Friday, 25 February 2011

Deep thought Friday

A less abstract challenge today, to encourage you to go back to last week's ponder. Jennie came along after everyone had left with thoughts and links and I'm not sure I can manage alone.

Here's it is then, mundane by comparison.

How far is a field interested in moving us beyond its essential concern? For example, if the fundamental problem of economics is scarcity, how far will it assist in eliminating this?


ArmChairGeneral said...

I think the fundamental problem of economics is one of personal ambition not scarcity. Economics itself is only a system of rising and falling data in which a generalization is made on an overall area of business. Should we then, say that the problem of lumberjacks is that there is not enough available wood or available lumberjacks?

Jennie said...

I don't think that most fields of study can take us beyond their fundamental problems to any great degree, because the existence of the fundamental problems is generally taken as axiomatic by people within the field. To really solve fundamental problems, you first have to be willing to challenge fundamental assumptions(because working from those assumptions hasn't worked to solve the problem so far), and people who have invested years of their lives learning and working in the field are conditioned not to do precisely that.This is not to say that fundamental problems can't be solved- just that the solutions are likely to come from people who back into them or stumble upon them from vantage points outside the mainstream of thought in the field.

Porky said...

@ ArmChairGeneral - Personal ambition being the problem rather than scarcity is a more radical take on it, but then radical is what this is all about!

I mean problem in the sense of area of enquiry of course. Scarcity is understood generally as desire with limited resources, so that would cover the ambition. If you mean that we don't need all of what we desire, I can agree. And that's part of the point. Could scarcity persist - and I do mean scarcity in the widest sense I think we have, as available energy - because of economics? That because our study of this concern exists thanks to the concern, the study will not allow us to move beyond it, or eliminate it if it is harmful?

Staying with economics, there is a division into a 'positive' (loaded language?) and 'normative', with the former describing and the latter prescribing, and the latter more easily dismissed as subjective. If 'positive' was in full charge, would we see just sit and watch the rising and falling data you mention?

Taking this into other areas, we might even speculate on science itself potentially limiting us, if unwilling to challenge its own assumptions.

@ Jennie - Welcome back! You bowled me at least over last time. I think the problem with that discussion, and with many that go on here, is that it's hard to go back cold. I'm keeping at the back of my mind to return and I'll likely put out more reminders.

Your response here summarises my views too, and I think there's little to add. At root, as ever, there's us, people, and our flaws, one of which is a less than perfect awareness of these flaws.

QED? Not by a long way it seems.

Paul´s Bods said...

I think jennie´s thought is a good n´. The fact that institutes of people working within a certain area of "expertise" develope a group mentalitiy that says "we are right" and have the solution. There are different fields of economics, even similar economic "teachings2 but with the added flavour of a left or right wing political leaning, which will the "ideology" from the other ends of the political spectrum. It´s a bit like religion...the goal of all religions is the raising of the human spirit to a nirvana...the profit factor...try and tell one or the other that your teaching is a bit better in obtaining the "profit" (no pun intented)then all hell breaks loose (again, no pun intented)The very fact that these people deal with formulas to predict future events means that they are is impossible to predict the "not now", there are too many unpredictable´s. Hence the so called "futures" markets going belly up recently.
Economics and religion...two (of many other) doctrines that try to predict an outcome, a future, that is untouchable and therefore IMHO, non-existant.

Porky said...

It's interesting we're getting so much agreement here. That's good and bad of course, bad in that alternative suggestions can give the mind a good work out and have us question our beliefs too.

This idea that the future is non-existent expands on the view you put at the post on change, and is certainly thought-provoking.