Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Questions for Holbo and Bertram:

Is Rawls more important than Hitchcock?
Is Mill more important than Dickens?
Is Hegel more important than Goethe?

I'm not asking their preference.
The answer to the first is obvious. The third I don't have an opinion on.

Federal Reserve Chairman Calls for "More Philosophy"
About time!
The link is to Bloomberg: "Bernanke to Economists: More Philosophy, Please"
The Fed is charged with two precise, measurable tasks: Keep unemployment low and prices stable. These are indexes, numbers on a scale, and if a Fed chairman can keep them where they should be, he can be satisfied that he has done his job. In that sense, Bernanke is playing the world’s most complex video game.

But in Monday’s speech, Bernanke wandered outside the game. He asked why he should keep prices stable and unemployment down. Those numbers mean things to humans. They mean satisfaction, the ability to live within means. They mean happiness. These kinds of words make economists uncomfortable. Happiness resists measurement. When things cannot be measured, they cannot be modeled, and if economists aren’t using models, then they aren’t scientists.

On Monday, Ben Bernanke wasn’t talking like a scientist. He was talking like a philosopher.
No, Bernanke is not a scientist, and his job is not like playing a video game.  And no, he was not talking like a philosopher; he was talking like an undergrad.
A few years ago, at a gallery opening I got into a conversation with an astrophysicist from Caltech; we were mutual friends of the curator. He felt slightly dragged along. He was game but said he didn’t understand art. The conversation drifted and he mentioned a book he was reading, a biography of Sandy Koufax, the great pitcher for the Dodgers, in Brooklyn and LA. He said what he liked most was the way the author wrote not only as an observer, a professional sportswriter, and fan, but as a woman, an outsider in the world of male athletics, and as a Jew writing about Kofax, another Jew and outsider in the gentile world of professional sports. He said her description of those relations was really interesting. I asked him if he could have described any of it as she had. He said no. I told him he understood art.
Actual scientists, the smart ones at least, are observant and curious.

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