Wednesday , May 18 2022
Home / Lars Pålsson Syll
Lars Pålsson Syll

Lars Pålsson Syll

Professor at Malmö University. Primary research interest - the philosophy, history and methodology of economics.

Articles by Lars Pålsson Syll

Bertrand Russell on the folly of religious faith

1 day ago

Bertrand Russell on the folly of religious faith

.[embedded content]
Faith should not be a question of believing in eternity, but rather of how to live our finite lives together and be true to our belief in the pursuit of authentic freedom.

Read More »

Formalizing economic theory

2 days ago

What guarantee is there … that economic concepts can be mapped unambiguously into mathematical concepts? The belief in the power and necessity of formalizing economic theory mathematically has thus obliterated the distinction between cognitively perceiving and understanding concepts from different domains and mapping them into each other. Whether the age-old problem of the equality between supply and demand should be mathematically formalized as a system of inequalities or equalities is not something that should be decided by mathematical knowledge or convenience. Surely it would be considered absurd, bordering on the insane, if a surgical procedure was implemented because a tool for its implementation was devised by a medical doctor who knew and believed in topological

Read More »

Berlin

6 days ago

Touring again.

Guest appearance​​ in Berlin.

Regular blogging to be resumed next week.

Read More »

Gödel and the limits of mathematics

7 days ago

From Lars Syll
irrelevant model abstractions
with no bridges to real-world economies

Gödel’s incompleteness theorems raise important questions about the foundations of mathematics.
The most important concern is the question of how to select the specific systems of axioms that mathematics is supposed to be founded on. Gödel’s theorems irrevocably show that no matter what system is chosen, there will always have to be other axioms to prove previously unproven truths.
This, of course, ought to be of paramount interest for those mainstream economists who still adhere to the dream of constructing deductive-axiomatic economics with analytic truths that do not require empirical verification. Since Gödel showed that any complex axiomatic system is undecidable and incomplete, any such

Read More »

Gödel and the limits of mathematics

8 days ago

Gödel and the limits of mathematics

.[embedded content]
Gödel’s incompleteness theorems raise important questions about the foundations of mathematics.
The most important concern is the question of how to select the specific systems of axioms that mathematics is supposed to be founded on. Gödel’s theorems irrevocably show that no matter what system is chosen, there will always have to be other axioms to prove previously unproven truths.
This, of course, ought to be of paramount interest for those mainstream economists who still adhere to the dream of constructing deductive-axiomatic economics with analytic truths that do not require empirical verification. Since Gödel showed that any complex axiomatic system is undecidable and incomplete, any such

Read More »

Economics phrasebook

9 days ago

From Lars Syll
In 1990, two economics PhD students at the University of Chicago, Jeffrey Smith and Kermit Daniel … composed “Economics to Sociology Phrase Book” in order, as they put it, “to help economists adjust their way of speaking in a manner that will make it comprehensible to Sociologists” … Concerning economics terminology, by the way, one can see that not much has changed since then.
Oleg Komlik

Read More »

Television

9 days ago

Tid är en bristvara i tv. Om man likväl ––som så ofta nu för tiden — använder dyrbar sändningstid till struntsaker och menlös ”underhållning” måste det finnas ett skäl. Televisionen är — fortfarande — för en stor del av befolkningen en viktig källa till information och världsbild. Att fylla ut programtablåer med trivialiteter blir därför ett effektivt medel att — istället för att fungera som ett effektivt instrument för åsiktsbildning och reflektion — tränga undan viktig information som medborgarna skulle kunna använda för att utöva och utveckla sina demokratiska förmågor.
Televisionen skapar via sin personfixering och banaliserande fokusering på allehanda ‘affärer’ en dålig grogrund för verklig kunskapsspridning. Istället för seriös opinionsbildning får vi demagogiska

Read More »

Enlightenment and mathematics

9 days ago

When in mathematics the unknown becomes the unknown quantity in an equation, it is made into something long familiar before any value has been assigned. Nature, before and after quantum theory, is what can be registered mathematically; even what cannot be assimilated, the insoluble and irrational, is fenced in by mathematical theorems. In the preemptive identification of the thoroughly mathematized world with truth, enlightenment believes itself safe from the return of the mythical. It equates thought with mathematics. The latter is thereby cut loose, as it were, turned into an absolute authority …
The reduction of thought to a mathematical apparatus condemns the world to be its own measure. What appears as the triumph of subjectivity, the subjection of all existing things

Read More »

En plats i mitt hjärta (personal)

11 days ago

En plats i mitt hjärta (personal)

Sankt Pauli mellersta kyrkogård i Malmö är en plats som, sedan jag flyttade tillbaka till Malmö efter femtio år, kommit att betyda mycket för yours truly. Hit söker jag mig gärna för långa promenader med min hund, men också många gånger för att söka tröst och vilsam kontemplation ‘far from the madding crowd’. En lisa för själen.

Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife,
   Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
   They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.
Yet ev’n these bones from insult to protect,
   Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck’d,
   Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Read More »

Economics phrasebook

11 days ago

In 1990, two economics PhD students at the University of Chicago, Jeffrey Smith and Kermit Daniel … composed “Economics to Sociology Phrase Book” in order, as they put it, “to help economists adjust their way of speaking in a manner that will make it comprehensible to Sociologists” … Concerning economics terminology, by the way, one can see that not much has changed since then.
Oleg Komlik

Read More »

Economic modelling

14 days ago

From Lars Syll
A couple of years ago, Paul Krugman had a piece up on his blog arguing that the ‘discipline of modeling’ is a sine qua non for tackling politically and emotionally charged economic issues:
In my experience, modeling is a helpful tool (among others) in avoiding that trap, in being self-aware when you’re starting to let your desired conclusions dictate your analysis. Why? Because when you try to write down a model, it often seems to lead some place you weren’t expecting or wanting to go. And if you catch yourself fiddling with the model to get something else out of it, that should set off a little alarm in your brain.
So when ‘modern’ mainstream economists use their models — standardly assuming rational expectations, Walrasian market clearing, unique equilibria, time

Read More »

Economic modelling

14 days ago

A couple of years ago, Paul Krugman had a piece up on his blog arguing that the ‘discipline of modeling’ is a sine qua non for tackling politically and emotionally charged economic issues:
In my experience, modeling is a helpful tool (among others) in avoiding that trap, in being self-aware when you’re starting to let your desired conclusions dictate your analysis. Why? Because when you try to write down a model, it often seems to lead some place you weren’t expecting or wanting to go. And if you catch yourself fiddling with the model to get something else out of it, that should set off a little alarm in your brain.
So when ‘modern’ mainstream economists use their models — standardly assuming rational expectations, Walrasian market clearing, unique equilibria, time

Read More »

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

16 days ago

Foucault’s cryptonormative approach — a critique

I always found Foucault’s work frustrating to read. His empirical accounts are interesting and some of his concepts fruitful – disciplinary power, capillary power, surveillance, technologies of the self, the entrepreneur of the self, for example – and he was prescient about neoliberalism, but his theoretical reasoning is often confused. His attempts to define power, and his unacknowledged slippage between different concepts of truth in The History of Sexuality Part I are examples …
Foucault’s accounts of the social world have a generally ominous tone, but they fail to identify what is bad and why, so one is left wanting to write ‘so what?’ in the margin. Thus, sociologists of health sciences inspired by

Read More »

Spirit in the Sky (personal)

17 days ago

Spirit in the Sky (personal)

.[embedded content]
Marcel Proust hade sin Madeleinekaka. Jag har musiken. Den här låten är för mig alltid förknippad med sommarminnen på 70-talet från Hästveda och Luhrsjön, där jag och kompisen Johan (Ehrenberg) brukade spela flipper vid strandcaféet och den här låten gick varm på jukeboxen. Minnen som fortfarande värmer och som glömskan inte rår på.

Read More »

Statistical inference and sampling assumptions

18 days ago

From Lars Syll
Real probability samples have two great benefits: (i) they allow unbiased extrapolation from the sample; (ii) with data internal to the sample, it is possible to estimate how much results are likely to change if another sample is taken. These benefits, of course, have a price: drawing probability samples is hard work. An investigator who assumes that a convenience sample is like a random sample seeks to obtain the benefits without the costs—just on the basis of assumptions. If scrutinized, few convenience samples would pass muster as the equivalent of probability samples. Indeed, probability sampling is a technique whose use is justified because it is so unlikely that social processes will generate representative samples. Decades of survey research have demonstrated that

Read More »

On mathematics and economics

20 days ago

From Lars Syll
Studying mathematics and logic is interesting and fun. It sharpens the mind. But economics is not pure mathematics or logic. It’s about society. The real world. Forgetting that, economics becomes nothing but an irrelevant and uninteresting ‘Glasperlenspiel.’ Or as Knut Wicksell put it already a century ago:
One must, of course, beware of expecting from this method more than it can give. Out of the crucible of calculation comes not an atom more truth than was put in. The assumptions being hypothetical, the results obviously cannot claim more than a vey limited validity. The mathematical expression ought to facilitate the argument, clarify the results, and so guard against possible faults of reasoning — that is all.
It is, by the way, evident that the economic aspects must

Read More »

Statistical inference and sampling assumptions

20 days ago

Statistical inference and sampling assumptions

Real probability samples have two great benefits: (i) they allow unbiased extrapolation from the sample; (ii) with data internal to the sample, it is possible to estimate how much results are likely to change if another sample is taken. These benefits, of course, have a price: drawing probability samples is hard work. An investigator who assumes that a convenience sample is like a random sample seeks to obtain the benefits without the costs—just on the basis of assumptions. If scrutinized, few convenience samples would pass muster as the equivalent of probability samples. Indeed, probability sampling is a technique whose use is justified because it is so unlikely that social processes will generate

Read More »

On mathematics and economics

22 days ago

On mathematics and economics

Studying mathematics and logic is interesting and fun. It sharpens the mind. But economics is not pure mathematics or logic. It’s about society. The real world. Forgetting that, economics becomes nothing but an irrelevant and uninteresting ‘Glasperlenspiel.’ Or as Knut Wicksell put it already a century ago:
One must, of course, beware of expecting from this method more than it can give. Out of the crucible of calculation comes not an atom more truth than was put in. The assumptions being hypothetical, the results obviously cannot claim more than a vey limited validity. The mathematical expression ought to facilitate the argument, clarify the results, and so guard against possible faults of reasoning — that is all.
It is, by

Read More »

Significance testing and the real tasks of social science

23 days ago

From Lars Syll
After having mastered all the technicalities of regression analysis and econometrics, students often feel as though they are masters of the universe. I usually cool them down with the required reading of Christopher Achen’s modern classic Interpreting and Using Regression. It usually gets​ them back on track again, and they understand that
no increase in methodological sophistication … alter the fundamental nature of the subject. It remains a wondrous mixture of rigorous theory, experienced judgment, and inspired guesswork. And that, finally, is its charm.
And in case they get too excited about having learned to master the intricacies of proper significance tests and p-values, I ask them to also ponder on Achen’s apt warning:
Significance testing as a search for

Read More »