No subject

Sun Jul 26 15:10:43 CEST 2015

Thanks to Richard Norgaard for an insightful and provocative essay.<br>
I would just like to add a reference of likely interest to others, and to r=
aise a question regarding the puzzling quote from Frank Knight.<br>
It is becoming more usual nowadays to analyze various fields of thought =E2=
=80=9Cas a religion.=E2=80=9D Sometimes this is just a rhetorical ploy to d=
iscredit a field of thought in the eyes of secular post-modernists who cons=
ider all religion as fantasy or lunacy. But other scholars develop logicall=
y well-founded and instructive parallels, as is the case with Norgaard=E2=
=80=99s essay.<br>
Another economist who has cogently and extensively developed this line of t=
hought regarding economics is my former colleague, Robert H. Nelson (see hi=
s Economics as Religion, and The New Holy Wars (Economic Religion vs. Envir=
onmental Religion). Also, I recently learned that there is an emerging fiel=
d devoted to this kind of study, with its own Journal of Implicit Religion.=
 The occurrence of implicit religion is by no means limited to economics, b=
ut can equally be found in other fields, including biology and ecology.<br>
Regarding the puzzling quote from Knight:<br>
=E2=80=9CTo inquire into the ultimates behind accepted group values is obsc=
ene and sacrilegious: objective inquiry is an attempt to uncover the nakedn=
ess of man, his soul as well as his body, his deeds, his culture, and his v=
ery gods.<br>
Certainly the large general [economics] courses should be prevented from ra=
ising any question about objectivity, but should assume the objectivity of =
the slogans they inculcate, as a sacred feature of the system.=E2=80=9D<br>
I found this obscure and submit for discussion my attempt to interpret it: =
namely that Knight has assumed that =E2=80=9Cultimates=E2=80=9D are either =
unreal or destructive, and therefore any objective inquiry into their natur=
e would only undercut, the =E2=80=9C=E2=80=9Cprinciples=E2=80=9D by which a=
 society or a group lives in tolerable harmony.=E2=80=9D This, of course, i=
s implicit religion from Knight=E2=80=94the metaphysical proposition that t=
here probably are no objective values, and even if there are, we are better=
 off not inquiring about them. The social goal of =E2=80=9Ctolerable harmon=
y=E2=80=9D justifies our conventional economic ideology, which cannot withs=
tand objective questioning.<br>
Alternatively, Nelson suggests that Knight was less a cynical pragmatist th=
an a secular Calvinist who believed that original sin renders natural man i=
ncapable of achieving objective goodness even if it exists. However, that o=
riginal sin would not also preclude attainment of pseudo-ultimate free mark=
et values seems to have been assumed as well by Knight. Perhaps Knight=E2=
=80=99s hope was that market principles, although flawed as he recognized, =
would allow a society in which people, though unable to perceive or agree o=
n the objective authority of the ultimate good, could nevertheless exist in=
 =E2=80=9Ctolerable harmony=E2=80=9D.<br>
The =E2=80=9Cexplicit religion=E2=80=9D of Christianity (including Calvinis=
m) affirms that ultimate value really does exist, and that by divine grace =
man may, albeit with error, recognize it, and respond to its lure. However,=
 in fairness to Knight, who was not a Christian, one must admit that, from =
the perspective of today=E2=80=99s politics, =E2=80=9Ctolerable harmony=E2=
=80=9D looks pretty good.<br>
--Herman Daly<br>
Friday, October 30, 2015<br>

More information about the P2P-Foundation mailing list