Archive for the ‘public’ Category

Voigt and Value

Friday, 10 April 2020

In a previous entry, I asserted that Voigt's Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik contain[s] more error than insight. Here, I'll discuss one of the more egregious errors. In section V, Voigt writes

An die Spitze der Erörterung dieses vielberufenen Begriffes sollte gestellt werden, dass es Einheiten des Wertes giebt, dass man also untersuchen kann, wievielmal so gross ein Wert als ein anderer ist und Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann, dass also der Wert ein eigentliches in einer Kardinalzahl ausdrückbares Mass hat.

which may be translated as

At the forefront of discussion of this much used concept should be placed that there are units of value that one thus can investigate how many time as large a value is as another and can replace goods of the same value with each other, that thus the value has a real measure expressible in a cardinal number.

I'll deal first with the point that it seems that one can investigate how many times as large a value is as another.

Numbers are used in many ways. Depending upon the use, what is revealed by arithmetic may be a great deal or very little. Sometimes numbers are ascribed with so little meaning that we may as well consider them strings of numerals, the characters that we use for numbers, and not numbers at all. Sometimes numbers do nothing but provide an arbitrary order, good for something such as a look-up table but nothing else. Sometimes they provide a meaningful order, but one in which the results of most arithmetic operations are meaningless, as when items produced at irregular intervals are given sequential serial numbers. (The difference between any two such numbers tells one which was produced before the other, but little else.) Sometimes the differences between the differences are meaningful, as when items are produce at regular intervals and given sequential serial numbers. And so forth.

Monetary prices are quantities, but they are more specifically quantities of money; that does not make them quantities of value nor proxies of quantities of value. One would have to show that the results of every arithmetic operation on such a quantity of money said something about value for it to be shown that value were itself a quantity.

The second part of Voigt's claim is that one Güter gleichen Wertes durch einander ersetzen kann [can replace goods of the same value with each other]. But an equivalence between things corresponding to the same numbers doesn't make results of the application of arithmetic to those numbers meaningful. (Consider lots of items produced at irregular intervals, with each item in the lot given the same serial number, unique to the lot but otherwise random.) And we should ask ourselves under just what circumstances we can and cannot ersetzen one set of commodities of a given price with another of the same price.

Nor does somehow combining the use of quantities of money for prices with a property of equivalence imply that value is a quantity.

Voigt is unusual not in making this unwarranted inference, but in so clearly expressing himself as he does. From the observation that prices are usually quantities of something, which quantities increase as value increases, most people, and even most economists blithely infer that value itself behaves as a quantity.

A Translation of Voigt's Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik

Wednesday, 8 April 2020

In early 2013, I made freely available a transcription of Zahl und Mass in der Ökonomik: Eine kritische Untersuchung der mathematischen Methode und der mathematischen Preistheorie (1893) by Andreas Heinrich Voigt. I have to-day completed a first pass of a translation of this as Number and Measure in Economics: A Critical Examination of Mathematical Method and of Mathematical Price Theory. Although I believe that there are many errors to be corrected in that translation, I am making it available. I do not plan to use a different URI for corrected versions.

I have been very disappointed by my reading of Voigt's article. I regard it as containing more error than insight.

In the course of translation, I found and corrected extremely minor errors in the transcription of the original. A name was at one point misspelled by me, and I failed to capitalize a word beginning a sentence. I also marked a die die as questionable which I've since concluded was deliberate. I do not believe that anyone could have been led to a mistaken reading as a result of those errors, but I have naturally corrected them.

I may change the URI for the transcription, moving it from another domain to place it amongst the uploads for this 'blog. If so, then I will edit entries to reflect that change.


Thursday, 20 February 2020

On 20 February 2020, a year to-the-day after I submitted my paper Formal Qualitiative Probability to The Review of Symbolic Logic and nearly five months after I was notified that a revised version had been accepted, Cambridge University Press published the manuscript on-line.

(I believe that an unchanging DOI 10.1017/S1755020319000480 will be used for whatever is the latest version of the article, as it is type-set for paper publication and eventually assigned to a specific issue.)

This work was badly treated across journals of philosophy. Regardless of whether any of my future work is perhaps best regarded as philosophic, I will henceforth avoid submitting to such journals.

Lost in Translation

Sunday, 9 February 2020

I recently started reading Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint, a translation of Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkt[e] by Franz Brentano. My copy happens to be of the 1973 Humanities Press edition.

In the translation of the 1874 foreword, I hit a sentence

I was prompted to undertake a rather detailed study of these opinions because at the present time they enjoy an undue popularity and exert a lamentable influence upon a public which, in matters of psychology even less than in other fields, has not yet learned to demand scientific cogency.

This sentence is a muddle, with restrictions and negations working to say something contrary to what Brentano must surely have intended. A scan of the original is available on-line, the German reads

Und was mich dazu trieb, auch auf sie weitläufiger einzugehen, waren nur eine ungebührliche Verbreitung und ein beklagenswerther Einfluss, welche sie gegenwärtig auf ein Publicum gewonnen haben, das in sachen der Psychologie weniger noch als anderwärts auf wissenschaftliche Strenge Anspruch zu machen gelernt hat.

That refers to

a public, who in matters of psychology less still than elsewhere have learned to make a demand for scientific rigor

So the muddle is not in the original, but is an artefact of translation that doesn't strive to be as close to the original as possible while conforming to the conventions of the target language.

I checked a scan of the 1995 second edition of the translation, and found the same muddle as in the 1973 edition.

Naturally, I'm wondering to what extent I can reasonably trust the remainder of the translation. I reälize that passages recognized as crucial will probably have been treated with greater care and received more scrutiny, but there may be passages the importance of which has not been recognized. And even passages whose importance were recognized might be poorly translated. (I certainly saw such cases in translations of the work of Aristoteles.)

Seen to Be Done

Saturday, 1 February 2020

I present this table

Justices of the US Supreme Court in November of 1952
Hugo Lafayette BlackRoosevelt (D)Democrat27 Feb 188618 Aug 1937
Stanley Forman ReedRoosevelt (D)Democrat31 Dec 188427 Jan 1938
Felix FrankfurterRoosevelt (D)Democrat15 Nov 188220 Jan 1939
William Orville DouglasRoosevelt (D)Democrat16 Oct 188617 Apr 1939
Robert Houghwout JacksonRoosevelt (D)Democrat13 Feb 189211 Jul 1941
Harold Hitz BurtonTruman (D)Republican22 Jun 188822 Sep 1945
Frederick Moore VinsonTruman (D)Democrat22 Jan 189021 Jun 1946
Thomas Campbell ClarkTruman (D)Democrat23 Sept 188919 Aug 1949
Sherman MintonTruman (D)Democrat20 Oct 18905 Oct 1949

in advance of polemic that I anticipate over the next five or more years.

The Presidential candidates who might plausibly receive the nomination of the Democratic Party are such that, in the absence of a financial crisis, President Trump is very likely to be reëlected. He has, so far, been able to select two appointees to the US Supreme Court.

Four of the nine Justices now serving are appointees of Democratic Presidents. One of these, Justice Ginsburg, will be 87 years old in March, and has had repeated bouts with cancer. Another, Breyer, will be 82 years old in August; it is very likely that he will leave the Court before 2024. A third, Sotomayor, is in her mid-sixties, but suffers from type 1 diabetes. Whoever is elected to the Presidency in 2020 will surely replace between one and three of these Justices. There may be only one Justice from the Democratic Party in 2024.

Which is why I point to the Court in 1952. It had no Justices other than those appointed by Democratic Presidents, and only one Justice who, prior to appointment, had not been affiliated with the Democratic Party. The Republican Party won the Presidency and a majority in each chamber of Congress. But, if there were any argument that it would be right and proper to increase the number of Justices on the US Supreme Court in order to reëstablish a majority of Republican appointees or somesuch, that argument sank without a trace.

Still Goddamn'd Waiting

Monday, 20 January 2020

I've still not heard anything from the publishing team for The Review of Symbolic Logic. I've not heard anything from the handling editor since she told me on 5 January that she'd been informed by the publishing team that they could access the files for my probability paper. It has been slightly more than a month since I repeated the uploading of those files. It has been almost four months since I was informed that my paper had been accepted. It has been slightly more than eleven months since I submitted the paper to RSL.

Retaking Responsibility

Friday, 17 January 2020

The Constitution of the United States assigns various responsibilities to its Congress. Congress has increasingly slipt into a practice of delegating these responsibilities to other institutions. However, Congress is not empowered to amend the Constitution, to reduce the responsibilities of Congress or for other purposes; in that context, a legal theory that delegation of Congressional responsibilities were unconstitutional used to influence decisions of the US Supreme Court, and various liberal and conservative theorists have been arguing for a revival of that theory. Others are arguing that delegation is perfectly constitutional, so long as Congress retains the power to rescind the delegation, and thus retains ultimate responsibility.

While discussion of revival of that legal theory seems to be concerned with regulatory bureaucracy, delegation of another sort has been the subject of a separate discussion. Repeatedly, the Congress has obliquely delegated its power to declare war to the Office of the Presidency. The last time that the Congress itself declared war was in 1941, but the US has engaged in many subsequent wars, without quite formally calling them wars. The most recent such delegation occurred during the Administration of GW Bush, and remains in effect. In the wake of recent actions by the Trump Administration, a majority in each chamber of Congress assert that they want to withdraw some of that delegation; but they do not have the super-majority presumably required to over-ride a veto.

The reason that I wrote presumably is because, if indeed Congress is empowered to delegate its responsibilities so long as it is able to rescind that delegation, then they cannot have made a delegation that the President can veto; Congress must be able to rescind the delegation with a simple plurality vote. This Congressional power must obtain in the declaration of war, and it must obtain in the empowering of regulatory bodies the rules of which have the force of law.

An exception to the President's power to veto is hardly a trivial matter, and arguing that such an exception is present but only implicit is at least a bit breath-taking. But if that exception does not hold then the old theory that Congress could not delegate its responsibilities seems the only alternative compatible with the Constitution. And, in that case, the aforementioned regulatory bodies must be abolished, and there can be no more waging of war without Congressional declaration.

Dead in the Water

Friday, 3 January 2020

Although my paper on probability was accepted by The Review of Symbolic Logic on 22 September, it has since been stalled at that journal.

Acceptance was conditioned on my making a reply to the reviewer and my providing a final version of the paper. On 23 September, I uploaded the reply, a copy of my paper in PDF, a LAΤΕΧ source file for the text of the paper, and a BibLAΤΕΧ database. At the private page for my submission of articles to ASL journals, the status of the paper was reported as Waiting.

Some days later, I discovered two errors in one of the entries of the BibLAΤΕΧ database, which errors affected the bibliography. I initially thought that I should wait for galley proofs before attempting to effect a correction; but, on 17 October, I submitted a revision of the database, along with redundant copies of the other files because it was not possible simply to submit a new copy of the database.

From 22 September until then — indeed until 30 November, I'd received no communication from the editors nor from other staff. So I contacted the handling editor and requested information. She had not replied as of 2 December, so I contacted the coördinating editor and requested information. He replied on 4 December with a recommendation that I contact the handling editor, and said that he'd sent a copy of his reply to her. She had not replied as of 9 December, so I sent a copy both to the coördinating editor and to the handling editor, presenting a time-line, noting the lack of communication, and again requesting information.

On 18 December, the handling editor told me that she would contact the typesetters and then communicate with me soon. On 20 December, at 21:06 UTC she sent e.mail reporting that the typesetters needed for me to upload a final version of the paper. I responded that I had done so on 23 September, and that I'd also submitted a revised BibLAΤΕΧ database on 17 October. However, I returned to the website to repeat the process, and found that there was a previously presented option entitled Upload Final Versions; I used this option. and the status became Finals Uploaded. The option continues to be offered. Evidently, when I was told to upload a final version, an editor or some other member of staff failed to do something that would have caused that option to be presented to me on 23 September or on 17 October. And, since none of them were paying attention, no one noticed that months were passing without movement on the paper.

I mention the time-of-day that the handling editor replied to me because it was late at night in England, on a Friday, with Christmas coming in the middle of the next week. There was no discernible action taken on my paper in that next week, nor has there been in the week after it; I imagine that the typesetters have all been on vacation.

On 3 January at 21:44 UTC — yes, again at night on a Friday — the handling editor replied to my message of 20 December, saying that she would again contact the publishing team. I quickly notified her that, on 20 December, I had again uploaded a final version, but had not heard since from them.

Up-Date (2020:01/05): I received e.mail from the handling editor telling me that the publishing team could now access the files. I don't know if, for them to be able to do so, still more had to be done by the editorial staff. In any case, my paper still isn't publicly listed as accepted.

A New Projectionist

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

I am in the process of relocating video embedded in entries to this 'blog. (Only a few and rather old entries have such content.)

My experiences with YouTube have been unhappy. It routinely messed-up the synchronization of sound with image for my content. Without a ready appeal process, YouTube disabled videos that made fair use of copyrighted content. Although my content has not been affected by the political bias of Alphabet Inc. (the parent company of YouTube), it was grossly unethical for YouTube to get people to cluster at their site by representing itself as an honest broker, and then to bring a bias to bear. And, when YouTube disabled a video for one reason or for another, the embedding code responded inappropriately.

For now, I am moving most or all of my video content to BitChute; I don't know that my content will remain there. But any host that does not apply an ideologic filter will attract a disproportionate share of content from those penalized by the biases of YouTube; the main-stream of the media (who share the ideologic bias of YouTube) will seize upon this disproportion to claim or to insinuate that the host and those who use it are sympathetic with the more repellent of those filtered-out by YouTube. The sophistry will be evident to all but the rather stupid, but a much larger share of people will rôle-play as if the argument were sound.

Ideas of Choice

Monday, 11 November 2019

I have been more actively working on the decision-theory paper off of which the probability paper was spun. And this effort has me thinking about the meanings of choice.

As I noted in an earlier entry to this 'blog, my paper on indecision used choice to mean no more or less than selection. I defined relations of preference in terms of choice functions, which are functions that select a subset from a set of options. Defining relations of preference in this manner seems to explain preference in terms of something called choice rather than explaining the thing called choice in terms of preference. But something called choice is often said to result from preference. Certainly, we want somehow to explain selection by persons of alternatives (even if that which explains cannot itself be observed directly!), and some notion of preference represents an attempt at explanation.

(However, if preference is the proper explanation, then preference must be very changeable; much of real-world behavior does not conform to a constant set of preferences. And people do such things as regularly selecting {A} from a set {A, B, C} yet consistently selecting {B} from a set {A, B, D}; perhaps in such cases we can still contrive an explanation in terms of preference, but we should be dubious of such explanation. I don't think that we should reject the word choice if the selections that people actually make aren't driven by preference. If preference does not provide a proper explanation, then perhaps some more general concept does. And perhaps by teasing-out what people intend by the word choice when they intend something narrower than selection, we can arrive at that generalization. That's one of the reasons that I sometimes press some people, especially fellow economists, to tell me what they intend by the word choice or by coördinate terms, when they reject its application where it seems to me to fit. I'm not trying to catch them in error or Socratically to teach a lesson to them; I'm trying to engage with them in an important investigation. But, important doubts about the use of preference in descriptive theory not withstanding, preference makes considerable sense in prescriptive use. Indeed, that sense in prescriptive use is one of the reasons that we so easily accept it in descriptive use, and even assures us that it must at least approximate a realistic description fairly well, because unreasonable behavior is costly.)

Identification of a preference is sometimes itself called choice; but sometimes preference is instead expressed in terms of whom or of what one would choose, if given the choice; and, sometimes, after a preference is expressed, the response is something such as You don't get to make that choice! In conscious identification of a preference, one selects an ideation; in reporting such an identification, one selects an utterance; and these ideations or utterances are selected in a way different from the way in which their subjects are, except in odd, self-referential cases.

In discussion of decision-making in a world of uncertainty, I've found use for an idea that I call practical choice, by which I mean selection of an option which selection causes that option to be effected with certainty.

In a world without uncertainty, there would be a simple division between what one could attain and what one could not. Preference amongst the unattainable would ex definitione be without practical significance. Discussion of preference amongst the possible would be operationally equivalent to discussion of practical choice, and rational agents would always attain that possible state-of-the-world that they most desired.

When we begin to speak and write of uncertainty, we are actually speaking and writing of cases in which we may make practical choices amongst options that would, in turn, affect the state-of-the-world in imperfectly predictable ways. Hypothetically, I might not care about those effects; I might only care about the options that I can practically choose; but, with those options properly identified, that hypothetical is highly implausible and sterile. And, otherwise, it now becomes quite relevant to consider the difference and relationship between preferences amongst things that are subject to practical choice and preferences amongst things that are not subject to practical choice. Preferences amongst things that an agent cannot practically choose will determine preferences amongst things that she can.

(Our practical choices are more limited than some might at first realize. An agent has practical choice of no more than some mental states; and selecting amongst these mental states delivers no more power over other possibilities than to increase or decrease the probabilities of those possibilities. Given the selection of one mental state, one's arm is more likely to move, but there is at least some terrible possibility that it will not. Indeed, given the selection of one mental state, one is more likely to recall a desired datum, but there is a possibility that one will not. Still, in many cases we might, without doing too much violence to realism, pretend that our practical choices include operations that we think almost surely to follow upon our exercise of actual practical choice. For example, one might calculate as if one had a practical choice of whether to propose marriage, while acknowledging that one did not have a practical choice over whether one would marry the other party.)

The concern of my paper on indecision was in identifying a difference in observable behavior distinguishing indecision from indifference, and I didn't want that distinction to be simply self-reported. When an agent was undecided between X and Y rather than indifferent, I needed a difference in selection from a set in which X and Y options, rather than a difference in selection amongst utterances or somesuch. In hindsight, I wish that, in that paper, I'd discussed conceptions of choice more than I did, and had explicitly written of practical choice. Perhaps accordingly I will someday revise the working version of the paper.