Laura B. Jackson Lectureship in World Issues , George Walden, a British journalist and former diplomat, Armstrong Browning Library, October 5, 7:00-8:15 p.m., followed by a reception. More information
Drumwright Family Lecture,
A panel conversation on addressing the problems of hunger and poverty in communities. The panel will consist of Heather Reynolds (President and CEO of Catholic Charities in Fort Worth, Texas), Robert Doar (American Enterprise Institute), and Jeremy Everett (Executive Director of Texas Hunger Initiative. Alexander Reading Room, Alexander Residence Hall (Honors Residential College), November 9, 2017 4:00 - 5:30pm.
Why Study History of Thought?
Basic literacy in economics.
- Dispel misconceptions about famous economists (Smith, Marx, Keynes, and others) that are widely believed, but untrue. This is important, because the supposed ideas of classical authors are often used as "proof texts" in current debates. As Josh Billings (not Mark Twain), a humorist, put it in about 1872, "It is better not to know so much, than to know so many things that aint so."
Learn economic doctrines in their
historical and ethical context (i.e., Corn Laws)
"A man who has looked into an
economics textbook and concluded that economics is boring is
like a man who has read a primer on logistics and decided that
the study of warfare must be dull."
The Worldly Philosophers
- Rejection of an overly"positivist" approach to knowledge and discovery that has been rejected by most philosophers and scientists:
Bruce Caldwell: "A bedrock belief of positivism is that all real sciences are cumulatively progressive, that slowly but
surely within science errors are discarded and a widely accepted body of knowledge is created.
This view leads naturally to the belief that an understanding of the history of a discipline is
simply irrelevant for a scientist, because all knowledge is contained in the most recent working
papers. History is for antiquarians and hobbyists, not for real scientists. [In the 1920s, Wesley Mitchell observed that this was a problem in the natural sciences, but not economics]
If alternative accounts of how science is actually pursued that emerged in the wake of
positivism’s demise are correct, then the idea that science develops linearly and progressively is
simply false. Historians and philosophers of science like Thomas Kuhn and Imre Lakatos
offered the initial alternatives to the positivist view, in the process demonstrating that the
history of the natural sciences is a much messier affair than previously thought, that no hard
and fast criteria for theory choice exist, and that scientific disciplines change emphases and
approaches for a host of reasons, both internal and external, that require examination.
See that economics is not a fixed set
of "revealed truths." It continues to change, and it's path dependent:
Mark Blaug: "No idea or theory in economics, physics, chemistry,
biology, philosophy and even mathematics is ever thoroughly understood except
as the end-product of a slice of history, the result of some previous
intellectual development... I never understood the Keynesian Revolution until I read Hayek's
tortured Prices and Production (1931) and Robbins's confusing explanation of
The Great Depression (1934). So it is, I think, with all economic theories. Economic
knowledge is path-dependent. What we now know about the economic
system is not something we have just discovered, but it is the sum of all
discoveries, insights and false starts in the past. Without Hayek and Robbins and
Pigou, no Keynes; without Keynes, no Friedman; without Friedman, no Lucas;
without Lucas, no ..."
Don’t forget what’s already known when attention moves from one hot-button issue to another.
of our own “practical” ideas
“Practical men who believe themselves to be exempt from any
intellectual influences are usually the slaves of some defunct
John Maynard Keynes,
The General Theory...
- It's a Baylor Tradition (1851 Baylor Bulletin):