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View Diary: Morning Feature: Animal Spirits, Part IV - Conclusion and Critique (Non-Cynical Saturday) (91 comments)

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  •  OK (0+ / 0-)

    I don't have to disprove that we're all selfish.  Examples of self-sacrificing behavior are so common - and more importantly, so readily observable - that the burden of proof falls on those who claim self-interest as the exclusive human motivator.

    Ok, but I have described how people can be altruistic while still be rational in an economic sense.  They are not selfish, they personally value the well being of others and therefore act self interestedly to benefit others.

    You're claiming human motivation is not as it appears, that observable self-sacrificing behavior is "really" self-interest.  I don't have to prove the behavior is what it appears to be; you have to prove it's not, because yours is the more incredible claim.

     What I am saying people act out of self interest.  People care about other people.  Therefore, people act to help others.  Its not an incredible or particularly rare claim, it has been around for a long time.

    By way of metaphor, if I say the bottom disk on a traffic light is green, while you say it's "really" some other color that only appears green because of some conditions of light, optics, etc., the burden of proof is on you ... not on me.

    A better metaphor would be for you to see it as green, and for me to agree but say that green is in reality the way your eyes interprets the wavelength of light that reflect off the glass.

    Aside from which, this is not a formal debate, but a discussion.  If you think I'm wrong, not just unsure I'm right, say why!

    •  Argument by equivocation. (0+ / 0-)

      Your argument is a logical fallacy, and thus it's false on its face.  It switches from a positivist (describing what is) to a normative (describing what should be) definition of "self-interest."  Changing the definition of a key term in an argument is the logical fallacy of equivocation.

      That is, in order to justify assessing behavior in terms of "self-interest," your positivist (what is) definition includes a desire to sacrifice for others.  But if you include that, you've defined "self-interest" as "any motivation a human being might have."  By that definition, and if "rational" means "acting in self-interest," it's impossible for anyone to be "irrational" unless they're acting with no motivation whatever.

      But economists critique motivated behavior as "irrational" based on a far narrower, normative definition of "self-interest" - motivations they think we should have.  Those critiques normalize individualistic "self-interest" as the standard of "rational" behavior.

      If challenged on "self-interest" as the standard of human behavior, economists fall revert to the all-encompassing definition and the claim of positivism: they're not prescribing what should be, but simply describing what is.  And once anyone agrees to that all-encompassing definition for positivist purposes, it's back to critiques of based on the narrower, normative definition.

      Flip. Flop.

      I don't "think you're wrong," nor am I "just unsure if you're right."  Your argument is false on its face, because it's grounded on the logical fallacy of equivocation.

      •  I am neither flipping nor flopping. (0+ / 0-)

        Your argument is a logical fallacy, and thus it's false on its face.  It switches from a positivist (describing what is) to a normative (describing what should be) definition of "self-interest."  Changing the definition of a key term in an argument is the logical fallacy of equivocation.

        You've confused equivocation with the use of technical jargon.  When economist talk about rationality that is what they are referring to.  No more, no less.  This isn't a change, its not new, they have never meant more or less than that in the context we are using it.

        That is, in order to justify assessing behavior in terms of "self-interest," your positivist (what is) definition includes a desire to sacrifice for others.  But if you include that, you've defined "self-interest" as "any motivation a human being might have."  By that definition, and if "rational" means "acting in self-interest," it's impossible for anyone to be "irrational" unless they're acting with no motivation whatever.

        Pretty much.  The point of the assumption of rationality(i.e. self interest) is that it discounts motiveless behavior and behavior explicitly designed to harm oneself.  To not assume those things makes the kind of analysis economist do pretty hard, and can break down the entire process.  

        If challenged on "self-interest" as the standard of human behavior, economists fall revert to the all-encompassing definition and the claim of positivism: they're not prescribing what should be, but simply describing what is.  And once anyone agrees to that all-encompassing definition for positivist purposes, it's back to critiques of based on the narrower, normative definition.

        No, what happens is they say "Economics is still a psuedo science, not a full science for this reason, and we assume it because it makes your work possible"  At least the ones interested in the philosophy of science, or had a prof who did.  Most would think about it that much, and its hard to speak for a group of people.

        I don't "think you're wrong," nor am I "just unsure if you're right."  Your argument is false on its face, because it's grounded on the logical fallacy of equivocation.

        The arguement you think I am making may be, but not the one I am actually making.

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