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Kal comments on Why is Mencius Moldbug so popular on Less Wrong? [Answer: He's not.] - Less Wrong Discussion

9 Post author: arborealhominid 16 November 2012 06:37PM

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Comment author: JoshuaZ 23 November 2012 04:18:07PM *  1 point [-]

Inferring causality from a time-series of various economic variables is incoherent. There first needs to be a deductive understanding of what the causal relationships are between economic variables. That is what is meant by "first principles" here - perhaps the disagreement is semantic.

If I replace "economic variables" with "astronomy" what part of this sentence changes in implication? Why is this incoherent for some fields? The level of rigor cannot be the only difference: Physics and astronomy have become more rigorous over time, not by discussing first principles, even when moving from Aristotle to Medieval physics to Newtonian physics, but rather by adopting principles based on the empirical data. The same goes for the switch from Ptolemaic systems to Copernicus and then Kepler. It is the empirical data that matters, the apparent time-series of planetary and stellar motion.

Thus, the first principles analysis: What is an economy?

Does arguing over this definition pay any rent?

Comment author: Kal 26 November 2012 02:23:20PM -2 points [-]

Re Physics, please correct me as required but in the way I use the phrase "first principles" here, Physics does not have any first principles. Physics is observation, hypothesis, experimentation and repeat. After a certain hypothesis has sufficient amount of experimental proof behind it, it becomes a theory and thus the foundation for further work. And occasionally, we find that there is a variable missing in the theory as the experiments did not test the situations that that variable speaks to. Then we test to tease out the nuances of that aspect of reality. And so on.

Economics has first principles, in the sense I use the phrase. Thus the Q: What is an economy? It leads to those first principles and then deduction covers the rest. But one can of course get the first principles wrong and the deduction is then useless.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 26 November 2012 11:28:12PM 2 points [-]

Re Physics, please correct me as required but in the way I use the phrase "first principles" here, Physics does not have any first principles.

Yes it does. They're just so implicit in our intuition about how the world works that we don't notice them. For example, consider all the implicit assumptions necessary for statements like "these two sticks have the same length" to be meaningful.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 26 November 2012 04:12:43PM 0 points [-]

So, why does physics have no such first principles but economics does?