Turning Rationalism On Its Head

(from elsewhere)

[T]hanks Andrew:

In regard to my statement:

—“So no statement that is not open to sympathetic testing (falsification) by operational means (sympathetic testing) can be ‘true’, nor ‘scientific’ since ‘scientific’ refers to morally warrantable constraint upon one’s statements.”—

You argue:

–“It is important to consider if this statement itself is scientific or ‘true’ by its own terms. “–

Well, this is a rationalist position, not a scientific position. So what is important to a person who justifies arguments to see if they are true (a rationalist), and a person who criticizes hypotheses to see if they are provide predictive results (a scientist) is considerably different.

A frequent fallacy of philosophical argument is that there are two, not three arguments. They are 1) Rationalist, 2) Empiricist, and 3) Scientific. 1 and 2 are philosophical justifications. 3 is not. It merely seeks what works. Philosophers attempt quite often to cast as justificationary (under their control) that which does not seek justification, but only seeks to perform.

A scientist seeks to testify that he has done due diligence, he does not seek to make true statements. After his due diligence, and after the community’s due diligence, that which survives remains hypothesis theory or law.

Science is not philosophical, but like law, practical. By practical application law evolves, and by practical applicatoin, science evolves. We philosophers attempt to explain this, but we do not inform science. We inform others about the progress of science. (Which in itself is an interesting phenomenon.)

Science then does not bear a burden of analytic truth. It bears only its evolved polycentric, normative, laws against error, bias, and deception in the presentation of theories. Those laws are often poorly articulated (outside of experimental psychology). We can analyze those laws and translate them into philosophical terms as a warranty (promise) that theories are:

  • i) internally consistent (logical)
  • ii) externally correspondent (correlative)
  • iii) empirical (observable)
  • iv) operational (existentially possible)
  • v) falsifiable
  • vi) reasonably falsified

Now, a good critical rationalist would say that all those criteria are means of falsification (criticism), not justifications, as most rationalists would attempt to assert. However, I see this as again, non-performative (verbalist) rationalist language. And instead that these are our evolved conditions of intellectual warranty, that have survived the test of time by eliminating error, bias, and deception.

(a) “is the statement falsifiable?”
My statement is reducible to “only existentially possible human operations – whether mental or physical – can exist”. This is a metaphysical not epistemological assertion. So the proposition that we must falsify a metaphysical statement is inapplicable. Without this stipulation no further argument is possible on any grounds.

Just for fun: If we could state that existentially impossible human actions can exist, then yes it is falsifiable. Just as if we state that existentially impossible mathematical operations can exist. While both of these things are hard to conceive of, that does not mean that they cannot be constructed, just as we did not imaging that length was a local rather than absolute concept. (Einstein/Brouwer). all premises are theoretical, even metaphysical premises.

Can something demonstrably exist, and can such a thing be observable? Since (this is the point of empiricist arguments) we can both sympathize with one another (or we could not cooperate on intentions) and observe our own reaction to incentive-producing phenomenon, we can in fact, make internal observations, and we can collect external, empirical observations from others. (We do. All the time. In many disciplines. )

Now it is possible that say, the quantum theory of subconscious communication is possible, but that would only state that we were not conscious, not that we reacted to incentives (information). And that we could not observe it, just as we cannot observe many of our intuitionistic functions of the mind. They are hidden from us.

(b) “Not being an empirical statement, it cannot itself be empirically tested.”

Well, it being a metaphysical statement that is its definition.

But that said, this is a good example of the rationalist fallacy. Given that empirical means observable, that I know of, we cannot make non-empirical statements. This is the debate between empiricism and rationalism. Measurements are empirical observations. Internal observations of our own sensations are empirical observations. The question is whether we insert error, bias, and deception into those observations. We are not trying to assert observations are true, we are trying to assert that observations are reasonably free of all possible error, bias, and deception.

Moreover, isolating and constructing a demonstrative test is useful only in those circumstances where we seek to uncover first principles (reduce variables). Not in those cases where we seek to discover emergent phenomenon in fully informed (existential) reality, in real time (study variables). Economics requires the latter. In physics the former. In economics we can subjectively test incentives – that is why we can cooperate, and why apes don’t (well). It is why we can use juries in courts. But we cannot deduce from incentives all possible emergent economic phenomenon, which while based upon simple rules produces fractal results (emergent complexity we cannot anticipate). In physics by contrast we do not know the first principles – we cannot empathize or sympathize with the physical universe (yet).

Another rationalist fallacy: it is MORE accurate to collect unintentionally constructed data and see if it fits your model, than it is to construct an experiment and intentionally construct data. This is one of the benefits of economic data over other tests: we collect demonstrated preferences (performatively-true testimonies). Whereas we have demonstrated that we cannot collect performatively-true testimonies in most cases because of error bias and deception.

(c) “There is the question of science vs. orthodoxy.”
Orthodoxy is a justificationist position not a scientific one.
So, actually, the question is normative (as practiced), juridical(survives criticism), and metaphysical(existentially possible). Philosophy as practiced is largely justificationary for ancient reasons. Science is demonstrative and theoretical for equally ancient reasons – largely to avoid the politically normative, which is highly loaded with error, bias and deception.

For this reason it behooves us to recognize that philosophy as practiced is a political activity, not a scientific one. That is why the most sophisticated deceptions in history have been constructed via rationalist means. First monotheism was developed argumentatively as an authoritarian vehicle. Next philosophical argument. Then pseudoscientific. Finally postmodern abandoned all truth and reason.

So the problem is not that science, must meet philosophical standards, but that rationalists must prove that they do not practice world history’s most successful art of lying, bias, and error. Since most great deceptions were carried out by rationalist rather than scientific means. Not the least of which were the church’s integration of aristotelianism, Rousseau’s justification and responsibility for the horrors of the revolution, Kant’s authoritarianism and responsibility for making marxism possible, marx’s responsibility for the death of 100M, Keynesianism’s responsibility for western civilization’s suicide, freudian psychology’s century long survival and all the damage it has done to individuals, Cantorian sets and the platonization of math and physics, scientific socialism and the loss of eastern Europe, and the postmodern and feminist attacks on the family – the central unit of reproduction.

So rationalists must warrant that they do no harm, scientists must not warrant, and do not warrant that they speak the truth. Only that they have done due diligence against doing harm to the informational commons via error bias and deception. Could we hold a court to convict both rationalists and scientists on the harm done by error, bias and deception, the prisons would be filled with rationalists and nearly empty of scientists.

Because the harm done by rationalists, is only exceeded by the great plagues. In that sense rationalism (justificationism) is an intellectual plague that we are justified in exterminating. (Which is to some small degree part of my work.)

(d) ” it is an interesting philosophy that states that philosophy is to be excluded from consideration.”
This statement requires that we agree on the term ‘philosophy’. Since in my work, I argue i think persuasively, that there isn’t any difference if both philosophy and science are subject to the same criterion. If science, philosophy, morality and law are not identical in content then someone is engaged in error, deception, or bias.

Instead, I state that rationalism (at least german and jewish rationalism) is a justificationary, authoritarian cult that has produced catastrophic harm to man on the same scale as scriptural monotheism, and only slightly less terrible than the great plagues.

And that is simply the result of looking at the evidence.


Hopefully I put this conversation into perspective, not only correcting a number of common rationalist fallacies.
It might be a bit to swallow, but that’s just how it is.

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute
L’viv Ukraine.