Things I’ve Enjoyed #49

Each Sunday I compose a list of the most thought-provoking and interesting content I’ve consumed during the past week. Primarily as a way to keep inventory of material that influenced me and my way of thinking.


Keynes and Knight on Uncertainty: Peas In a Pod or Chalk and Cheese? (2021) by Mark Packard, Per L. Bylund & Brent Clark.

”The principal problem with positive economics, for Knight, concerned its reduction of social phenomena to deterministic and observable entities ripe for empirical study and modelling. He thus had, as Reder (1982: 6) put it, an ‘outspoken disdain for empirical, especially quantitative, research’ in the social sciences, including economics. He recognized that social actors, who deal with an inescapable dilemma in natural uncertainty, are not innately predictable. Because of this uncertainty, there can be no objective truth or true knowledge in the social realm. Knight rejects these in favor of a more radically subjectivist notion of truth—one that is evolutionary and individually dependent—much like postmodern thinkers have concluded (e.g. Lyotard, 1984; Rorty, 2009).”

”Knight was also skeptical of rationalism, supposing deduced logical proofs to be of limited application to empirical reality. He rejected all reductionist theories as well as any deontological value statements. Social reality, to Knight, is not so simple as to permit simple scientific explanation, but in fact is fraught with irreducible complexities and paradoxes. The best we can do is to effect prudent polity and institutional rules designed to constrain and curtail imbalanced powers and their exploitation to thereby facilitate each person’s self-determination. Again, for Knight, the fundamental principle of a social scientific epistemology is uncertainty. Thus, he was very skeptical of social “‘science’ with a capital S (if they do not always write it that way)” (Knight, 1940: 1), which is far removed from pursuing such immutable truths as the laws of nature in the natural sciences. The realm of social science, and of human experience generally, is one of incessant uncertainty. In fact, to Knight it is because of such uncertainty that humankind is free, for in its absence we would become deterministic automata, unable to ‘decide’ or ‘value’ or even ‘think,’ since optimal behavior would be a mere calculated reaction. Thus, for Knight, “man is a free and thinking being because of uncertainty, yet it is uncertainty which imposes limits upon his effective use of reason, a complexity that is compounded by the fact that we are uncertain also to the limits of uncertainty” (Gordon, 1974: 572).”

”Keynes’s theory of uncertainty is a rationalist-positivist approach that sees the world as innately probabilistic (albeit not often in a strictly measurable sense) and generally predictable a priori. Thus, uncertainty is a temporary (even if long-term) and mitigable phenomenon that primarily plagues the capricious unlearned, while the learned are more ‘rational’ and reliable. In contrast, Knight sees uncertainty through a lens of indeterminism, which universally underpins the human experience of constant tensions and paradoxes—value tradeoffs in everything—that undermine the knowability of nearly any outcome. Thus, uncertainty is not only non-probabilistic, but idiosyncratic, unique to each actor’s subjective circumstances.”

A trio wonderful companion pieces to this paper would be Uncertainty, Evolution, and Economic Theory (1950) by Armen A. Alchian, Frank Knight on Risk, Uncertainty, and the Firm (1993) by Richard Langlois & Metin M. Coşgel and Economics In Nouns and Verbs (2021) by W. Brian Arthur.


The Vaccine Moment, Part One and Part Two by Paul Kingsnorth.

”Most of all, it has revealed the authoritarian streak that lies beneath so many people, and which always emerges in fearful times. In the last month alone I have watched media commentators calling for censorship of their political opponents, philosophy professors justifying mass internment, and human rights lobby groups remaining silent about ‘vaccine passports.’ I have watched much of the political left transition openly into the authoritarian movement it probably always was, and countless ‘liberals’ campaigning against liberty. As freedom after freedom has been taken away, I have watched intellectual after intellectual justify it all. I have been reminded of what I always knew: cleverness has no relationship to wisdom.”

”I wrote last time that this virus was apocalyptic, in the sense that it was revealing things previously hidden. One of these things has been the fractured nature of our stories; and that in turn has revealed just how fragile many of our societies are. The myth of Progress tells us we should have faith in certain things – accumulated scientific knowledge; accredited and ‘educated’ experts; journalists who investigate the facts of a story and then explain them to us; the human ability to establish truth – but the process of narrative fracture, which stems from a crisis of trust and legitimacy, means that not only do we not trust these things, but we can’t even agree on what many of them mean. Filter that in turn through the hall of mirrors that is the Internet, and the stage is set for mass confusion, and a consequent deepening of hostility, mistrust and fear.”

The 100 Year Well by Wrath of Gnon.

”The wooden well with its far shorter lifespan, a mere quarter. It will need replacing every 25 years. The likelihood that the skills, materials and tools needed will be passed down is very high. All that needs to happen is that your great-great grandfather asks his son to help replacing the well. Your great-grandfather will then in turn ask your grandfather, and so on, until one day when you are in your 20s, your father will ask you to help him rebuild the old well. You’d better learn too, because if you do not you will have to hire someone to do it for you. And who knows if you will be rich enough in 25 years to pay them?”

Construction on a human scale means adhering to the dynamics of nature and biology, both spatially and temporally.

Solving a Compounding Riddle with Black-Scholes by Kris Abdelmessih.

Meme, Stocks, and Passive Income by Sergei Perfiliev.


Richard Bookstaber on the Big Structural Risk In the Market Right Now, Odd Lots.

The Creation of Meaning – Nietzsche: The Ascetic Ideal, Philosophize This!

The Creation of Meaning – Nietzsche: Amor Fati, Philosophize This!

Publicerad av Olof Palme d'Or

filosofie magister i analytisk filosofi. optionshandel. risk. autodidakt.

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