The Rhetoric of Economics (Rhetoric of the Human Sciences) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1998/5/1
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Deirdre N. McCloskey teaches economics and history at the University of Iowa and is the Tinbergen Distinguished Professor at Erasmus University of Rotterdam. Author of a dozen books in economics and history, she was formerly known as Donald. Her experience in changing gender is reflected in the new edition, but the message remains the same: economics needs to get serious about its rhetoric, and back to science.
*Three new chapters, two new bibliographies
*Publishing history: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985
"The most thoughtful book on economics in years."--"Philadelphia Enquirer"
"McCloskey takes aim at the 'dismal science's' scientific pretensions in this pathfinding, elegantly written, and intellectually razor-sharp book."--"Washington Post"
"McCloskey must be credited with the singular achievement of introducing the major philosophers of the twentieth century into a discussion of the methodology of economics."--"Times Literary Supplement"
The most thoughtful book on economics in years.”"Philadelphia Enquirer"
McCloskey takes aim at the dismal science’s’ scientific pretensions in this pathfinding, elegantly written, and intellectually razor-sharp book.”"Washington Post"
McCloskey must be credited with the singular achievement of introducing the major philosophers of the twentieth century into a discussion of the methodology of economics.”"Times Literary Supplement"
McCloskey’s target is the pretentious scientism in which economists couch their mutual persuasionsa scientism that lingers on as the near-official language of economics discourse long after its inadequacies have been recognized by philosophers and scientists.”"New York Review of Books"
The importance of McCloskey’s work cannot be overstated.”"Quarterly Journal of Speech"商品の説明をすべて表示する
Because McCloskey is an economist (and a brilliant and eccentric writer), she's not prone to adopt the radicalism of Postmodernism - her take on those ideas is opposition to naïve Modernism, but without repudiating either science, rationalism or empiricism.
Basically, McCloskey attacks Modernism, or Positivism, a simplistic view of the world according to which science is a unique channel to truth, one in which things are "proven" rather then argued, in which, if you can't count it you don't know it, where mathematics is god and a mere argument - one not backed by "the facts" - is worthless, "mere" rhetoric. McCloskey offers "Ten Commandments of Modernism" in science (pp. 143-144), including such dictates as "Prediction and control is the point of science" (the first commandment), and "Only the observable implications (or predictions) of a theory matter to its truth" (the second commandment).
My problem is, I doubt anyone has ever been a "naïve Modernist" in McCloskey's sense. I only believe in two of McCloskey's commandments, and even those with misgivings. The strongest opponents of the Postmodernists, scientists like Paul Gross and Norman Levitt, historians like Richard Evans, philosophers like Daniel Dennett - certainly are no naïve Modernists. Even according to McCloskey herself, Milton Friedman's essay "The Methodology of Positive Economics", despite being "the central document of modernism in economics" (McCloskey's phrase), is "more postmodernist than you might suppose", and even Karl Popper is a "transitional figure"(pp. 144-145). So what's all the fuss about? Who is McCloskey after? When it comes to an example, McCloskey parades a research paper (by economists Richard Roll and Stephen Ross), stating:
"One should not reject the conclusions derived from firm profit maximization on the basis of sample surveys in which managers claim that they trade off profits for social good" (quoted on p. 146)
Is that so unreasonable?
Compare McCloskey's three chapters against methodology and for rhetoric with chapter four of 'Intellectual Impostures' by the bete noir of Postmodernists, Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Their prose and argument is more lucid; the ideas are very similar. And as a critic of Modernist prose and scientism (and McCloskey's charge about those point is substantial), it is strange that she marshals with apparent approval the writing of someone like Stanley Fish, who writes: 'All utterances are... produced and understood within the assumption of some socially conceived and understood dimension of assessment... all facts are discourse specific... and therefore no one can claim for any language a special relationship to the facts as they "simple are".' (Quoted on p.108).
If the central argument of McCloskey's book is not all that surprising, the book is nonetheless worth reading for McCloskey's almost incidental insights. Her attack on the insignificance of statistical significance (chapter 8), is more developed here than in her "Secret Sins of Economics", and it is rather disturbing that so many economists have fallen into the trap of thinking that an arbitrary statistical test necessarily has real life meanings (chapter 8). Her discussion of the justifications for the existence of a downward sloping demand curve must make anyone interested in economics think twice: "Some economists have tried to subject the law to a few experimental tests" she writes "After a good deal of throat-clearing they have found it to be true for clearheaded rats and false for confused humans" (p. 25).
McCloskey's insight into and analysis of actual rhetoric is also fun, for example, on a classic paper by Ronald Coase:
"When claiming the ethos of the Scientist the young Coase was especially fond of "tend to", the phrase becoming virtual anaphora on p. 46 (Coase 1937), repeated in all six of the complete sentences on the page and once in the footnotes. (p. 89)
McCloskey also does some popularization of economics, almost in the matter of course. She makes the ideas of economists comprehensible for neophytes like me; Her summery of Robert Fogel's thesis about American railroad is masterly, and she actually translates the main points of a breakthrough article by John Muth from economistic into English (pp. 54-58).
McCloskey does all these things as after thoughts - but it's there that her genius really comes through.
One of the best sources to support that case is Karl Popper but you would never know that from reading this book.
"I started again to read philosophy of science (I had stopped in graduate school, just short of the Karl Popper level). More important, around 1980 I came upon history and sociology of science that challenged the reigning philosophy. Scientists, these crazy radicals claimed, were not the macho saints that Popper said they were." (xi)
Popper was fairly aware of the human frailty to scientists and in chapter 23 of The Open Society and its Enemies he wrote:
"Everyone who has an inkling of the history of the natural sciences is aware of the passionate tenacity which characterizes many of its quarrels. No amount of political partiality can influence political theories more strongly than the partiality shown by some natural scientists in favour of their intellectual offspring..."
To round out Popper's point, whatever objectivity science enjoys does not come from the "objectivity" of individual scientists but from the quality of the discussion (rhetoric) in the profession. This is probably the point that McClosky was making.
In a critical section on modernism (essentially the positivism of the Vienna Circle and the logical empiricists who followed them) she "The logical positivists of the 1920s scorned what they called `metaphysics'. From the beginning, though the scorn has refuted itself. If metaphysics is to be cast into the flames, then the methodological declarations of the modernist family from Descartes through Hume and Comte to Russell, Hempel and Popper will be the first to go." (147)
However Popper was talking about the uses and the value of metaphysical theories in print since the mid 1950s and in lectures since the 1940s although it took a long time (until 1982) for the world o see the Metaphysical Epilogue to the third volume of Popper's "Postscript to the LSD".
Pressing on with the critique of modernism she wrote "The intolerance of modernism shows in Popper's The Open Society and its Enemies (1945) which firmly closed the borders of his open society to psychoanalysts and Marxists - charged with violating all manner of modernist regulations." (158)
I don't recall Popper writing very much about psychoanalysis in the OSE and his main target was not Freud or Marx themselves but people who refused to contemplate any criticism of the master. That does not close the borders to psychoanalysis because Popper considered that there was probably a lot of truth in Freud's ideas if only they were developed under the control of various forms of criticism.
The same applies to Marxism. Popper reacted against doctrinaire and fadist Marxism in the same way that he reacted against doctrines and intellectual fads of all kinds. Of course he regarded Marxism as much more than a fad and so he devoted several hundred pages of analysis to bring out the strong and weak points of it. It would be good to have some searching criticism of Popper's treatment of Marx from an economist with the track record of McCloskey!
These carping comments do not detract from the positive core of the book.