by Tyler Cowen
on November 29, 2012 at 11:16 am
1. Eagleton reviews the new Derrida biography.
2. The economics of France in the 1920s.
3. Photos of Chinese architecture (recommended), and a new study of overinvestment in China, and Fuchsia Dunlop on Chinese food.
4. Peter Leeson on the economics of human sacrifice, a rational choice approach.
5. Sraffa’s notes on Wittgenstein’s “Blue Book.”
I look forward to reading Sraffa’s notes
The later work of Wittgenstein played a foundational role in Hayek’s developed understanding of training, unarticulated rule following, and patterned ways of going on together,
Gramsci -> Sraffa -> Wittgenstein -> Hayek
Although, we should recognize that Hayek rejected Wittgenstein’s earlier phenomenalist Tractarian view already in 1919, that is already before Hayek read the original German edition of the Tractatus in 1921, and Hayek’s understanding of socially acquired rules/patterns and built in ways of going on together at even a motor control level pre-date the publication of Wittgenstein’s later views.
Why does the arrow go from Sraffa to Wittgenstein? (Because of the famous “remark” on the Tractatus?)
The Tractatus phenomenalist? No, it was an outgrowth of Russell’s reductive logical realism… the world is all that is the case, remember?
It’s a version of phenomenalism. Another incoherent one, using Frege’s new logic. But a kind of spectator model, never the less.
We can endlessly try to make sense of a project which ultimately is confused and senseless.
It’s a spectator model, a picture model. You are in a little theater of given phenomena, logically structured, logically structure language with labels attached to particulars.
Whatever, Wittgenstein himself showed it didn’t make sense. Hayek in a different way did the same thing in his *The Sensory Order*.
Gerald Edelman did it in another, rather profound way in his own work.
Excellent article on 1920s France. Good sentence: “In other words, France in 1926 looks like an example of that elusive species, the expansionary fiscal contraction”. Proving the Gold Standard can work in a modern economy.
“Proving the Gold Standard can work in a modern economy”
And what would that matter? Can work and “works well” are two different things.
“I argue that human sacrifice is a technology for protecting property rights. It improves property protection by de-
stroying part of sacrificing communitieswealth, which depresses the expected payoff of plundering them.”
Is there anyone who thinks this is plausible?
I thought it might be a parody of libertarian thinking where everything is about property rights. Certainly protecting property is a “technology for protecting property rights.” If destroying property is also a technology for protecting property rights then everything is a technology for protecting property rights. i thought the equations were a nice touch.
My first instinct is that this would signal your tribe’s barbarism and wealth. “I just burned all of this money, so I must be poor” is the opposite of Vegas nightclubs.
I would think it was simply demonstrating how violent and dangerous any particular tribe can be. It says “mess with us and we will torture you slowly over a long period time just for the sheer fun of it”. Must help when there is a lack of adequate contract enforcement.
The Eagleton piece made me update my priors in favor of Derrida being a bullshitter (assuming Eagleton knows what he’s talking about). Same echelon as Wittgenstein? Come on.
I don’t follow. How does the Eagleton review support the idea that Derrica was a “bullshitter”? o.O
The Eagleton review did not make me change my opinion of Derrida as a bullsh!tter one little bit. Or perhaps a more accurate description would be the philosophical equivalent of a Levantine carpet salesman. Someone who could be played by Peter Lorre perhaps. But it did make me change my opinion of Eagleton. I have often liked his book reviews. A shame.
I think it’s important when talking about Derrida’s work, to distinguish between *his* work and the appropriations of his work by, for example, many literary theorists during the heady hay-day of the linguistic turn in literary studies during the 70s and 80s.
It seems to me, having lived through the latter part of that hay-day period as a graduate student, that you might level the charge of “bs” to many of those appropriations (not all, though; that’s an unfair and too-broad statement). But I don’t think it’s fair at all to level the claim of “bs” on Derrida’s own work. You may disagree with it at the end of the day (or at the beginning, as I think is the case for some critics), but I think it is reasonable and appropriate to say that you must disagree with it at the level of philosophical discourse. In other words, you cannot deny that the works are rigorous philosophical attempts to grapple with a series of philosophical questions (it’s silly to deny this; and it only reflects poorly on the person who is denying their value at this basic level). His works aren’t the works of some carnival barker (or carpet salesman); though, again, I think it is very easy and (often probably) quite fun for people to assume that he was and simply dismiss his work wholesale.
I didn’t think the Eagleton review was particularly useful at all as a means for coming to a decision on the value of Derrida’s work as philosophy.
I don’t think it is important. The apple does not fall far from the tree, or in this case, the student does not deviate much from the teacher. I agree there are really dumb people out there, but the core of Derrida’s claims are not that far from those of most people who use him. What is more Derrida never showed any signs, from what I can see, of objecting to the uses other people put his ideas. Which suggests to me he was fine with it.
In general I would agree that philosophical discourse should be dealt with at its level – or even better. That it is best to think the best of other people. But in this case I think calling Derrida a Used Carpet Salesman is more or less his level. It is about the level of discourse his work deserves.
Although I agree about the review.
you cannot deny that the works are rigorous philosophical attempts to grapple with a series of philosophical questions
If this were true, there should exist at least some consensus on what questions he grappled with and what his answers were.
(it’s silly to deny this; and it only reflects poorly on the person who is denying their value at this basic level)
I would dismiss Derrida as a BS artist long before I would dismiss John Searle or Mark Lilla as silly.
Isn’t the human sacrifice strategy dominated by the strategy of taking a member of the tribe and making him a soldier? That reduces wealth, in that a productive farmer or hunter or whatever is lost, just as much as by sacrifice. At the same time it raises costs to aggressors by increasing the tribe’s ability to defend itself.
Wasn’t Leeson last seen writing about the wonders of life in Somalia or something?
While this article seems focused on Potlach situations, they are atypical and poorly understood in anthropological literature. The author seems to make the unwarranted, but common anthropological assumption, that the form as currently observed is unchanged from the past.
In actual practice most human sacrifice has been of either undesirables or strangers. The ancient greek pharmakoi, the criminal sacrificed to Odin, the war captive in Mesoamerica and the Celtic world, or the high status widow who could not be allowed to remarry because it would alienate family wealth, such as the sati in India or the “virtuous widow” suicide in Confucian societies.
The economic utility of all these cases is obvious, they strengthen the group by eliminating sources of dissension inside the community.
Read the paper. Those who were sacrificed by the Khond were purchased outsiders, not dissident insiders. Leeson has most famously written about self-organizing pirates.
Regarding France in the 1920s, it must be kept in mind just how deeply devalued the French franc had become. It was normally about 7 to 1 against the US dollar. It reached 52 to 1 in 1925, the example of forex overshooting that inspired Dornbusch to cook up his now textbook model of such overshooting. That was the period when all those Lost Generation types nostaligized by Woody Allen were running about living off an occasional story or article in the New Yorker or Saturday Evening Post. Hemingway would regularly walk into a bar and order drinks for everybody. Try that now and you will be broke very quickly.
There remain items in the Sraffa writings that Garegnani sat on overly protectively that have not yet come out since his (Garegnani’s) death. More to come on this front.
I did read the paper. That was why I made the point about the common anthropological error of assuming that the observed behaviour has been constant.
Their are huge problems with the ethnographic story of the Khond. The practice was recorded by pre Victorian EIC officials, the exact nature of the transactions is not nearly as clear in the original sources as made out and their was a considerable slave trade in Eastern India in this period. Even Leeson’s own footnotes make it clear that most of the evidence of Khond behaviour was heresay. Non of this is reliable enough to create economic models in which the assumptions dramatically outnumber the facts.
It is very clever though, and I was glad to have read it.
Enjoyed these reviews of Eagleton’s book on Marx:
I tried to read it but quit after two chapters. It was laughably bad. I was really hoping for a serious, detailed argument argument for Marxism. Instead you get breezy assertions (with no argument, footnotes, etc.) that capitalism inevitably leads to things like the recent financial crisis.
It would be interesting to know how many of those who tried to block him in the name of rigorous scholarship had read a single book of his, or even a couple of articles.
I’m sure that most of Derrida’s critics tried to read him – though I doubt many of them got very far.
John Searle and John Ellis made particularly valiant attempts to find something coherent and insightful – but they failed. Of course, Derrida’s defenders would say that it’s wrong to expect anything coherent and insightful .. that’s the whole point etc…
I vote this the best links post ever. I’ve been reading a lot of David Foster Wallace and there are a surfeit of Wittgenstein and Derrida references in his writing. I did one of my research papers on French economic history.
“The Economics of Human Sacrifice” is either one of the most brilliant papers I’ve ever read, showing that Economics is THE social science that will eventually rule them all with an alchemy of statistics, rational choice, psychology, historical methods and anthropology, OR this is the kind of trivial crap that exposes the study of economics to be a dead end of even more trivial “advances” based on maximum shock value and minimum predictive power.
There’s no statistics in the sacrifice paper. So your either/or characterization is inappropriate.
I was generalizing about what disciplines economics will replace and encompass whatsthat. A complete lack of data or ability to predict future behavior is what makes half of what is coming out of economics departments –including this paper– so craptastic. The discipline will either be the one ring to rule them all or the lead weight around society’s neck.
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