Sunday, April 30, 2017

Simone Weil's philosophy of reality

Simone Weil (1909-1943) is a famous philosopher best known for her analysis of reality and consciousness. Philosopher Albert Camus says,
Simone Weil, I maintain this now, is the only great spirit of our times and I hope that those who realize this have enough modesty to not try to appropriate her overwhelming witnessing. (Letter to Weil's mother, 1951)
Philosopher J. Edgar Bauer says,
In her relatively short life, Simone Weil… created a body of work whose intellectual scope and acuity are remindful of religious thinkers such as Blaise Pascal or Søren Kierkegaard. Since no book by Simone Weil appeared in her lifetime and only a few of her writings were intended for publication, a noteworthy reception of her ideas took place only when selections of her notes, diaries and fragments began to be published posthumously after World War II. (Simone Weil: Kenotic Thought and Sainteté Nouvelle, 2002)
This post is a collection of quotes from Weil.

Philosophy of reality

"There is a reality outside the world, that is to say, outside space and time, outside man's mental universe, outside any sphere whatsoever that is accessible to human faculties. Corresponding to this reality, at the centre of the human heart, is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world." (Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation, posthumous)

"To anyone who does actually consent to directing his attention and love beyond the world, towards the reality that exists outside the reach of all human faculties, it is given to succeed in doing so." (Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation, posthumous)

"The combination of these two facts - the longing in the depth of the heart for absolute good, and the power, though only latent, of directing attention and love to a reality beyond the world and of receiving good from it - constitutes a link which attaches every man without exception to that other reality." (Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation, posthumous)

"We should have with each person the relationship of one conception of the universe to another conception of the universe, and not to a part of the universe." (Gravity and Grace, 1948)

Philosophy of science

"Although people seem to be unaware of it today, the development of the faculty of attention forms the real object and almost the sole interest of studies." (Waiting on God , posthumous)

"We have seen that language is something precious because it allows us to express ourselves; but it is fatal when one allows oneself to be completely led astray by it, because then it prevents one from expressing oneself. Language is the source of the prejudices and haste which Descartes thought of as the sources of error." (Lectures on Philosophy, posthumous)

"Science is voiceless; it is the scientists who talk." (Lectures on Philosophy, posthumous)

"Concern for the symbol has completely disappeared from our science. And yet, if one were to give oneself the trouble, one could easily find, in certain parts at least of contemporary mathematics... symbols as clear, as beautiful, and as full of spiritual meaning as that of the circle and mediation. From modern thought to ancient wisdom the path would be short and direct, if one cared to take it." (The Need for Roots, posthumous)

Philosophy of art

"Art is the symbol of the two noblest human efforts: to construct and to refrain from destruction." (The Pre-War Notebook, posthumous)

Henry George: Support for human rights

Henry George (1839-1897) is a famous economist best known for his analysis of human rights and analysis of land. George is also known from supporting a tax on land. Albert Einstein said,
Men like Henry George are rare unfortunately. One cannot imagine a more beautiful combination of intellectual keenness, artistic form and fervent love of justice. Every line is written as if for our generation. The spreading of these works is a really deserving cause, for our generation especially has many and important things to learn from Henry George. (Letter to Anna George De Mille, 1934)
Dancer and choreographer Agnes de Mille said,
George had the unique opportunity of studying the formation of a civilization - the change of an encampment into a thriving metropolis. He saw a city of tents and mud change into a fine town of paved streets and decent housing, with tramways and buses. And as he saw the beginning of wealth, he noted the first appearance of pauperism. (Afterword for editions of Progress and Poverty)
This post is a collection of quotes from George regarding his recommendations on how we can improve the living standards of society.

Living standards

"It is true that disappointment has followed disappointment, and that discovery upon discovery, and invention after invention, have neither lessened the toil of those who most need respite, nor brought plenty to the poor." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)

"There is, and always has been, a widespread belief among the more comfortable classes that the poverty and suffering of the masses are due to their lack of industry, frugality, and intelligence. This belief, which at once soothes the sense of responsibility and flatters by its suggestion of superiority, is probably even more prevalent in countries like the United States..." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)


"Though custom has dulled us to it, it is a strange and unnatural thing that men who wish to labor, in order to satisfy their wants, cannot find the opportunity... The real trouble must be that supply is somehow prevented from satisfying demand, that somewhere there is an obstacle which prevents labor from producing the things that laborers want." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)

"To admit that labor needs protection is to acknowledge its inferiority; it is to acquiesce in an assumption that degrades the workman to the position of a dependent, and leads logically to the claim that the employee is bound to vote in the interest of the employer who provides him with work." (Protection or Free Trade? 1886)


"Why should charity be offered the unemployed? It is not alms they ask. They are insulted and embittered and degraded by being forced to accept as paupers what they would gladly earn as workers. What they ask is not charity, but the opportunity to use their own labor in satisfying their own wants. Why can they not have that? It is their natural right." (How to Help the Unemployed, 1894)

"For charity cannot right a wrong; only justice can do that. Charity is false, futile, and poisonous when offered as a substitute for justice." (How to Help the Unemployed, 1894)


"The tax upon land values is, therefore, the most just and equal of all taxes. It falls only upon those who receive from society a peculiar and valuable benefit, and upon them in proportion to the benefit they receive. It is the taking by the community, for the use of the community, of that value which is the creation of the community." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)

"When land is all monopolized, as it is everywhere except in the newest communities, rent must drive wages down to the point at which the poorest paid class will he just able to live and reproduce, and thus wages are forced to a minimum fixed by what is called the standard of comfort." (Progress and Poverty, 1879)

Albert Camus and absurdism

Albert Camus (1913-1960) is a famous philosopher best known for his contributions to absurdism. Ottar G. Draugsvold said,
As a writer Camus maintained his independence from both friends and enemies in the political and philosophical movements that attempted to subvert his writing to their own ends... Camus combines a taut writing style, as well as profound insights on society, with the courage to report back from the abyss of despair, unblinking. (Nobel Writers on Writing , 2000)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Camus.

What is absurdism?

"You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing." (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays , 1942)

"Life can be magnificent and overwhelming - that is its whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would be almost easy to live." (Review of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938)

"A profound thought is in a constant state of becoming; it adopts the experience of a life and assumes its shape. Likewise, a man's sole creation is strengthened in its successive and multiple aspects: his works." (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays , 1942)

Absurdism and science

"The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth." (The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays , 1942)

"The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules of action drawn from it." (Review of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, 1938)

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Friedrich Hayek's price theory

Freidrich Hayek (1899-1992) is an influential economist best known for his theory of prices and support for libertarianism. Hayek is also a supporter of the Austrian School of economics. Economist, Bradford Delong says,
The basic problem is that there are three Hayeks: 
the (absolutely brilliant) price-system-as-information-aggregator Hayek.
the (absolutely bonkers) business-cycle 'liquidationist' Hayek.
the (absolutely wrong ) social-democracy-is-evil Hayek.
The first was a genius. The second was a moron--his could never make his arguments cohere either conceptually or empirically, but he kept doubling down on them and wound up in infinite reputational bankruptcy. The third was wrong--I would say blinded ex ante by ideology, others would say proved wrong ex post by events. The problem is that the modern-day Hayekians are by-and-large uninterested in the good Hayek (1), and interested only in the bad Hayeks (2) and (3)...
This post is a collection of quotes from Hayek regarding his main contributions to economics.

Philosophy of economics

"I must confess that if I had been consulted whether to establish a Nobel Prize in economics, I should have decidedly advised against it... The Nobel Prize confers on an individual an authority which in economics no man ought to possess." (Nobel Banquet Speech, 1974)

"This does not matter in the natural sciences. Here the influence exercised by an individual is chiefly an influence on his fellow experts; and they will soon cut him down to size if he exceeds his competence." (Nobel Banquet Speech, 1974)

Price Theory

"The misconception that costs determined prices prevented economists for a long time from recognizing that it was prices which operated as the indispensable signals telling producers what costs it was worth expending on the production of the various commodities and services, and not the other way around.  It was the costs which they had expended which determined the prices of things produced... It was this crucial insight which finally broke through and established itself about a hundred years ago through the so-called marginal revolution in economics." (Coping with Ignorance, 1978)

"I don't know what monetarism is... If it means the particular version of Milton Friedman, I think it has because he imagines that he can achieve - ascertain - a clear quantity relationship between a measurable quantity of money and the price level. I don't think that is possible." (Interview with F. A. Hayek, 1983)

Support for microeconomics

"What has done much damage to microeconomics is striving for a pseudo-exactness by imitating methods of the physical sciences which have to deal with what are fundamentally much more simple phenomena." (Coping with Ignorance, 1978)

"I believe it is only microeconomics which enables us to understand the crucial functions of the market process: that it enables us to make effective use of information about thousands of facts of which nobody can have full knowledge." (Coping with Ignorance, 1978)

Critique of socialism

"The more the state 'plans' the more difficult planning becomes for the individual." (The Road to Serfdom, 1944)

"There mere idea that the planning authority could ever possess a complete inventory of the amounts and qualities of all the different materials and instruments of production of which the manager of a particular plant will know or be able to find out makes the whole proposal a somewhat comic fiction. Once this is recognized it becomes obvious that what prices ought to be can never be determined without relying on competitive markets." (Two Pages of Fiction, 1982)

Critique of democracy

"A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise." (Letter to the Times, 1978)

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Thorstein Veblen and the consumer lifestyle

Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929) is a famous economist best known for his analysis of leisure and the consumer lifestyle. Economist Robert Heilbroner says,
No wonder it excited attention, for never was a book of sober analysis written with such pungency. One picked it up at random to chuckle over its wicked insights, its bared phrases, and its corrosive view of society in which elements of ridiculousness, cruelty, and barbarousness nestled in close juxtaposition with things taken for granted and worn smooth with custom and careless handling. The effect was electric, grotesque, shocking and amusing and the choice of words was nothing less than exquisite. (The Worldly Philosophers,1953)
This post is a collection of quotes from Veblen analyzing society.

Analysis of leisure

"In itself and in its consequences the life of leisure is beautiful and ennobling in all civilised men's eyes." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

"In the modern industrial communities... the apparatus of living has grown so elaborate and cumbrous..." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

"As increased industrial efficiency makes it possible to procure the means of livelihood with less labor, the energies of the industrious members of the community are bent to the compassing of a higher result in conspicuous expenditure, rather than slackened to a more comfortable pace." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

Analysis of consumption

"Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

"The superior gratification derived from the use and contemplation of costly and supposedly beautiful products is, commonly, in great measure a gratification of our sense of costliness masquerading under the name of beauty." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

"In order to stand well in the eyes of the community, it is necessary to come up to a certain, somewhat indefinite, conventional standard of wealth." (The Theory of the Leisure Class, 1899)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Isaac Newton and the philosophy of science

Isaac Newton (1642-1726) is an influential physicist best known for discovering the laws of motion and shares credit with Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing calculus. Mathematician Gerald James Whitrow said,
Due to the genius and labours of Newton almost all the problems presented by the motions of the planets had been mastered. Newton had shown for all time that these motions could be completely accounted for if it were assumed that the same laws of nature, and in particular gravity, operated in the celestial realm as well as in the terrestrial. (The Structure of the Universe, 1949)
Regarding Newton's philosophy, historian Alistair Cameron Crombie said,
[Newton] achieved the clearest appreciation of the relation between the empirical elements in a scientific system and the hypothetical elements derived from a philosophy of nature. (Quoted in Before Galileo by John Freely)
The rest of this post is three quotes from Newton describing his philosophy of science.

Philosophy of science

"The best and safest method of philosophizing seems to be, first to enquire diligently into the properties of things, and to establish these properties by experiment, and then to proceed more slowly to hypothesis for the explanation of them. For hypotheses should be employed only in explaining the properties of things, but not assumed in determining them, unless so far as they may furnish experiments." (Letter to Ignatius Pardies, 1672)

"I keep the subject constantly before me, and wait 'till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into a full and clear light." (Quoted in Biographia Britannica)

"I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me." (Quoted in Memoirs of the Life, Writings, and Discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton by David Brewster)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Albert Einstein and the scientific method

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) is a famous physicist best known for developing relativity theory and his contributions to quantum mechanics. Einstein is also known for his contributions to the philosophy of science. Physicist Eugen Wigner says,
For a man like Edward Teller, developing the details of a physics problem was passionately important. For Einstein, it was not. In all spheres of life, Einstein's greatest pleasure was in finding, and later expressing, basic principles. (The Recollections of Eugene P. Wigner)
This post is a collections of quotes from Einstein describing his philosophy of science.

What is the scientific method?

"Many people think that the progress of the human race is based on experiences of an empirical, critical nature, but I say that true knowledge is to be had only through a philosophy of deduction. For it is intuition that improves the world, not just following a trodden path of thought. Intuition makes us look at unrelated facts and then think about them until they can all be brought under one law. To look for related facts means holding onto what one has instead of searching for new facts. Intuition is the father of new knowledge, while empiricism is nothing but an accumulation of old knowledge." (Quoted in Einstein and the Poet by William Hermanns)

"There is no logical path to these laws; only intuition, resting on sympathetic understanding of experience, can reach them." (On the Method of Theoretical Physics, 1933)

Support for epistemology

"When I think about the ablest students whom I have encountered in my teaching - that is, those who distinguish themselves by their independence of judgment and not just their quick-wittedness - I can affirm that they had a vigorous interest in epistemology." (Obituary for physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach, 1916)

Science is infinite

"When I examine myself and my methods of thought I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." (Quoted in János : The Story of a Doctor by János Plesch)

"Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension." (Letter to Heinrich Zangger, 1914)

Max Weber's analysis of social action

Max Weber (1864-1920) is an influential sociologist known for the analysis of social action through interpreting the meaning individuals attach to their actions. This process is known as methodological positivism. Along with Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx, Weber is widely regarded as one of the three founders of modern sociology. Political scientist Sung Ho Kim said,
Weber's wide-ranging contributions gave critical impetus to the birth of new academic disciplines such as sociology and public administration as well as to the significant reorientation in law, economics, political science, and religious studies. (Max Weber, 2012)
The rest of this post is three quotes from Weber describing his philosophy of society.

Analysis of society

"This striving becomes understood completely as an end in itself- to such an extent that it appears as fully outside the normal course of affairs and simply irrational, at least when viewed from the perspective of the 'happiness' or 'utility' of the single individual. Here, people are oriented to acquisition as the purpose of life; acquisition is no longer viewed as a means to the end of satisfying the substantive needs of life." (The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, 1905)

"The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the disenchantment of the world. Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations." (Science as a Vocation, 1917)

"Sociology is the science whose object is to interpret the meaning of social action and theryeby give a causal explanation of the way in which the action proceeds and the effects which it produces. By 'action' in this definition is meant the human behaviour when and to the extent that the agent or agents see it as subjectively meaningful" (The Nature of Social Action, 1922)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and the philosophy of history

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) is an influential philosopher best know for his analysis of history. Librarian James Billington says,
[To Hegel] everything became relative to historical context because his own capacity for seeing the whole picture was assumed to be absolute... His method applied reason to precisely those phenomena that most interested the romantic mind: art, philosophy, and religion. (Fire in the Minds of Men, 1980)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Hegel.

Analysis of history

"History, is a conscious, self-meditating process - Spirit emptied out into Time; but this externalization, this kenosis, is equally an externalization of itself; the negative is the negative of itself... Thus absorbed in itself, it is sunk in the night of its self-consciousness; but in that night its vanished outer existence is preserved, and this transformed existence - the former one, but now reborn of the Spirit's knowledge - is the new existence, a new world and a new shape of Spirit." (The Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807)

"Reading the morning newspaper is the realist's morning prayer. One orients one's attitude toward the world either by God or by what the world is. The former gives as much security as the latter, in that one knows how one stands." (Quoted in Miscellaneous writings of G.W.F. Hegel by Jon Bartley Stewart)

Analysis of concepts

"The force of mind is only as great as its expression; its depth only as deep as its power to expand and lose itself." (The Phenomenology of Spirit, 1807)

"The enquiry into the essential destiny of Reason as far as it is considered in reference to the World is identical with the question, what is the ultimate design of the World?" (Lectures on the Philosophy of History, 1832)

"Poetry is the universal art of the spirit which has become free in itself and which is not tied down for its realization to external sensuous material; instead, it launches out exclusively in the inner space and the inner time of ideas and feelings." (Lectures on Aesthetics, 1835)

"Any idea is a generalization, and generalization is a property of thinking. To generalize something means to think it." (Elements of the Philosophy of Right, 1820)

List of blog posts

This is list of blog posts for Econ Analysis Tools. This list was last updated March 30th, 2018.

Regular posts

Philosophy of economics: Nobel Prize recipient quotes
Testing economic statements
March Madness for economists
Adam Smith's ontology
How to predict a financial crisis
10 macroeconomic statements
Macroeconomic experiments
EconTalk: six part series on econometrics
Chess metaphor for macroeconomics
Dani Rodrik's support for pluralism
What's wrong with academic economics?
Fundamentals of knowledge
Fundamentals of language
Fundamentals of reason
Why should rich people pay more taxes?
Transparency and world economy
Belief analysis: a formal method
Philosophy of economics: outline
Five types of economic statements


What is economics?
What is science?
What is science? (2nd attempt)
What is art?
What is mathematics?
What is philosophy?
What is analysis?
What is language?
What is a concept?
What is a definition?


A collection of realism art
A collection of abstract art

Economists / Sociologists

Philosophers / Scientists

Aristotle (384-322 BC)
Roger Bacon (1219-1292)
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
Isaac Newton (1642-1726)
Gottfried Leibniz (1646-1716)
Leonard Euler (1707-1783)
David Hume (1711-1776)
Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827)
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
Georg Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Charles Sanders Peirce (1839-1914)
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
Marie Curie (1867-1934)
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
Carl Jung (1875-1961)
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)
Karl Popper (1902-1994)
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Simone Weil (1909-1943)
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Alan Watts (1915-1973)
Isaac Asimov (1920-1994)
Jimmy Wales (1966-now)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Søren Kierkegaard's subjective reality

Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) was a influential philosopher widely regarded as the first existentialist. Kierkegaard is well known for his analysis of life, morality and religion. Philosopher Jerry Fodor says,
[Kierkegaard is] a master and way out of the league that the rest of us play in. (London Review of Books, 2004)
Philosopher Colin Wilson describes Kierkegaard's contribution,
If we think of Kierkegaard, of Nietzsche, of Hölderlin, we see them standing alone, outside of history. They are spotlighted by their intensity, and the background is all darkness. They intersect history, but are not a part of it. There is something anti-history about such men; they are not subject to time, accident and death, but their intensity is a protest against it. (Rasputin and the Fall of the Romanovs, 1964)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Kierkegaard.

Freedom of the spirit

"Above all do not forget your duty to love yourself; do not permit the fact that you have been set apart from life in a way, been prevented from participating actively in it, and that you are superflous in the obtruse eyes of a busy world, above all, do not permit this to deprive you of your idea of yourself..." (Letter to Kierkegaard's cousin Hans Peter, 1848)

"As soon as the actuality of freedom and of spirit is posited, anxiety is canceled." (Concept of Anxiety, 1844)

Love for nature 

"But in the heart of nature, where a person, free from life's often nauseating air, breathes more freely, here the soul opens willingly to every noble impression. Here one comes out as nature's master, but he also feels that something higher is manifested in nature, something he must bow down before; he feels a need to surrender to this power that rules it all." (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1835)

"Oh, can I really believe the poet's tales, that when one first sees the object of one's love, one imagines one has seen her long ago, that all love like all knowledge is remembrance, that love too has its prophecies in the individual." (On Regine Olsen, 1939)

"Father in heaven, when the thought of thee awakens in our soul, let it not waken as an agitated bird which flutters confusedly about, but as a child waking from sleep with a celestial smile." (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1847)

"Take a book, the poorest one written, but read it with the passion that it is the only book you will read-ultimately you will read everything out of it, that is, as much as there was in yourself, and you could never get more out of reading, even if you read the best of books." (Stages on Life's Way, 1845)

Analysis of concepts

"In vain do individual great men seek to mint new concepts and to set them in circulation - it is pointless. They are used for only a moment, and not by many, either, and they merely contribute to making the confusion even worse..." (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1835)

"Above all, every science must vigorously lay hold of its own beginning and not live in complicated relations with other sciences." (Concept of Anxiety, 1844)

Blind mainstream

"The truth is always in the minority, and the minority is always stronger than the majority, because as a rule the minority is made up of those who actually have an opinion, while the strength of the majority is illusory, formed of that crowd which has no opinion..." (The Journals of Søren Kierkegaard, 1850)

"Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it." (Either / Or, 1843)

"Let others complain that the age is wicked; my complaint is that it is paltry; for it lacks passion. Men’s thoughts are thin and flimsy like lace..." (Either / Or, 1843)

Emile Durkheim: pioneer of modern sociology

Emile Durkheim (1858-1917) is a famous sociologist best known for his systematic analysis of society and coining the term 'social fact'. Along with Karl Marx and Max Weber, Durkheim is considered one of the pioneers of modern social science. Erich Fromm says,
One of the most penetrating diagnoses of the capitalist culture in the nineteenth century was made by sociologist, E. Durkheim, who was neither a political nor a religious radical. (The Sane Society, 1955)
This post is a collection of Quotes from Durkheim regarding his philosophy of society.

What is a social fact?

"A social fact is every way of acting, fixed or not, capable of exercising on the individual an external constraint; or again, every way of acting which is general throughout a given society, while at the same time existing in its own right independent of its individual manifestations." (Rules of Sociological Method, 1895)

"When, then, the sociologist undertakes the investigation of some order of social facts, he must endeavour to consider them from an aspect that is independent of their individual manifestations." (Rules of Sociological Method, 1895)

Analysis of concepts

"At the roots of all our judgments there are a certain number of essential ideas which dominate all our intellectual life; they are what philosophers since Aristotle have called the categories of the understanding: ideas of time, space, class, number, cause, substance, personality, etc. They correspond to the most universal properties of things." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

"Now, it is unquestionable that language, and consequently the system of concepts which it translates, is the product of a collective elaboration. What it expresses is the manner in which society as a whole represents the facts of experience. The ideas which correspond to the diverse elements of language are thus collective representations." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

"The category of class was at first indistinct from the concept of the human group; it is the rhythm of social life which is at the basis of the category of time; the territory occupied by the society furnished the material for the category of space; it is the collective force which was the prototype of the concept of efficient force, an essential element in the category of causality." (The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life, 1912)

Division of labor

"The division of labour is not of recent origin, but it was only at the end of the eighteenth century that social cognizance was taken of the principle. though, until then, unwitting submission had been rendered to it. To be sure, several thinkers from earliest times saw its importance; but Adam Smith was the first to attempt a theory of it. Moreover, he adopted this phrase that social science later lent to biology." (The Division of Labor in Society, 1893)

"Nowadays, the phenomenon (of division of labor) has developed so generally it is obvious to all." (The Division of Labor in Society, 1893)

Kenneth Arrow and mathematical economics

Kenneth Arrow (1921-2017) is an influential economist best known for his contributions to mathematical economics. He is also the recipient of the 1972 Nobel Prize in Economics. Economic journalist David Warsh says,
Years late, when economist would argue among themselves about who had been the greatest economist of the twentieth century - Keynes? Schumpeter? Von Neumann? Samuelson? Friedman? - the answer that won out among the top economists, more often than not, was Kenneth Arrow. (The Knowledge and Wealth of Nations, 2006)
Economist Tyler Cohen says,
In technical economics, I see a peak with Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow and some of the core developments in game theory. Since then there are fewer iconic figures being generated in this area of research, even though there are plenty of accomplished papers being published. (Why Is There No New Milton Friedman Today? 2013)
Kenneth Arrow describes his contribution,
I then follow up with four major aspects of economic research in the last 60 years, the period of my scholarly activity. One, econometric methodology and practice, is of such fundamental importance that it cannotgo unnoticed, although I played no role in it. With the other three, general equilibrium, dynamic processes, and uncertainty and information, I was more intimately involved. (Some Developments in Economic Theory Since 1940, 2009)
This post is a collection of quotes from Kenneth Arrow regarding his contributions economics.

General equilibrium theory

"Leon Walras first formulated the state of the economic system at any point of time as the solution of a system of simultaneous equations representing the demand for goods by consumers, the supply of goods by producers and the equilibrium condition that supply equal demand on every market." (Existence of an equilibrium for a competitive economy, 1954)

"The evidence is clear that the development of general equilibrium theory would have gone on quite as it did without me." (November 1984 lecture at Trinity University)

Welfare theory

"While economic theory in general may be defined as the theory of how an economic condition or an economic development is determined within an institutional framework, the welfare theory deals with how to judge whether one condition can be said to be better in some way than another and whether it is possible, by altering the institutional framework, to achieve a better condition than the present one." (Nobel Lectures, Economics 1972)

Decision theory

"Decision theory, as it has grown up in recent years, is a formalization of the problems involved in making optimal choices. In a certain sense - a very abstract sense, to be sure - it incorporates among others operations research, theoretical economics, and wide areas of statistics, among others." (The Economics of Information , 1984)

"The formal structure of a decision problem in any area can be put into four parts: 1. the choice of an objective function denning the relative desirability of different outcomes; 2. specification of the policy alternatives which are available to the agent, or decisionmaker, 3. specification of the model, that is, empirical relations that link the objective function, or the variables that enter into it, with the policy alternatives and possibly other variables; and 4. computational methods for choosing among the policy alternatives that one which performs best as measured by the objective function." (The Economics of Information , 1984)

Ronald Fisher: pioneer of modern statistics

Ronald Fisher (1890-1962) is a famous statistician best known for his contributions to statistics and evolution theory. Fisher has also been called the father of modern statistics. W. Allen Wallis says,
[Fisher] has made contributions to many areas of science; among them are agronomy, anthropology, astronomy, bacteriology, botany, economics, forestry, meteorology, psychology, public health, and-above all-genetics, in which he is recognized as one of the leaders. Out of this varied scientific research and his skill in mathematics, he has evolved systematic principles for the interpretation of empirical data; and he has founded a science of experimental design. On the foundations he has laid down, there has been erected a structure of statistical techniques that are used whenever people attempt to learn about nature from experiment and observation.
This post is a collection of quotes from Fisher describing his philosophy of statistics.

Analysis of data

"The analysis of variance is not a mathematical theorem, but rather a convenient method of arranging the arithmetic." (Quoted in Statistics in agricultural research by J. Wishart)

"However, perhaps the main point is that you are under no obligation to analyse variance into its parts if it does not come apart easily, and its unwillingness to do so naturally indicates that one’s line of approach is not very fruitful." (Letter to L. Hogben, 1933)

Significance testing

"The value for which P=0.05, or 1 in 20, is 1.96 or nearly 2; it is convenient to take this point as a limit in judging whether a deviation ought to be considered significant or not. Deviations exceeding twice the standard deviation are thus formally regarded as significant. Using this criterion we should be led to follow up a false indication only once in 22 trials, even if the statistics were the only guide available. Small effects will still escape notice if the data are insufficiently numerous to bring them out, but no lowering of the standard of significance would meet this difficulty.” (The Design of Experiments, 1935)

"Critical tests of this kind may be called tests of significance, and when such tests are available we may discover whether a second sample is or is not significantly different from the first." (Statistical Methods for Research Workers, 1925)

Hypothesis testing

"In relation to any experiment we may speak of this hypothesis as the 'null hypothesis', and it should be noted that the null hypothesis is never proved or established, but is possibly disproved, in the course of experimentation. Every experiment may be said to exist only in order to give the facts a chance of disproving the null hypothesis." (The Design of Experiments, 1935)

Critique of mathematics

"I believe that no one who is familiar, either with mathematical advances in other fields, or with the range of special biological conditions to be considered, would ever conceive that everything could be summed up in a single mathematical formula, however complex." (The evolutionary modification of genetic phenomena, 1932)

Claude Bernard and the analysis of statistics

Claude Bernard (1813-1878) is an influential physiologist and best known for pioneering blind experiments. Wikipedia says,
Claude Bernard's aim, as he stated in his own words, was to establish the use of the scientific method in medicine. He dismissed many previous misconceptions, took nothing for granted, and relied on experimentation. 
This post is a collection of quotes from Bernard regarding the philosophy of science.

Support for experiments

"Theories are only verified hypotheses, verified by more or less numerous facts. Those verified by the most facts are the best, but even then they are never final, never to be absolutely believed." (Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale, 1865)

"A man of science rises ever, in seeking truth; and if he never finds it in its wholeness, he discovers nevertheless very significant fragments; and these fragments of universal truth are precisely what constitutes science." (Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale, 1865)

"We must never make experiments to confirm our ideas, but simply to control them." (Bulletin of New York Academy of Medicine, 1928)

Critique of statistics

"A great surgeon performs operations for stone by a single method; later he makes a statistical summary of deaths and recoveries, and he concludes from these statistics that the mortality law for this operation is two out of five. Well, I say that this ratio means literally nothing scientifically and gives us no certainty in performing the next operation; for we do not know whether the next case will be among the recoveries or the deaths. What really should be done, instead of gathering facts empirically, is to study them more accurately, each in its special determinism… to discover in them the cause of mortal accidents so as to master the cause and avoid the accidents." (Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale, 1865)

"Indeed, proof that a given condition always precedes or accompanies a phenomenon does not warrant concluding with certainty that a given condition is the immediate cause of that phenomenon. It must still be established that when this condition is removed, the phenomenon will no longer appear." (Introduction à l'Étude de la Médecine Expérimentale, 1865)

Roger Bacon talks about experiments

Roger Bacon (1219-1292) is an influential philosopher and friar best known for his analysis of the scientific method. Historian Henry Hallam says,
The mind of Roger Bacon was strangely compounded of almost prophetic gleams of the future course of science, and the best principles of the inductive philosophy, with a more than usual credulity in the superstitions of his own time. (Introduction to the Literature of Europe in the Fifteenth, 1866)
This post is a collection of quotes from Bacon regarding the scientific method.

Support for experiments

"The strongest argument proves nothing so long as the conclusions are not verified by experience. Experimental science is the queen of sciences, and the goal of all speculation." (Quoted in Science at the Medieval Universities by James J. Walsch)

"Argument is conclusive... but... it does not remove doubt, so that the mind may never rest in the sure knowledge of the truth, unless it finds it by the method of experiment. For if any man who never saw fire proved by satisfactory arguments that fire burns, his hearer's mind would never be satisfied, nor would he avoid the fire until he put his hand in it that he might learn by experiment what argument taught." (Quoted in Memorable Quotations by Carol A. Dingle)

"To ask the proper question is half of knowing." (Quoted in Life, Sept 8, 1958)

Support for mathematics

"Mathematics is the gate and key of the sciences... Neglect of mathematics works injury to all knowledge, since he who is ignorant of it cannot know the other sciences or the things of this world. And what is worse, men who are thus Ignorant are unable to perceive their own ignorance and so do not seek a remedy." (Quoted in Mathematics and the physical world by Morris Kline)

Karl Popper and the scientific method

Karl Popper (1902-1994) is an influential philosopher best known for his philosophy of science and support for falsification. Neurophysiologist John Eccles says,
I learned from Popper what for me is the essence of scientific investigation - how to be speculative and imaginative in the creation of hypotheses, and then to challenge them with the utmost rigor, both by utilizing all existing knowledge and by mounting the most searching experimental attacks. In fact, I learned from him even to rejoice in the refutation of a cherished hypothesis, because that, too, is a scientific achievement and because much has been learned by the refutation. (Under the spell of the synapse, 1976)
Eccles goes on to say:
Through my association with Popper I experienced a great liberation in escaping from the rigid conventions that are generally held with respect to scientific research... When one is liberated from these restrictive dogmas, scientific investigation becomes an exciting adventure opening up new visions; and this attitude has, I think, been reflected in my own scientific life since that time. (Under the spell of the synapse, 1976)
This post is a collection of quotes from Popper about the philosophy of science.

Popper's scientific method

"Science must begin with myths, and with the criticism of myths." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

"Science is one of the very few human activities - perhaps the only one - in which errors are systematically criticized and fairly often, in time, corrected." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

"Bold ideas, unjustified anticipations, and speculative thought, are our only means for interpreting nature: our only organon, our only instrument, for grasping her. And we must hazard them to win our prize. Those among us who are unwilling to expose their ideas to the hazard of refutation do not take part in the scientific game." (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934)

"He is well aware that acceptance or rejection of an idea is never a purely rational matter; but he thinks that only critical discussion can give us the maturity to see an idea from more and more sides and to make a correct judgement of it." (All Life is Problem Solving, 1997)

You cannot prove theories

" matter how many instances of white swans we may have observed, this does not justify the conclusion that all swans are white." (The Logic of Scientific Discovery, 1934)

"Science may be described as the art of systematic over-simplification..." (The Open Universe : An Argument for Indeterminism, 1992)

"What we should do, I suggest, is to give up the idea of ultimate sources of knowledge, and admit that all knowledge is human; that it is mixed with our errors, our prejudices, our dreams, and our hopes; that all we can do is to grope for truth even though it be beyond our reach." (Conjectures and Refutations, 1963)

Friday, April 21, 2017

Friedrich Nietzsche: What is knowledge?

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was an influential philosopher best known for his analysis of reality, morality and many other philosophical topics. Philosopher Paul Tilich said,
Nietzsche is the most impressive and effective representative of what could be called a 'philosophy of life'. Life in this term is the process in which the power of being actualizes itself. (The Courage to Be, 1952)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Nietzsche.

What is knowledge?

"We have seen how it is originally language which works on the construction of concepts, a labor taken over in later ages by science." (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, 1873)

"We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things - metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities." (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, 1873)

"The man of action binds his life to reason and its concepts so that he will not be swept away and lost; the scientific investigator builds his hut right next to the tower of science so that he will be able to work on it and to find shelter for himself beneath those bulwarks which presently exist." (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, 1873)

"To what extent can truth endure incorporation? That is the question; that is the experiment." (The Gay Science, 1882)

"The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive, which one cannot for a single instant dispense with in thought, for one would thereby dispense with man himself." (On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense, 1873)

"The value of many men and books rests solely on their faculty for compelling all to speak out the most hidden and intimate things." (Quoted in Bartlett's Familiar Quotations)

Rene Descartes and the mathematical world

Rene Descartes (1596-1650) was an influential mathematician and philosopher best known for his contributions to geometry. Mathematician Eric Temple Bell said,
The implications of Descartes' analytic reformulation of geometry are obvious. Not only did the new method make possible a systematic investigation of known curves, but, what is of infinitely greater significance, it potentially created a whole universe of geometric forms beyond conception by the synthetic method. (The Development of Mathematics, 1940)
Descartes is also famous for influencing Isaac Newton,
The one book that turned out to be perhaps the most influential in guiding Newton's mathematical and scientific thought was none other than Descartes' La Géométrie. Newton read it in 1664 and re-read it several times until 'by degrees he made himself master of the whole'... Not only did analytic geometry pave the way for Newton's founding of calculus... but Newton's inner scientific spirit was truly set ablaze. (Is God a Mathematician? 2009)
This post is a collection of quotes from Descartes describing his philosophy of mathematics and knowledge.

Philosophy of mathematics

"I have resolved to quit only abstract geometry, that is to say, the consideration of questions which serve only to exercise the mind, and this, in order to study another kind of geometry, which has for its object the explanation of the phenomena of nature." (Letter to Marin Mersenne, 1638)

"With me, everything turns into mathematics." (Letter to Marin Mersenne, 1638)

"Thus, all unknown quantities can be expressed in terms if a single quantity, whenever the problem can be constructed by means of circles and straight lines, or by conic sections, or even by some other curve of degree not greater than the third or fourth." (La Géométrie, 1637)


"In order to seek truth, it is necessary once in the course of our life, to doubt, as far as possible, of all things." (Principles of Philosophy, 1644)

"So blind is the curiosity by which mortals are possessed, that they often conduct their minds along unexplored routes, having no reason to hope for success, but merely being willing to risk the experiment of finding whether the truth they seek lies there." (Rules for the Direction of the Mind, 1628)

"The entire method consists in the order and arrangement of the things to which the mind’s eye must turn so that we can discover some truth." (Rules for the Direction of the Mind, 1628)

"I think, therefore I am." (Le Discours de la Méthode, 1637)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Francis Bacon: What is the scientific method?

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) is an influential philosopher best known his scientific method and is analysis of knowledge. Bacon has also been called the father of empiricism. Historian Clifford Conner says,
The 'Baconian' sciences were the kind Francis Bacon had in mind when he issued a call to revitalize science by basing it on craftsmen's knowledge of nature. Bacon is remembered as the most effective critic of the traditional learning promulgated the elite institutions of his day... Bacon advocated compiling a 'history of arts' or encyclopedia of crafts knowledge. (A People's History of Science, 2005)
This post is a collection of quotes describing Bacon's philosophy of science.

What is the scientific method?

"Now my method, though hard to practice, is easy to explain; and it is this. I propose to establish progressive stages of certainty. The evidence of the sense, helped and guarded by a certain process of correction, I retain. But the mental operation which follows the act of sense I for the most part reject; and instead of it I open and lay out a new and certain path for the mind to proceed in, starting directly from the simple sensuous perception." (Novum Organum, 1620)

"Since my logic aims to teach and instruct the understanding, not that it may with the slender tendrils of the mind snatch at and lay hold of abstract notions (as the common logic does), but that it may in very truth dissect nature, and discover the virtues and actions of bodies, with their laws as determined in matter; so that this science flows not merely from the nature of the mind, but also from the nature of things." (Novum Organum, 1620)

"Those who have handled sciences have been either men of experiment or men of dogmas. The men of experiment are like the ant, they only collect and use; the reasoners resemble spiders, who make cobwebs out of their own substance. But the bee takes a middle course: it gathers its material from the flowers of the garden and of the field, but transforms and digests it by a power of its own. " (Novum Organum, 1620)

Error in human understanding

"Truth will sooner come out from error than from confusion." (Novum Organum, 1620)

"The human understanding is of its own nature prone to suppose the existence of more order and regularity in the world than it finds. And though there be many things in nature which are singular and unmatched, yet it devises for them parallels and conjugates and relatives which do not exist." (Novum Organum, 1620)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Immanuel Kant: What is reason?

Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) was an influential philosopher and best known for his analysis of reason and ethics. Philosopher Friedrich Paulsen (1846-1908) says,
Kant's view of the nature of what is 'actually real' remained unaltered throughout his life. Reality is in itself a system of existing thought-essences brought into a unity by teleological relations that are intuitively thought by the Divine intellect, and by this very act of thought posited as real. (Immanuel Kant: His Life and Doctrine, 1902)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Kant.

What is reason?

"Reason in a creature is a faculty of widening the rules and purposes of the use of all its powers far beyond natural instinct; it acknowledges no limits to its projects. Reason itself does not work instinctively, but requires trial, practice, and instruction in order gradually to progress from one level of insight to another." (Idea for a Universal History from a Cosmopolitan Point of View, 1784)

"Mathematics, from the earliest times to which the history of human reason can reach, has followed, among that wonderful people of the Greeks, the safe way of science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as for logic, in which reason is concerned with itself alone, to find, or rather to make for itself that royal road." (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

"Human reason is by nature architectonic." (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

Impossible questions

"Human reason has this peculiar fate that in one species of its knowledge it is burdened by questions which, as prescribed by the very nature of reason itself, it is not able to ignore, but which, as transcending all its powers, it is also not able to answer." (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

"It is precisely in knowing its limits that philosophy consists." (Critique of Pure Reason, 1781)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

David Hume and empirical evidence

David Hume (1711-1776) was an influential philosopher best known for his system of logic and support for empiricism. Philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) said,
I freely admit that the remembrance of David Hume was the very thing that many years ago first interrupted my dogmatic slumber and gave a completely different direction to my researches in the field of speculative philosophy. (Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, 1783)
This post is a collection of quotes from Hume describing his philosophy of science.

Analysis of evidence

"In our reasonings concerning matter of fact, there are all imaginable degrees of assurance, from the highest certainty to the lowest species of moral evidence... A wise man, therefore, proportions his belief to the evidence." (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748)

"By this means all knowledge degenerates into probability; and this probability is greater or less, according to our experience of the veracity or deceitfulness of our understanding, and according to the simplicity or intricacy of the question." (A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739)

"We must therefore glean up our experiments in this science from a cautious observation of human life... Where experiments of this kind are judiciously collected and compared, we may hope to establish on them a science." (A Treatise of Human Nature, 1739)

Analysis of complex phenomena

"Look round the world: contemplate the whole and every part of it: You will find it to be nothing but one great machine, subdivided into an infinite number of lesser machines, which again admit of subdivisions, to a degree beyond what human senses and faculties can trace and explain." (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779)

"In such a chain, too, or succession of objects, each part is caused by that which preceded it, and causes that which succeeds it. Where then is the difficulty? But the whole, you say, wants a cause. I answer, that the uniting of these parts into a whole, like the uniting of several distinct countries into one kingdom, or several distinct members into one body, is performed merely by an arbitrary act of the mind, and has no influence on the nature of things. Did I show you the particular causes of each individual in a collection of twenty particles of matter, I should think it very unreasonable, should you afterwards ask me, what was the cause of the whole twenty. This is sufficiently explained in explaining the cause of the parts." (Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, 1779)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Aristotle and the philosophy of knowledge

Aristotle (384-322 BC) is an influential philosopher best known for systematically analyzing many topics including: physics, biology, zoology, logic, ethics, aesthetics, poetry, metaphysics, music, rhetoric, linguistics and politics. Mathematician Bertrand Russell says,
Aristotle, as a philosopher, is in many ways very different from all his predecessors. He is the first to write like a professor: his treatises are systematic, his discussions are divided into heads, he is a professional teacher, not an inspired prophet. His work is critical, careful, pedestrian, without any trace of Bacchic enthusiasm. (A History of Western Philosophy, 1945)
Galileo Galilei also describes Aristotle's research style,
I do believe for certain, that he [Aristotle] first procured, by the help of the senses, such experiments and observations as he could, to assure him as much as was possible of the conclusion, and that he afterwards sought out the means how to demonstrate it; for this is the usual course in demonstrative sciences. (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, 1661)
This post is a collection of my favorite quotes from Aristotle.

What is knowledge?

"The natural way of doing this [seeking scientific knowledge or explanation of fact] is to start from the things which are more knowable and obvious to us and proceed towards those which are clearer and more knowable by nature... Now what is to us plain and obvious at first is rather confused masses, the elements and principles of which became known to us by later analysis..." (Physics)

"Of things said without any combination, each signifies either substance or quantity or qualification or a relative or where or when or being in a position or having or doing or being affected. To give a rough idea, examples of substance are man, horse; of quantity: four-foot, five-foot; of qualification: white, grammatical; of a relative: double, half, larger; of where: in the Lyceum, in the market-place; of when: yesterday, last year; of being in a position: is lying, is sitting; of having: has shoes on, has armour on; of doing: cutting, burning; of being affected: being cut, being burned." (Categories)

"Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reason for the fact." (Posterior Analytics)

"It is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits." (Nicomachean Ethics)