1529-2134

Clash of the Titans: When the Market and Science Collide

Here is the abstract and the introduction from the volume Experts and Epistemic Monopolies where our paper can be found.

Abstract

Purpose/problem statement – Two highly successful complex adaptive systems are the Market and Science, each with an inherent tendency toward epistemic imperialism. Of late, science, notably medical science, seems to have become functionally subservient to market imperatives. We offer a twofold Hayekian analysis: a justification of the multiplicity view of spontaneous orders and a critique of the libertarian justification of market prioricity.

Methodology/approach – This chapter brings to light Hayekian continuities between diverse literatures – philosophical, epistemological, cognitive, and scientific.

Findings – The very precondition of knowledge is the exploitation of the epistemic virtues accorded by society’s manifold of spontaneous forces, a manifold that gives context and definition to intimate, regulate, and inform action. The free-flow of information is the lifeblood of civil (liberal) society. The commoditization of medical knowledge promotes a dysfunctional free-flow of information that compromises notions of expertise and ultimately has implications for the greater good.

Research limitations/implications – While we accept that there are irresolvable tensions between these epistemic magisteria we are troubled by the overt tampering with the spontaneous order mechanism of medical science. The lessons of Hayek are not being assimilated by many who would go by the adjective Hayekian.

Originality/value of chapter – On offer is a Hayekian restatement (contra the libertarian view typically attributed to Hayek) cautioning that no one spontaneous order should dominate over another, neither should they be made conversable. Indeed, we argue that the healthy functioning of a market presupposes institutions that should not answer to market imperatives.

Introduction

It’s a common error to mistake the nature of liberalism. Of course ‘‘liberalism’’ is a term with many meanings, some unrelated and not all compatible. A common refrain from both self-avowed Hayekians and critics alike attributes to Hayek the view that the market is the root of social order. In this chapter we dispute this assertion. Hayek made it clear in no uncertain terms that the market exists as part of a manifold of spontaneous orders that constitute the fabric of civil (liberal) society. Hayek’s defence of common law against legislation, morality, and tradition against so-called ‘‘social justice,’’ and the market against the egalitarian impulse affirms the multiplicity view. What Hayek was recommending was the interdependence of independent equals. This provides the philosophical backdrop to the discussion. As grist to the Hayekian mill we draw upon an eclectic body of literature and examples. The discussion unfolds as follows: the second section examines Hayek’s supposed economism and libertarianism; the third section looks at the characteristics of science as a spontaneous order; the fourth section recasts the notion of a spontaneous order as an extended cognitive system afforded by technological developments. The fifth section examines some of the distortive market influences upon medical science and the sixth section discusses the philosophical motivations behind the open access movement. The penultimate section looks at a specific case study – The Knowledge Hub for Pathology (hereafter TKHP) – that instantiates the virtues of a spontaneous order discussed in the preceding four sections. We conclude with a few brief remarks.

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Oakeshott Zygon Symposium

Check out this symposium from a few years back.

  1. Leslie Marsh

    Keywords: category error; creationist science; Stephen Jay Gould; ignoratio elenchi; modality; non-overlapping magisteria; Michael Oakeshott; politics; religion; science

    Abstract. This paper introduces a symposium discussing Michael Oakeshott’s understanding of the relationship of religion, science and politics.

  2. Elizabeth Corey

    Keywords: British Idealism; modality; Michael Oakeshott; practical mode; practice; religion; George Santayana; Georg Simmel; Eric Voegelin

    Abstract. Michael Oakeshott’s religious view of the world stands behind much of his political and philosophical writing. In this essay I first discuss Oakeshott’s view of religion and the mode of practice in his own terms. I attempt next to illuminate his idea of religion by describing it in less technical language, drawing upon other thinkers such as Georg Simmel and George Santayana, who share similar views. I then evaluate Oakeshott’s view as a whole, considering whether his ideas about religion can stand up to careful scrutiny and whether they have value for present-day reflection on religion.

  3. Timothy Fuller

    Keywords: Christianity; experience unmodified; historical experience; modes of experience; practical experience; religious life; scientific experience; worldliness

    Abstract. Michael Oakeshott reflected on the character of religious experience in various writings throughout his life. In Experience and Its Modes (1933) he analyzed science as a distinctive “mode,” or account of experience as a whole, identifying those assumptions necessary for science to achieve its coherent account of experience in contrast to other modes of experience whose quests for coherence depend on different assumptions. Religious experience, he thought, was integral to the practical mode. The latter experiences the world as interminable tension between what is and what ought to be. The question, Is there a conflict between science and religion? is, in Oakeshott’s approach, the question, Is there a conflict between the scientific mode of experience and the practical mode? Insofar as we tend to treat every question as a practical one, these questions seem to make sense. But Oakeshott’s analysis leads to the view that scientific experience and religious experience are categorically different accounts of experience abstracted from the whole of experience. They are voices of experience that may speak to each other, but they are not ordered hierarchically. Nor can either absorb the other without insoluble contradictions.

  4. Byron Kaldis

    Keywords: definition; designation; ethics; holism; mode of experience; naturalism; naturalized epistemology; Michael Oakeshott; philosophy of science; religion; science

    Abstract. I offer a critical exposition and reconstruction of Michael Oakeshott’s views on natural science. The principal aim is to enrich Oakeshott’s modal schema by throwing light on it in terms of its internal consistency and by bringing to bear on it recent developments in philosophy in general and the philosophy of science in particular. The discussion brings out the special place reserved for philosophy, the crucial tenet of the separateness of these modes seen as Leibnizian monads as well as the special status allowed to science. It considers the possibility of combining one moment of philosophical thinking, namely ethics, with science in the midst of such modal separateness. I first offer a general introduction of how to approach Oakeshott’s views on science. The next section stresses philosophy and its relation to science. This is followed by an elaboration of what the modes of experience are meant to be and how science is placed among them. An examination of Oakeshott’s more particular views on science concludes the essay.

  5. Corey Abel

    Keywords: apology; Augustine; authority; Christianity; civil association; Francis Collins; conversation; Richard Dawkins; evolution; Stephen Jay Gould; history; mode; nonoverlapping magisteria; Michael Oakeshott; practical experience; religion; science; theism

    Abstract. I examine Michael Oakeshott’s theory of modes of experience in light of today’s evolution debates and argue that in much of our current debate science and religion irrelevantly attack each other or, less commonly but still irrelevantly, seek out support from the other. An analysis of Oakeshott’s idea of religion finds links between his early holistic theory of the state, his individualistic account of religious sensibility, and his theory of political, moral, and religious authority. Such analysis shows that a modern individualistic theory of the state need not be barrenly secular and suggests that a religious sensibility need not be translated into an overmastering desire to use state power to pursue moral or spiritual ends in politics. Finally, Oakeshott’s vision of a civil conversation, as both a metaphor for Western civilization and as a quasi-ethical ideal, shows us how we might balance the recognition of diverse modal truths, the pursuit of singular religious or philosophic truth, and a free political order.

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Science, the Market and Iterative Knowledge

The second paper co-authored with Dave Hardwick has now been published in Studies in Emergent Order:

Abstract: In a recent paper (Hardwick & Marsh, in press) we examine the recent tensions between the two broadly successful spontaneous orders, namely the Market and Science. We argued for an epistemic pluralism, the view that freedom and liberty (indeed the very concept of liberalism and civil society) exists at the nexus of a manifold of spontaneous forces, and that no single epistemic system should dominate. We also briefly introduced the concept of “iterative” knowledge to characterize the essentially dynamic nature of scientific knowledge. Herein lies a tension. The Market (and perhaps the prevailing culture at large) sees scientific knowledge in cumulative terms, that is, progressing to a conclusion in a linear fashion. This relatively static understanding of medical science as it relates to pharmaceutical studies can have a corrosive effect on the practice of medicine and ultimately, we believe, on the proper functioning of the market itself. In this paper we examine this tension in much closer detail by focusing upon the demands of the market, specifically the pharmaceutical industry, and the science upon which it is based. In other words, we expound upon a clash of epistemic value – one (science) that sees knowledge as essentially iterative (dynamic yet tentative) and the other (the Market) that harvests conclusive scientific knowledge (ostensibly as a fixed and firm commodity) functional to its own interests. Clinical Trials that are sharply focused with precisely determined deliverables often manifest this tension in the sharpest of relief. As a means of recovering drug development and testing costs, conclusive assessment is required to avoid creating serious financial problems for the companies themselves not to mention issues in the public interest.

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The Trouble with Scientism: Why history and the humanities are also a form of knowledge.

Philip Kitcher, prominent philosopher of science in The New Republic:

The problem with scientism—which is of course not the same thing as science—is owed to a number of sources, and they deserve critical scrutiny. The enthusiasm for natural scientific imperialism rests on five observations. First, there is the sense that the humanities and social sciences are doomed to deliver a seemingly directionless sequence of theories and explanations, with no promise of additive progress. Second, there is the contrasting record of extraordinary success in some areas of natural science. Third, there is the explicit articulation of technique and method in the natural sciences, which fosters the conviction that natural scientists are able to acquire and combine evidence in particularly rigorous ways. Fourth, there is the perception that humanists and social scientists are only able to reason cogently when they confine themselves to conclusions of limited generality: insofar as they aim at significant—general—conclusions, their methods and their evidence are unrigorous. Finally, there is the commonplace perception that the humanities and social sciences have been dominated, for long periods of their histories, by spectacularly false theories, grand doctrines that enjoy enormous popularity until fashion changes, as their glaring shortcomings are disclosed.

Human social behavior arises, in a complex social context, from the psychological dispositions of individuals. Those psychological dispositions are themselves shaped not only by underlying genotypes, but also by the social and cultural environments in which people develop. Cultural transmission occurs in many animal species, but never to the extent or to the degree to which it is found in Homo sapiens. Human culture, moreover, is not obviously reducible to a complex system of processes in which single individuals affect others. Rigorous mathematical studies of gene-cultural coevolution reveal that when natural selection combines with cultural transmission, the outcomes reached may differ from those that would have been produced by natural selection acting alone, and that the cultural processes involved can be sustained under natural selection. Whether this happens in a wide variety of areas of human culture and domains or is relatively rare is something nobody can yet determine. But culture appears to be at some level autonomous and in some sense irreducible, and this is what scientism cannot grasp.

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Clash of the Titans: When the Market and Science Collide

Coming soon the first of three papers I’ve co-authored with Dave Hardwick, this one due in Advances in Austrian Economics, Vol. 17

ABSTRACT

Purpose/problem statement – The two most successful complex adaptive systems are the Market and Science, each with an inherent tendency toward epistemic imperialism. Of late, science, notably medical science, seems to have become functional or subservient to market imperatives. We offer a two-fold Hayekian analysis: a justification of the multiplicity view of spontaneous orders and a critique of the libertarian justification of market prioricity.

Methodology/approach – This paper brings to light Hayekian continuities between diverse literatures – philosophical, epistemological, cognitive and scientific.

Findings – The very precondition of knowledge is the exploitation of the epistemic virtues accorded by society’s manifold of spontaneous forces, a manifold that gives context and definition, to intimate, regulate, and inform action. The free-flow of information is the life-blood of civil (liberal) society. The commoditization of medical knowledge promotes a dysfunctional free-flow of information that compromises notions of expertise and ultimately has implications for the greater good.

Research limitations/implications – While we accept that there are irresolvable tensions between these epistemic magisteria we are troubled by the overt tampering with the spontaneous order mechanism of medical science. The lessons of Hayek are not being assimilated by many who would go by the adjective Hayekian.

Originality/value of paper – On offer is a Hayekian restatement (contra the libertarian view typically attributed to Hayek) cautioning that no one spontaneous order should dominate over another neither should they be made conversable. Indeed, we argue that the healthy functioning of a market presupposes institutions that should not answer to market imperatives.

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Stories, religion, politics and evolution

Staying with the literature theme of a few days ago and earlier today, here is another write up on Jonathan Gottschall’s new book and an article by JG himself here and a related review article of another book by John Gray here.

Adam Frank, Professor Physics & Astronomy

Physicists vs Philosophers

Good article from Adam Frank:

At stake is a critical question living deep inside the heart of modern foundational physics: What are the limits of science?

David Albert was having none of it. As he correctly points out: Where do the fields come from? Better yet: Where do the laws of quantum mechanics come from? These are clearly meaningful questions even if, perhaps, they fall outside the domains of physics.

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Plantinga and Noë on the science vs religion debate

Noë reviews Plantinga’s latest book.

from a naturalistic point of view, we have every reason to doubt that our cognitive faculties are reliable. Therefore we can’t seriously believe naturalism. For to believe it would be to have grounds for doubting the reliability of our own inclinations to believe it.

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Hayek, Connectionism, and Scientific Naturalism

Here is an excellent paper by Joshua Rust.

Barry Smith (1997, p. 18) observes that ‘‘Hayek is at one with the connectionist tendency within contemporary cognitive science.’’ And at one level of description, Smith is correct. Friedrich Hayek’s question is, in part, a procedural one: by what mechanism does the mental order come to replicate or represent the most general features of the physical order of which it is a part? In response, Hayek posits an associative scheme that bears some resemblance to contemporary connectionist theories of mind. Nevertheless, I shall contend that Hayek is wrongly shoehorned into the connectionist camp. Hayek’s question cannot be the same as the philosophical connectionist because the former does not share the same ontological presuppositions as the latter.