Seminar on “Economics as a Value Science”

Part of a work-in-progress in philosophy of economics, here is the video of a seminar I led on “Economics as a Value Science.” Part of my argument is that there is a large, problematic gap in economic theory about the relationship between economic facts and economic values. Along the way I discuss Friedrich Hayek, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Rudolf Carnap, Richard Rorty, Milton Friedman, Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig von Mises, Aristotle, and Ayn Rand. The table of contents of the seminar are below the video frame.

Seminar contents:

Philosophical issues in economics
David Hume
Immanuel Kant
Philosophical dichotomies
Implications for economics

Economic agents
Policy recommendations
Nature of philosophers
Irrational values and biases

Positivism: Rudolf Carnap
Postmodernism: Richard Rorty

Free-market economists on facts and values:
Quote: Human Action, Ludwig von Mises
Quote: The Methodology of Positive Economics, Milton Friedman
Quote: Rules and Order, Friedrich A. Hayek

Dichotomous problems
Quote: A History of Economic Analysis, Joseph Schumpeter

The Aristotelian approach
Objectivity or subjectivity of values
Objective value thesis
Subjective value thesis

Three-way debate:
Intrinsic value thesis
Subjective thesis
Objective thesis

Values as a species of facts
Biological perspective
Fish example: Facts, Values
Value statements
Human beings: Facts, Values

Value examples
Implications for the subjectivity and objectivity of value
Human valuing
Free society

Epistemological resources on natural and objective value
Final words
Final credits

The above video at UFM’s site.

3 thoughts on “Seminar on “Economics as a Value Science”

  • February 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Perhaps it did not fit the function of the presentation, but, there were implications of “utility” as an understanding of “value,” and some differentiation or distiction of “utility” could be noted.

    You are probably aware of Dierdre McCloskey’s ongoing works, including “Bourgeois Virtues,” and her critique of Kant and Hume therein.

    There remains the human quandry that “ought” (the deontic from the daimonic) often creates the “is.”

  • February 22, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    I enjoyed this. Your presentation was very easy to follow and your diagrams were great.

    However, it seems that you snuck in a premise or two. To claim that algae or small bugs are “good” for a fish is to claim that life is good for a fish. This value judgment went unnamed throughout your presentation. Thus, it appeared that you were merely advocating a variety of intrinsicism, in that life was taken as good in and of itself. To claim that soil is good or bad is to claim that soil must be evaluated from the perspective of a plant, with life being good and death or pestilence being bad.

    I assume your personal views on this matter would align with Rand’s and you would advocate some kind of contextual approach in which values presuppose life and are only applicable to living organisms.

    (Unfortunately, it seems difficult to claim that life is more than an arrangement of matter, and that, therefore, like a rock, a living organism’s existence is not, as Rand claims, conditional. But this materialistic argument is too complicated to pursue via blog posts.)

  • February 23, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Glad you enjoyed it, Alex, and thanks for this note.

    Hopefully, there is no sneaking premises in, though, as the issue you are raising is the whole, explicit point of the talk. The point is that value is objectively relational, not intrinsic.

    My thesis is not: Life is intrinsically valuable.
    My thesis is: Value exists only in relation to life.

    In other words:
    My thesis is not: Life is unconditionally good.
    My thesis is: Life is the condition of good.

    Or in other words:
    Not: Good and bad exist independently or prior in some way to life.
    Rather: Good and bad come into existence as a result of life’s conditionality.

    In your final, parenthetical paragraph you rightly raise an important related issue about reductionism and emergent properties. Definitely more needs to be said about value in relation to inanimate objects, animate but non-conscious organisms, conscious but non-volitional organisms, and volitionally-conscious beings such as ourselves.

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