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Re: Affective measures in the social sciences produce more ideologic agitprop...
by Mike Alexander
15 September 2002 13:51 UTC
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I have to question the value of theory without prediction.  What is the point?
I think the problem social sciences have fallen into results from their age.  Many social sciences were already well developed by the beginning of the 20th century.  Social scientists of that day looking at their successful natural science colleagues, would naturally seek to emulate them.  The most successful natural science of the time was physics and it was from physics that social scientists took their cues.  Economists have gone down this path the furthest.  Today, academic economists are more like applied mathematicians than social scientists.
Since 1900 other types of natural sciences have become developed, which might form a better model for social scientists of today.  The biological sciences come to mind.  Another field that might provide some inspiration is meteorology.  Consider, although the physical laws that govern weather were known 50 or even 100 years ago, it was not possible then to apply these laws directly to the problem of predicting weather.  This inability to apply their theory did not stop meteorologists from producing forecasts.  Although these were frequently the butt of jokes, they were not completely useless.  What they did was use the historical record, as interpreted using various meteorological concepts, to produce a statistical prediction, e.g. an X% chance of rain tomorrow.
I am attempting to produce such statistical forecasts for stock market returns, an application, like weather, that is broadly useful to many people.  Presumably, this same sort of approach could be used for all sorts of "social weather".  The trick is what sort of concepts are useful for interpreting the historical record?  When studied in detail, history is full of a bewildering array of events.  What is needed is a specially-designed "filter", that lets some stuff come to our attention (i.e. become meaningful)  and holds other stuff back (it stays a meaningless blur).  This filter is useful if it then lets us construct statistical forecasts that match up with reality (what actually happens).  It is not useful if the forecasts are no good.
A useful filter would then constitute a valid social theory, because it creates meaning out of otherwise meaningless social data, that can be used to produce probabilistic forecasts.
As an example of such a filter, I present a data transformation I call reduced price.  Last year I wrote an online article introducing reduced price.  This transformation is applied to a price series to remove the effect of long-term inflation introduced by government-provided economic management.  Prior to the start of this management in the 1940's, the transformation leaves the price sequence largely unchanged; reduced price shows the same Kondratiev  up and down trends as does raw price.  The largely monotonic price series after 1940 is transformed into a reduced price series that shows what appear to be the same Kondratiev up and down trends shown by the raw prices before 1940.  In that article I used analogy with the historical reduced price pattern to predict that reduced prices would start to fall soon, imposing a "deflationary" effect on the economy even though ordinary prices could continue to rise.  A year later it had indeed started to fall, and the economic news today is filled with discussions of deflation, even though commodity prices currently are rising.
By comparing today to the two previous periods which showed deflation in reduced prices (but not in regular prices, since they have happened in the modern era of government-managed economy) I have concluded that a 1932-like collapse in stock prices is not in store and have become rather heavily invested.  Having taken my position, and gone on record, all that is required is to wait and see what happens. 
To construct my reduced price transformation, I simply made use of a bit of economic theory, the quantity theory of money.  To see if the filter is useful I will have to wait to see how my index investment fares over the next few years.  If the stock market drops another 40% or more below the July lows, which it should according to conventional valuation concepts (and it historically did in 1929-32), then I throw reduced price into the trash bin as a useless filter.  If it does not, then reduced price may have some predictive power after all.
Presumably, one could construct filters using theory from all sorts of fields other than economics and use them to make statistical forecasts.  For example, in my K-cycle book, I have forecasted the beginning of one of Schlesinger's liberal eras in around 2000.  By 2010, perhaps earlier, we will know the outcome of that forecast.
Mike Alexander,  author of
Stock Cycles: Why stocks won't beat money markets over the next 20 years and
The Kondratiev Cycle: A generational interpretation
----- Original Message -----
From: <Nemonemini@aol.com>
To: <larondin@yahoo.com>; <wsn@csf.colorado.edu>
Sent: Saturday, September 14, 2002 8:31 PM
Subject: Re: Affective measures in the social sciences produce more ideologic agitprop...

> Maybe you should read some Rousseau. I was just reading-reviewing a new book
> by Richard Velkley, Being After Rousseau, discussing his place in relation to
> the Enlightenment, history, physics, Kant, and much else.
> His 'dialectic' of the rational and the 'affective', feeling, asked the
> restoration of what the rising physics had filtered out of the account of
> man.
> I will post a short squashed review below. You might consider how Rousseau
> would have taken all these issues of a science of history, even as he
> wrestled with questions of evolution, in a real sense, way before Darwin.
> My eonic effect, or eonic model, can be taken as a model of the Incredible
> Disappearing Theory. A 'discrete-continuous' model of the type I construct
> shows a contrast of 'system' and 'free action' in the sense I define.
> One consequence is the way the 'system' aspect switches off in the present
> leaving the individual  We lose prediction, but we can a usable 'theory' for
> the first time. One that doesn't clutter the present with high IQ stupidity
> of math model that explain nothing.
> The review below shows just how slick the historical process is. It would
> yield to Newtonian methods. Of course, there is a lot of talk of emergent
> systems, all to the good. But we have to see the subtle level history is
> operating on.
> In any case, Rousseau is the explosive mix of the type Marx struggles with in
> his species being. Excoriated or classic, who can say.
> His approach goes beyond theories, yet stumbles on the first requirement of
> any theory, the place of the individual in a system, and the place of a
> system of history or evolution, near the individual.
> ____________________
> R. Velkley, Being After Rousseau
> As I picked up this book, I thought of having read an account of pirates on
> the river Euphrates in Sumerian times, and the constant disruption of the new
> agriculture with its immense potential, the crisis of the Neolithic giving
> birth to the State. Yet this beginning, as a breakthrough to 'freedom in the
> State', the incident of middle passage from some unknown 'state of nature',
> is ambiguous, for its recursions the 'births of the state', produce over the
> long term the phenomenon of Empire, the Assyrian endgame. It is counterpoint
> to a next 'beginning', the great Axial age of religion, science, philosophy
> born, notably the birth from renewed republics of democracy in the Greek
> world, beside the implicit 'freedom from history and empire' in the parallel
> Judaic, at the fringes of empires spawned in the original Mesopotamian field.
> And the rising tide of slavery, like a progressive disease, coexists with
> these births of 'civilization' unable to check its force.  If the figure of
> Rousseau is controversial, the source of contradictory gestures, it is
> because he grapples with the new beginning of the modern in terms of its true
> inherited contradictions, two opposites taken at once, in some version of a
> dialectic, the opposite chords of the word 'freedom', in a age about to
> bifurcate into libertarian and collectivist extremes. 
> No mystery then that Rousseau should protest something is amiss in the
> progressions of the state. Its long term 'evolution' toward mechanization
> interrupted with new beginnings of freedom is a riddle to confound our 'noble
> savage'. Even in his generation a great birth, or rebirth, of ideas of
> freedom is occurring, and his tussle with the real concepts before they
> become slogans is both the signature of his creative genius, and the source
> of the many wild pitches that have haunted his reputation, even now the
> object of attack.  Nor is it surprising that this duality should give rise to
> some sort of distinction between civilization and culture, which is the
> starting point of Richard Velkley's most interesting and very acute Being
> After Rousseau. This distinction, after Nietzsche, Spengler, and Heidegger,
> seems almost unrecognizable, but invokes the realm of moral freedom in the
> individual bound in his civilization. The book opens with two questions: What
> is the being called the "philosopher"? What is the relation of the
> philosopher to something called "culture"? And there is a challenge to the
> foundations of both. And his epigram to the Introduction quotes from The
> Social Contract, "The great soul of the Lawgiver is the true miracle which
> must prove his mission". Beside our late philosopher-king we have the
> individualist and citizen vagrant of the early discourses whose challenge to
> the Enlightenment is a counterpoint, to deepen it. If Rousseau is the Newton
> of the mind, perhaps Newton is the Rousseau of physics, for we forget that he
> exempts the human will from his system of laws. This gesture indicates an
> understanding the coming scientism will lose, and the problem of human self,
> wholeness, and purpose Rousseau senses, Kant elaborates, and which German
> philosophy from Fichte to Heidegger will attempt to resolve.  The ambiguity
> of some transcendental order confounds the need to find the true beginning of
> culture in the spontaneity of human freedom and creativity, the inner
> 'lawgiver'. The echo in Kant transforms the question, and reaches a peak in
> the challenge to the transcendent and the metaphysics of self, in the mystery
> of the ground of its own being, as the logic and categories and their
> condition in the "I" of apperception. And Kant will find beyond the enigma of
> the 'moral self' the connection to the realm of art, and the teleological, in
> the antinomies of the causal. Beside his conservative critics, Rousseau is
> now challenged by the sociobiologists in a notable attempt to recast man's
> emergence with theories of evolution. But at the point where the ethical is
> to be reduced to the mechanism of natural selection, Rousseau remains
> stubbornly relevant to the core issue of historical evolution in the descent
> of man, for the standard Darwinian account resumes the deadlock before the
> somesuch distinction of civilization and culture. The terms might confuse us
> here, for the distinction of man as creature and man as 'civilized' at all
> would be but an earlier version of this search for the component of culture.
> And that puts Rousseau into the ring with Darwin very directly. Rousseau is
> an early evolutionist, what more can be said. The component of evolution, as
> history, is however the missing dilemma of the whole question, although Kant
> in his brilliant series of Critiques arrives in his third at the issue of
> teleology, whose component once again is both social or historical and
> individual. The question of history is thus unresolved, even as repeatedly
> addressed,  although Kant with his 'idea for a universal history' provides
> the rubric or question to see the resolution as the very preoccupation with
> 'new beginnings' in the 'middle passage', the rise of the modern being one of
> its most recent incidents, and these 'poets' its implicit lawgivers. 'What is
> Enlightenment?' is both a psychological and an historical question. Indeed
> the discourse peaks with Kant, and we see in Heidegger, strange golum finding
> the hidden ring, a looking backward, and an extreme version with one deep
> insight, the connection to the moment of the birth of philosophy, and the
> beginningless Being. His complaint that we reify these 'gifts' of nature
> provokes the need for this universal history, and the missing chord Schelling
> so wishes to elicit from a new metaphysics. Will this be our fate, as we
> discard the metanarrative of these lawgivers, and their tour de force?
> This is a highly challenging and valuable work, and braves the impossible of
> such differing thinkers seen in sequence. One could only complain of the
> incompletion of the more Herculean effort to treat Hegel, Schopenhauer, and
> the full scope of this philosophic mystery. One can only be thankful what is
> offered.
> John Landon
> Website on the eonic effect
> http://eonix.8m.com
> nemonemini@eonix.8m.com
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