Boettke on Hayek’s legacy part 2

The third tension that Boettke identified in the final chapter on The Hayekian Legacy is between moral intuitions and moral demands. This is one of the topics that Boettke would like to see pursued to realise the potential of the program that emerges from Hayek’s unfinished business – the loose ends of the tapestry of his thoughts.

That is not a small program and he touches on some aspects of it – the pioneering work of Deirdre McCloskey on the role of ideas in the cultural domain (sadly overlooking the great work of Michael Novak), essentially unpacking the implications of a full-blooded “institutional turn summed up the importance of “rules of the game”.

While admittedly not the most philosophically sophisticated, perhaps the most analytically productive definition of institutions is simply the formal and informal rules of the game and their enforcement in a given society” [291]

I don’t know how much philosophical sophistication is required here but the analytical productivity is seismic. In a nutshell the “rules of the game” approach unifies Karl Popper’s philosophy of science and society, and links it with the work of his (almost) lifelong friend and correspondent Hayek.

I promised Pete that I would limit myself to one small plaintive whinge at the very end of my review and here it is.

He has flagged a newish book Exact Thinking in Demented Times. The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science. I am keen to find out what is being said about this movement that launched the dominant philosophy of science for almost a hundred years. It was based on two key ideas.

1. The verification principle that only statements that can be empirically verifiable are meaningful. The rest is literally nonsense (with a special dispensation for logic and mathematics). That never worked and one has an image of the circle huddled for years around the dying embers of the verification principle.

2. The quest for a logic of induction that would provide a foundation for science based on sensations from our sense organs. The quest continues, having added no value for working scientists.

Chairman Karl, the Great Helmsman of Critical Rationalism effectively strangled the ideas of the positivists at birth but he did not prevent them from lodging like cancer cells in the great universities of the west when Hitler drove the Circle members out of Europe (think of logical empiricism as Hitler’s revenge). Young Chairman Karl got on a different boat and went to Christchurch NZ where he spent his spare time writing a big book of political philosophy. Under the bad influence of his friend Colin Simkin he took little interest in cricket and less in football but he could have developed his situational analysis model by talking with an off-spin bowler.

The pursuit of logical positivism/empiricism cost a lot of money but the real cost was its impact on other fields wherever people tried to take it seriously. Part of the cost was the missed opportunity to advance the kind of program that Pete Boettke wants to see through collaboration between Popper, Mises and the American Talcott Parsons a generation or two ago. But that is another story.

Let me end this review with the suggestion that there is a Popper-shaped hole in the liberal scrum. If he is selected I think the Great Helmsman will not be found wanting in attack and defence. More game time for Chairman Karl!

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3 Responses to Boettke on Hayek’s legacy part 2

  1. Herodotus

    First again!
    The climate scam proves that verification is no longer required. The day belongs to those with the largest cohort of media spruikers and useful idiots. The participation of so many alleged scientists in the big scam is verification of something, but it ain’t good.
    Induction is now known as modelling, and regardless of its accuracy it serves the purpose once filled by chicken entrails or shamanic sacred bundles.

  2. egg_

    The climate scam proves that verification is no longer required.

    It’s now our grand kiddies who’ll suffer the consequences of higher shore lines – how convenient!

  3. Yes, it appears that Sir Karl will be lost to Austrian School economists for another generation, and maybe, forever. I think it may be the biologists who set this all right through evolution, but the most promising ones seem to view human society as falling short of the termites and prone to apocalyptic failure without the intervention of state power wielded by the enlightened elite. Sigh.

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