Operationalism as Criticism: Repairing The Errors of 20th Century Philosophy

[I] have chosen the term ‘Operationalism’ over Praxeology, Actions, Intuitionism, and Operationism because it seems most intuitive given our language’s use of ‘Mathematical operations”, and “Human Actions”.

Ray (who is very helpful) does the logical thing which is treat critics of critical rationalism’s early errors as behind-the-times or ignorant, while himself making the same mistake. Because we all do. However, I have tried to repair the individual errors of the last century by uniting and repairing Critical Rationalism’s emphasis on criticsm (but painful use of analogy), and combining the various attempts to construct criticism in other fields.

So (Irony being what it is) critical rationalism (philosophy), intuitionism (mathematics), praxeology(economics), operationalism(physics), operationism(psychology), strict constructionism(law), are all parallel developments that occurred in human thought in multiple disciplines, as we evolved our scope of scientific inquiry beyond human scale; and therefore when the ‘arbitrary precision’ of the language and concepts that we had evolved WITHIN human scale, reached their limits and began to fail us. Or technically speaking, we assumed the continuous application properties predictively useful at a prior level of precision, into conditions where they no longer held.

Secondly, as as we converted from human-scale to beyond-human-scale, the problem we faced was not identifying success, but identifying error. (This is an information problem. And Taleb isn’t quite there in piecing this together yet, but he is getting very close with the math of late.) In other words, we changed from trying to find things that worked, to trying to find things that failed. And that is because we changed from individuals making discoveries, to a division of labor in the process of discovery. We changed from the high cost of experimentation, to the high cost of propagating error.

In Propertarianism I have tried to reform the 19th-20th century’s errors by completing the unification of the process of justification – which is necessary for moral testimony and in particular warranty – with criticism, which is necessary for scientific testimony. And where scientific testimony is more correctly stated as truthful testimony, that has been warrantied by due diligence (criticism) to be free of imaginary content.

I know that most people are interested in my political and moral arguments – because they advance their agendas (or refute them). But as far as I know this repair to philosophy and the merger of philosophy and science into a single discipline is my greatest achievement so far.


***Ray Scott Percival***
Operationalism has insuperable problems similar to logical positivism. This article is a nice synopsis of the rise and fall of operationalism, Ala the physicist Bridgeman. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/operationalism/

***Curt Doolittle***
I cannot be accountable for the errors of prior generations, I can only seek to repair them. smile emoticon And as far as I know I have done so.

Operationalism(science), Intuitionism(mathematics), Operationism(psychology), Praxeology/Propertarianism(economics) must be seen as instances of criticism. It is the criticism first, that ensures that we have not misapplied extant concepts beyond the limits of their arbitrary precision; and second, that each named sequence of our observations is existentially possible, and third, free of imaginary content – particularly imaginary content supplied by analogy.

So, collectively, the set of criticisms must be seen as provisions for the issue of warranty of due diligence. In other words, that we have not polluted the informational commons in a world where investigation is distributed (and therefore one has exported costs upon others), and where the expectation of our contribution to the informational commons is a contribution, not a harm.

And, any theory, in order for one to attest that it is truthful, must be criticized( falsified) by tests of:
1) external correspondence
2) internal consistency (logic)
3) existential possibility and freedom from imaginary content (operationalism/intuitionism/operationism/propertarianism)
4) parsimony (falsification)
5) morality (consisting entirely of voluntary transfer)
6) warranty (promise of having performed all criticism)

We cannot know if something is true, but we can warranty that it is truthful. If a statement provides explanatory power, and is truthfully constructed, we can testify that it is true for known applications.

But as Bridgman pointed out, there are no certain premises, because any rule of arbitrary precision (theory) likely fails at some scale. (This is a superior restatement of infinitely parsimonious scientific truth in critical rationalism.) Since there are no certain premises there are no certain non-tautological deductions – at scale. However, it is problems of scale – those beyond our senses, and those at the margins of our instruments – that we struggle to solve.

As such, our definition of a ‘true’ theory is mistaken. A theory is truthful if we have performed due diligence. A theory is true if it works at scales we currently comprehend. If the scale changes, and we improve precision, that does not invalidate the theory, but improves it. A complete theory is one in which no further parsimony is possible.

Or stated differently, we cannot treat theories as analogies wherein properties are transferred for the purpose of transferring meaning. Theories are names for categories of similar operations that produce similar outcomes. We can theorize by any means possible, but no matter how we theorize, we cannot justify a theory, we can only criticize it or state that the cost of failure using the extant theory is less than the cost of investigating a new one. We can justify our actions but not our theories. We can justify adherence to moral, legal, an contractual norms, but we cannot justify our theories.

For example, Einstein improves upon Newton, he does not render Newton false. Just as someone will undoubtably improve Einstein, not necessarily render him false. The purpose of a theory is to provide us with case independent explanatory power.

That is all it can do for us. And as such good theories can save us effort and risk and provide us with rewards while useless theories do not – not because of the theory but because of the results. And bad theories merely waste our time and effort.

Even pure (non-correspondent) mathematics fails, since, for example, infinities are impossible to construct. So even mathematical rules that remain consistent regardless of scale (which is the point of logic of ratios), are only useful as ideals. And the failure of those ideals at scale assists us in identifying the physical properties of the universe.

So by whatever name we call it “warranty of existential possibility and freedom from imaginary content”, the form of criticism I refer to as Operationalism holds. It holds because it is the only means of warrantying that we are not substituting imaginary information into an observation.

Operations constitute names. All else is analogy. Analogies allow – if not mandate – the introduction of external, imaginary information, by the natural process of substitution that makes the human mind useful for theorizing.

Worse, analogies can be used for loading, framing, overloading and suggestion, and as such have been the source of error and deceit – not only in anglo, but in german, and jewish enlightenment thought.

(I solved it. That’s just how it is. I didn’t set out to. But I did. CR requires a minor reformation. Austrian econ a minor reformation. And political theory a major one – away from monopoly rule, and into a market for commons. Science can be more correctly described as the disciple of truth telling, and that there is no difference between philosophy and science any longer. And we can abandon psychology forever as one of the most destructive theoretical systems ever developed. Only monotheism and Marxism/Keynesianism were worse.)

Curt Doolittle
The Propertarian Institute
Kiev, Ukraine.