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2023 | OriginalPaper | Buchkapitel

The Universal Language of Economics: où-logòs or éu-logòs?

verfasst von : Monika Poettinger

Erschienen in: Monetary Policy Normalization

Verlag: Springer Nature Switzerland

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Abstract

The problem of the unification of the scientific language has always accompanied the evolution of scientific thought and practice. Linguae francae have evolved in time to allow intellectual exchange across linguistic, cultural, and political borders: Greek, Latin, French, and English. The question also if abstract geometrical forms or mathematics could represent a universal language, devoid of any cultural or historical contamination, has also occupied the mind of many epistemologists and scientists. In economics the question of a unified language, possibly pictorial, was brought in the foreground, in the Vienna swept by Machian relativism, by Otto Neurath. The crisis of traditional physics was also internalized, in the same circumstances, by John von Neumann, who would spearhead the adoption of machine language for operational research into economics. Von Neumann also transformed the economic man into an amateur econometrician who takes decisions based on intuitive probability betting. Modern markets, though, are not only the arena of these new stochastic men but also of artificial beings that were created to resemble these stochastic men. A new economics that allows for these profound changes and speaks the language of these new market actors is, nonetheless, still to come.

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Fußnoten
1
“[11:1] Now the whole earth had one language and the same words.
[11:2] And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there.
[11:3] And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.
[11:4] Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth”.
[11:5] The LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.
[11:6] And the LORD said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.
[11:7] Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech” (https://​www.​vatican.​va/​archive/​bible/​genesis/​documents/​bible_​genesis_​en.​html#Chapter%20​9 visited 15–04-2023).
 
2
According to the novel written by Lang’s wife:
“Babel!” shouted one, meaning: Divinity, Coronation, Eternal Triumph!
“Babel!” shouted the other meaning: Hell, Slavery, Eternal Damnation! (Von Harbou, 1963: 66).
 
3
This definition of an international language of science is commonly accepted in contemporary linguistic studies. So Remache: “Observation, measurement, formulation of hypotheses, experimentation, classification and prediction are all acts which are typical to any scientific enquiry. The different sciences carry out these activities each using its own bulk of word categories such as technical abbreviations, symbols and formulae, highly technical (diode, semi-conductor etc.) and sub-technical vocabulary (method, function, take place, occur etc.). Thus, to ensure a successful performance of these acts, the foreign language learner is expected to have a specialised English vocabulary as well as general vocabulary peculiar to explaining scientific procedures (integrate, isolate, differentiate etc.) at his disposal” (Remache, 2013, 41).
 
4
I’m indebted for this quotation to Paolo Savona, whom I wish to thank for the many suggestions concerning the topic of this paper. All responsibilities for this writing remain, in any case, mine.
 
5
For a general bibliography on the issue, see: Bryant (2018).
 
6
“I have already suggested that the communicative systems of different scientific disciplines are independent of any particular linguistic realisation. Can we also say that the methodology associated with different scientific subjects is similarly universal? I think that perhaps we can. I think that it is likely that scientific textbooks written in different languages express essentially the same methodology. Moreover, as with the communicative system of the discipline, I think that this methodology is reflected in certain non-verbal devices of exposition which are common to all textbooks” (Widdowson, 1975, 7).
 
7
Widdowson believed that there was a difference in method between the physical and the social sciences. “In the physical sciences, the enquirer is trained in detached analysis, in putting the phenomena he wishes to investigate at a remove from the immediacy of perception and intuition. In this way he aims at correcting the distortions of the human factor. What this involves, in effect, is the acquisition of a secondary culture of a non-participant kind defined by the philosophy of science and apart from the popular beliefs and values of participant primary culture. From the vantage point of this secondary culture, the scientist can reveal a different, third person reality, which will often run counter to that which is popularly accepted. He can, furthermore, demonstrate its truth, though until the respectability of such a secondary culture was established and its practical consequences made clear this truth was commonly condemned as heresy” (Widdowson, 1984, 24–25).
“It seems to me that models of human behaviour in the social sciences are comparable in status and function to the representations of human behaviour in novels or plays or any other art form. Both depend upon idealization procedures which in effect yield prototypes of a kind which we can set into correspondence with actual and non-idealized reality. There is not, and cannot be, any direct empirical link between either of them and the external world. Descriptive models and fictional representations create idealized norms of human behaviour which we cannot accept as a plausible pattern against which actuality can be compared. Their function is not to be correct but convincing, to serve as a means towards a more perceptive awareness of what we do and who we are” (Widdowson, 1984, 26–27).
 
8
For a critical presentation of Neurath’s epistemology, see: Sebestik (1999, 2011).
 
9
For a critical appraisal see: Symons et al. (2011).
 
10
Tönnies constituted a father figure for Neurath after the death of his own father. In respect to his influence on problem of language and science suffice here to quote Tönnies essay on “Philosophical Terminology” (Tönnies, 1899).
 
11
Otto Neurath and Richard von Mises both credit Mach’s studies to have made Einstein’s theory of relativity even thinkable (Neurath, 1937, 268). On Mach see: Haller and Stadler (1988).
 
12
On the elaboration of Nietzsche on this point see: Hinman (1982). For the similarities with Mach’s thought, see: Von Mises (1987, 177).
 
13
“I avoid in empiricist discussions (some of the terms may be used in discussions of models and schemes after limiting definitions) terms such as: “ mental world,” “ true,” “ meaning,” “ verification,” “progress,” “ pathological,” motive,” “value”, “ thing in itself”, “observation” (but “observation-statement” is not dangerous), “perception”, “reality”, “existence”, “thing”, “experience”, “theory of knowledge” (Neurath, 19401941, 132).
 
14
On the ambiguity of the word “income” see also: Von Mises (1987, 180).
 
15
So Neurath on the Viennese Circle: “During the same period there developed in Vienna what is known as the Viennese Circle. Moritz Schlick, Professor at the University of Vienna, was a stimulating influence upon a group of men interested in the logical problems of science, and he was one of the first thinkers who recognised and explained the importance of Einstein's Theory of Relativity for modern Empiricism. In the interest of advancing scientific empiricism he, together with Hans Hahn, was instrumental in having Rudolf Carnap come to Vienna, and it was Carnap’s special contribution to develop modern logic as an essential tool for scientific analysis. Schlick, together with Philipp Frank (Prague), one of the leading figures in the Viennese Circle, became the editor of the series “Schriften zur Wissenschaftlichen Weltauffassung.” Bertrand Russell also became an important influence upon members of this group, especially upon all those interested in mathematics and logistic. Wittgenstein’s philosophy was carefully read and discussed, and the Viennese Circle concurred in his view, that we do not have special philosophical statements. Philosophy was regarded by a great many members of the Viennese Circle as the analysis of science and the discussion of its logical problems, not as a special superscience” (Neurath, 1937, 275).
 
16
“Many of us, besides myself, have been brought up in a Machian tradition, e.g., Franck, Hahn, von Mises. Because of this, we tried to pass from chemistry to biology, from mechanics to sociology without altering the language applied to them” (Neurath, 1946, 497).
 
17
“There is a trend to build up a Lingua Franca (Senior-Chicago suggested this term) which would enable us to pass from the theory of behaviour (“behavioristics”) to geology, biology and mechanics without any alteration of the type of our expressions: moreover to pass from every-day language to scientific language” (Neurath, 19401941, 128). But see also (Neurath, 19401941, 148).
 
18
“If we reject the rationalistic anticipation of the system of the sciences, if we reject the notion of a philosophical system which is to legislate for the sciences, what is the maximum coordination of the sciences which remains possible? The only answer that can be given for the time being is: An Encyclopaedia of the Sciences” Neurath (1937, 271).
 
19
“We cannot find an absolute immutable basis for science; and our various discussions can only determine whether scientific statements are accepted by a more or less determinate number of scientists and other men. New ideas may be compared with those historically accepted by the sciences, but not with an unalterable standard of truth. I will add that views similar to these were developed by Carnap, Frank, Morris and others” (Neurath, 1937, 276).
 
20
For a recent reappraisal of Neurath the economist, see: Uebel (2004), Uebel and Cohen (2004).
 
21
Quoted in Uebel (2004, 16).
 
22
On this point, Neurath particularly quoted James Steuart, also including excerpts of his An Inquiry into the Principles of Political Oeconomy in his anthology of economic thought (Neurath & Schapire-Neurath, 1910, 96–124). Steuart had defined the task of the political leader to conceive many possible organisations of the state and then select the one that suited best his people. Steuart had moreover underlined the necessity to link the new organisation to existing traditions and base it on the fact that people would choose the common good in their own interest (Neurath, 1913, 443). Neurath’s own definition of the economy derived from this tradition of thought.
 
23
The Cowles Commission for Research in Economics was founded by Alfred Cowles in 1932. Its object was to use mathematical and statistical analysis, applied to economic theory, to generate useful policy advise. Between 1939 and 1955 the Commission operated at the university of Chicago under the direction of Theodore O. Yntema, Jacob Marschak and Tjalling C. Koopmans. Due to divergences with the local department of economics, the Commission then moved to Yale University where it still resides today. On its manifold contributions to economics, aside the studies by Mirowski quoted in the text, see: Chow (1977), Christ (1994), Malinvaud (1988).
 
24
For a critical evaluation, see: Giocoli (2003).
 
25
The following quotation of Olivier Blanchard is a striking example of how operational research has trickled down into economic discourse: “There are many targets and many instruments. How the instruments are mapped onto the targets and how these instruments are best used are complicated problems, but we need to solve them” (Blanchard, 2012, 7).
 
26
“Human beings, like any other component or subsystem, must be localized in a system architecture whose basic modes of operation are probabilistic, statistical. No objects, spaces, or bodies are sacred in themselves; any component can be interfaced with any other if the proper standard, the proper code, can be constructed for processing signals in a common language” (Haraway, 1991, 163).
 
27
“The market algorithms themselves can be sorted, graded, and analytically distinguished by their computational regularities” (Mirowski, 2001, 556).
 
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Metadaten
Titel
The Universal Language of Economics: où-logòs or éu-logòs?
verfasst von
Monika Poettinger
Copyright-Jahr
2023
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-031-38708-1_5