The Seven Daughters of Eve. Well, excellently written, and, I have to assume, excellent on the genetics. But there are a couple of fundamental misunderstandings of history present in the book, that I think are worth noting, because of the frequency with which people believe … Continue reading The Method of History

Just the “Basic Facts,” Mam

by Gene Callahan I was recently in a conversation with a very bright economist who declared "We are in agreement about the basic historical facts here; we are just interpreting them differently." This is a common but very damaging misunderstanding of historical knowledge: that there are a set of "basic facts" that historians are "given" … Continue reading Just the “Basic Facts,” Mam