Chapter: 4

How do you know you are right? An Absolute Standard of Rightness

“Any man more right than his neighbor constitutes
a majority of one.”—Henry David Thoreau

“Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by the laws of nature, and this holds for the actions of people.”—Albert Einstein

“In human affairs that person is ‘right’ who has the might to enforce
his point of view on others who have less might.
That is what leads to tyranny and wars.”—Andrew J. Galambos

SYNOPSIS

Throughout history there has been no absolute standard of rightness in human interaction. Rather there has been a relative standard of rightness, ultimately determined by coercive force. That is, ultimately, he is right who has the most coercive power. I.e., might makes right is a saying which characterizes human affairs and leads to tyranny.

However, an absolute standard of rightness was developed in the physical sciences in the 300 years leading up to the time of Isaac Newton (1642-1727). Since Newton the absolute standard of rightness in science has provided enormous advances in the way people live, for example the transition from travel by walking and by horseback to travel by airplanes, trains and automobiles.

Absolute rightness in the physical sciences is independent of arbitrary standards of measurement. In volition absolute rightness is independent of arbitrary standards of determination.

In science there has developed a reliable way for determining rightness, known as the scientific method. The scientific method depends on both precision and accuracy. Volitional science requires only precision, not accuracy, because in volition one does not determine the rightness of human conduct with the tools of measurement. Rather, one determines the rightness of human conduct by an appropriate standard: whether it is non-coercive.

Volitional science employs the principal knowledge gathering tools of the physical sciences: logical reasoning and the scientific method. When applied to human interaction the scientific method will replace completely the methods of coercion used heretofore to rule human affairs.

* * *

Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was an Italian philosopher, astronomer, mathematician and poet who espoused the hypothesis of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) that the sun did not revolve around the earth, but rather that the earth revolved around the sun. Bruno advanced the further hypothesis that the sun was only one of an infinite number of stars. These beliefs contradicted teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that the earth was the center of creation. Bruno was arrested by the Inquisition for heresy and given the opportunity to recant during seven years of imprisonment.

Bruno’s fate illustrates a perennial problem in human affairs: how to resolve differences of opinion peacefully. In 1600 the church had the power to punish Bruno for advocating ideas contrary to the Bible as interpreted by the Church. Eventually, astrophysicists proved that Bruno was right. That came too late for Bruno. For defying the authority of the church he was burned alive in Rome on February 17, 1600. Bruno could have saved his life be recanting, but he refused to do so.

In 1600 Bruno could not prove that he was right, although his opinions were founded on astronomers’ already considerable observational corroboration of the Copernican hypothesis. Neither could the church prove it was right. Its action was based on its coercive power to enforce Church dogma. That is still the way differences of opinion are resolved in human affairs—he is right who has the coercive ability to enforce his opinion.

“Might Makes Right”

It is the universal condition in human affairs that people differ in their opinions about what or who is right. This has led to the prevalent attitude that rightness is relative, that what is right depends on one’s point of view, that everything is a matter of opinion, and no one’s opinion is better than anyone else’s. The relative standard of rightness is why we have wars on the societal level and on the personal level it is why coercion is used to impose the will of a person or a group on others.

Two prominent examples of tyranny arising from a relative standard of rightness occurred in France and Russia. The French Revolution deteriorated into a reign of terror (1793-1795) in which the mere denunciation of someone to a small group of people, known as the Committee of Public Safety, doomed that person to immediate execution by the guillotine. Maximilian Robespierre became head of the Committee of Public Safety, sending thousands to their death. One day Robespierre himself was denounced and arrested, and the next day he was executed by guillotine. Until the day before Robespierre died, he decided what was right in France. Then he was wrong and dead, and what was right depended on the Committee members who survived him.

In Soviet Russia between 1924 and 1953 what was right was whatever Joseph Stalin decreed. Stalin launched a reign of terror in Soviet Russia that killed tens of millions. Until his death in 1953 Stalin’s opinion was the law for every other person in the Soviet Union. Not long after Stalin’s death his successors denounced him as a murderer, cities named after him had their names changed, statues of him were torn down and he was virtually eradicated from Russian history books.

When rightness is relative, it will eventually be decided by those who seize and wield coercive power over others. Tyrants do not and can not act alone. Robespierre did not personally decapitate his victims. Rather, tyrants act with the aid of willing and enthusiastic accomplices recruited in the name of a cause, and cloaked with the authority of political laws designed to organize and legitimize group action.

Laws of nature, in contrast to political laws, are not man made. Rather, they are discovered by man and operate without the need of human action. Thus, Isaac Newton did not invent the laws of motion and gravitation. He studied nature, discovered those laws and stated his opinion that this was the way natural phenomena work.

Political law is completely different from the laws of nature in that the discoverer of a scientific law never needs nor wants to use coercion to persuade others of the rightness of his opinion. Laws of nature are correct observations about the way nature operates, independently of arbitrary human opinions.

Absolute Rightness: A Derivative of Scientific Method

In the methods used in the physical sciences there is an absolute standard of rightness. It was developed gradually over several hundred years leading up to its culmination in the achievements of Isaac Newton (1642-1727).

In the physical sciences absolute rightness is the totality of truth and validity in arriving at a conclusion. That is, any conclusion is absolutely right if

  1.  It is observationally true;
  2. It is derived by valid or logical thought processes; and
  3. All antecedent thought processes and propositions are also true.

This absolute standard of rightness has had stupendous consequences, as may be illustrated by two examples. Three hundred years ago people got around the same way as three thousand years ago. People went from one place to another on foot or on horseback or perhaps in a horse drawn carriage. Most people lived and worked where they were born, never traveling more than twenty miles from home.

Three hundred years ago people could light their homes at night only by burning something such as wood or candles. Most people lived in the dark at night. They went to bed at the fall of darkness and got up when it was light again. One can identify similar examples for a myriad of other ways people live.

Today technology has given people great mobility. They can travel rapidly far and wide in a variety of motorized vehicles on land, water and in the air. People have the availability of electricity to provide lighting all through the night if they wish.

Virtually all technological progress in the way we live has occurred in just the last 300 years, since the establishment of the methods of determining what is right in the physical sciences. Before then there was virtually no technological progress in the way people lived during and before the prior 6,000 years of recorded human history.

There is confusion among thinking people about the concept of absolute rightness. The conventional wisdom, taught in universities, is that in human relations there can be no absolute rightness; that all is relative according to an individual’s point of view; that everything is a matter of opinion, and no one’s opinion is better than anyone else’s. Yet the statement that everything is relative is self-contradictory, because to say that everything is relative with no exceptions is itself a statement of an absolute.

Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is sometimes cited to support the assertion that even in science everything is relative. However, underlying all of Einstein’s theories, including relativity, was a quest for invariants, certainties, and absolutes. Thus, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity begins with an absolute, that the speed of light in a vacuum is the same for all observers. Scientific knowledge recognizes that almost everything is relative, but science is essentially a search for absolutes in a world of relatives.

The scientific method is natural to man’s life and will replace coercion

The scientific method is part of the intuitive mental equipment of everybody who is capable of surviving a reasonable amount of time in everyday life, governing how one goes about activities as basic as earning a living, or learning how to go from one place to another.

The thesis of these lectures is that the scientific method, when properly understood and applied, will eliminate and replace the violent, destructive, and socially harmful practices of coercion.

Precision vs. accuracy

Both precision and accuracy are necessary in the physical sciences. However, volition is capable only of precision, and does not require accuracy. Precision means the establishment of clear, razor sharp criteria for the purpose of making a definition.

In volition, the previously stated definitions of property and freedom are characterized by precision. There is a clear, razor sharp distinction between what is and is not property, and what is and is not freedom. These factors can not be measured; thus they are not characterized by accuracy. However, their meaning is defined with precision.

In physics we describe precisely what something is and also measure it with accuracy. Accuracy involves a measurement. For example, there is a precise definition of temperature in physics. In addition, using a thermometer we can measure accurately relative degrees of hotness and coldness, e.g., 20 degrees on the centigrade temperature scale innovated by Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius (1701-1744).

Truth and validity defined

In volition truth is that which is observationally identifiable. Truth is fact, not opinion.

Validity distinguishes between that which is a logical thought process and that which is not a logical thought process.

Truth is the determination of how the universe appears to us. Validity is demonstrated by a logical thought process. A logical thought process is characterized by logical reasoning that enables us to come to reliable conclusions.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) developed rules of logic for correct reasoning that would lead to valid conclusions. Logic uses syllogisms, which are pairs of statements that together provide a correct conclusion. A syllogism consists of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. An example of a syllogism is as follows: All virtues are praiseworthy; generosity is a virtue; therefore generosity is praiseworthy. This simple example of Aristotelian logic must suffice for present purposes.

Logical validity can not be determined in isolation. It depends ultimately upon observation to verify the truthfulness of a proposition. The connection between truth and validity is illustrated by the ideas of Aristotle and of Galileo regarding falling bodies. Aristotle held that heavier bodies of a given material fall faster than lighter ones when their shapes are the same, although he never tested his idea by experiment. Nearly 2,000 years later, the Italian physicist and astronomer Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) falsified Aristotle’s hypothesis by simultaneously dropping two objects of the same material but different weights from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The two objects hit the ground simultaneously.

This event demonstrates the connection between truth and validity and the difference between hypothesis and theory. Galileo subjected Aristotle’s hypothesis to testing for observable truth and found it was not true.

To test for validity of logical reasoning that produces a conclusion, one tries a different set of premises that are observationally true and subjects the new premises to the same thought process.

Galileo set forth a new hypothesis—that falling bodies of different weights fall at the same speed. Over time Galileo’s hypothesis was so amply corroborated, without a single falsification, that it was elevated to the status of a theory, or law of nature, while Aristotle’s hypothesis was relegated to the status of a discredited hypothesis. A theory is an adequately corroborated hypothesis.

The foregoing is not intended to denigrate Aristotle for his erroneous conclusion. Aristotle was a great man. His development of logical reasoning by syllogism is an important advance in man’s quest for knowledge. However, even great men such as Aristotle are capable of error. 1

How is it for 2,000 years, until Galileo, nobody tested Aristotle’s conclusion about falling bodies by trying it out? That is one of the great significant questions. Can you imagine anything more fantastic? Yes! How is it that in 6,000 years nobody, until now, has questioned the idea that the ultimate way to solve human disputes is with coercion?

To be certain a thought process is valid it must result in observably truthful conclusions 100% of the time. One example of a false, observably untrue conclusion demonstrates the thought process to be invalid. It is not necessary to have an infinite number of successful tests to be confident that a thought process is valid because yielded a true conclusion. A large and growing but finite number of successful tests will provide growing confidence that a thought process is valid.

The Scientific Method

The Scientific Method has four steps:

  1. Someone observing facts with a heretofore unexplained cause,
  2. forms a hypothesis (supposition) to explain the observation, as a starting point for further investigation
  3. makes predictions based on the hypothesis,
  4. then makes new and further observations to test the hypothesis for truth.

While Galileo tested and falsified Aristotle’s hypothesis about falling bodies he also formulated a hypothesis for a different explanation of falling bodies, namely that the distance traveled in free fall is proportional to the square of the time elapsed. Galileo tested his hypothesis experimentally, observing a ball rolling down an inclined plane. Galileo’s ideas about motion were an important contribution to the work Newton did in formulating his laws of motion.

Occam’s Razor

William of Occam (1285-1349), an English philosopher, formulated a basic principle of scientific investigation when he said that “entities are not to be multiplied beyond necessity.” This brief statement means that if you are examining two hypotheses offered to explain the same thing, and they are not logically equivalent, you should choose the simpler—that is the one that depends on fewer essential and unproven assertions. Purely on the grounds of Occam’s razor, Galileo originally chose the Copernican sun-centered hypothesis over the ancient Greek Ptolemy’s earth-centered hypothesis. Later, using the scientific method for further observation Galileo constructed a telescope to examine the night sky and there found evidence to support the Copernican hypothesis and refute the earth-centered Ptolemaic hypothesis.

The Scientific Method as a Substitute for Coercion

The scientific method is a complete substitution for and replacement of coercion in human affairs. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was accused of and executed for heresy for advocating the Copernican hypothesis because the Copernican hypothesis contradicted orthodox doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Had the scientific method been universally accepted as the standard for determining rightness in Bruno’s time, there would have been no such thing as heresy, which is nothing more than a belief contrary to orthodox doctrine. Orthodox doctrine itself would have been subject to the test of science rather than being the standard of rightness. Science eventually decided that Bruno was right and his persecutors were wrong.

Giordano Bruno

COMMENTARY ON LECTURE # 2

A noted 20th century astronomer, Fred Hoyle, said of Bruno that “we can assess the quality of Bruno by comparing his ideas with those of Kepler. Kepler believed that all the stars were confined to a distant shell only two miles thick; Bruno suggested that they were bodies like the Sun and were hence at enormous distances away from us. He extended this concept to infinity, suggesting that space might be infinite, and that the universe might be eternal, without beginning and without end. Such remarkably modern views led him to the stake. . . His final remark at his trial was ‘I await your sentence with less fear than you pass it. The time will come when all will see as I see.’ The time has come indeed . . .” 2

According to some devotees of the great economist Ludwig von Mises, human action can not be explained by the methods of the physical sciences because of the inability to make controlled, repeatable experiments concerning human action. However, there is no ability to make controlled repeatable experiments in some indisputably scientific subjects, such as astronomy and geology. Furthermore, von Mises himself said that “one must study the laws of human action and social cooperation as the physicist studies the laws of nature.” 3

Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein developed their theories through leaps of imagination and thought experiments rather than by methodical inductions based on experimental data. Thus, Einstein once declared that “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” 4

Physicist Richard Feynman (Nobel Laureate in physics 1965)  described the use of the scientific method to discover new laws of nature as follows:

“In general, we look for a new law by the following process. First, we guess it. . . Then we compute the consequences of the guess, to see . . . if this law we guess is right, . . . what it would imply and then we compare the computation results to nature [by] [observation through] experiment or experience . . . to see if it works.

If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what his name is . . . If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it.” 5

Newton and Einstein used the first three steps of the scientific method to formulate their greatest theories—gravitation and relativity. They were content to let others proceed to the fourth step of the scientific method—testing the theories for truth by observation.

In his V-50 lectures Galambos presents a wealth of observations to support his theory of volition. It is for each reader to test these theories for himself by comparing them to his or own observations about life and human actions.

Doubt has been expressed by thoughtful people about Galambos’ proposition that the methods of science can help solve problems of human interaction. Such doubts are misplaced. Two brilliant physicists can help shed some light on the question what is science, and what is not.

Richard Feynman said that “Science is what we have learned about how to keep from fooling ourselves.” 6

David Deutsch (born 1953) is a Professor of Physics at Oxford University in Britain. Professor Deutsch says: “The quest for good explanations is, I believe, the basic regulating principle not of science, but of the Enlightenment generally. It is the feature that distinguishes those approaches to knowledge from all others, and it implies . . . that prediction alone is insufficient. . . It leads to the rejection of authority, because if we adopt a theory on authority, that means that we would also have accepted a range of different theories on authority. And hence it also implies the need for a tradition of criticism. It also implies a methodological rule—a criterion for reality—namely that  we should conclude that a particular thing is real if and only if it figures in our best explanation of something.

“Although the pioneers of the Enlightenment and of the scientific revolution did not put it this way, seeking good explanations was (and remains) the spirit of the age. This is how they began to think. It is what they began to do, systematically, for the first time. It is what made the momentous difference to the rate of progress of all kinds.” 7

All that Galambos and Snelson do in their lectures is science, as it is defined by Feynman and Deutsch. Galambos and Snelson are presenting better explanations of two things: (1) why politics is an unsatisfactory method of human governance; and (2) how human beings can—in the words of the American Declaration of Independence—establish  Government that “. . . shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” And, as Richard Feynman indicated, Galambos and Snelson are using knowledge of human society “to keep from fooling ourselves” that what humanity now calls government is the best that can be done. It certainly is not in the view of Galambos and Snelson.

That science is nothing more than the search for better explanations is illustrated by the revolutionary ideas of Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). During the renaissance Copernicus took a giant step forward in science in the ideas that he presented in his famous book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). As early as 1507, at age 34, Copernicus began thinking about the relationship of the earth, the sun, and the five planets visible to the naked eye; he worked before invention of the telescope. In De Revolutionibus Copernicus says that the earth is a sphere, not flat, and describes a triple motion of the earth:

  1. Yearly around the sun
  2. Daily rotation on its own axis
  3. A conical motion of its axis of rotation 8

Copernicus also described accurately the ordering of the planets that could be observed by the naked eye, without a telescope, that is their distance from the sun, with Mercury nearest to the sun followed by Venus, planet Earth and its satellite the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.

In his book Copernicus explains that he is dissatisfied with the generally accepted view that the earth is the fixed and immovable center of the universe. Copernicus explains why a number of astronomical observations falsify this geocentric hypothesis. This kind of thinking is clearly science as David Deutsch describes it: the search for better explanations

It is also the four-step scientific method as explained by Galambos.

  1. Observation for data gathering: Copernicus was an astronomer. He studied the movements of the moon and the planets and found significance in the appearance and disappearance of objects on the horizon.
  2. Hypothesis formulation: That the earth is not the center of the universe; rather the sun is the center and is fixed in space. 9
  3. Extrapolation:
    1. The rotation of the earth on its axis explains night and  day and the appearance and disappearance of objects on the horizon
    2. The movement of the earth in comparison to other planets comprises a yearly cycle, and indicates the earth goes around the sun once a year
  4. Observation for corroboration. Like so many other great leaps of the imagination in science, corroboration of the innovative thinking of Copernicus had to await the work of later thinkers. 10  Jacob Bronowski observed  “. . .[t]he theory of Copernicus is not self-evident. It is not clear how the earth can fly round the sun once a year, or spin on its own axis once a day, and we not fly off.” 11

Five centuries after Copernicus it is easy to take for granted and  to underestimate what he accomplished in astronomy. However, while he was alive he had reason to fear for his life were he to publish his ideas about the solar system, as shown by the fate of Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei. 12

Copernicus’ own summary of his reasoning, quoted below, actually said that he was seeking a better explanation of what he saw when observing the movements of the planets. What he saw was inconsistent with the generally accepted hypothesis of the ancient Greek astronomer Ptolemy (ca. 90 C.E. to 168 C.E.), as Copernicus explains.

“I was impelled to consider a different system of deducing the motions of the universe’s spheres for no other reason than the realization that astronomers do not agree among themselves in their investigations of this subject. For, in the first place, they are so uncertain about the motion of the sun and moon that they cannot establish and observe a constant length even for the tropical year. Secondly, in determining the motions not only of these bodies but also of the other five planets, they do not use the same principles, assumptions, and explanations of the apparent revolutions and motions.

“For this reason I undertook the task of rereading the works of all the philosophers which I could obtain to learn whether anyone had ever proposed other motions of the universe’s spheres than those expounded by the teachers of astronomy . . . I began to consider the mobility of the earth [in order to] ascertain whether explanations sounder than those of my predecessors could be found for the revolution of the celestial spheres on the assumption of some motion of the earth. . . [Emphasis added]

“I debated with myself for a long time whether to publish the volume which I wrote to prove the earth’s motion or rather to follow the example of the Pythagoreans and certain others, who used to transmit philosophy’s secrets only to kinsmen and friends, not in writing but by word of mouth . . . And they did so, it seems to me . . . [because] they wanted the very beautiful thoughts attained by great men of deep devotion not to be ridiculed by those who are reluctant to exert themselves vigorously in any literary pursuit unless it is lucrative. . .When I weighed these considerations, the scorn which I had reason to fear on account of the novelty and unconventionality of my opinion almost induced me to abandon completely the work which I had undertaken.” [Emphasis added]

“Having thus assumed the motions which I ascribe to the earth . . . by long and intense study I finally found that if the motions of the other planets are correlated with the orbiting of the earth, and are computed for the revolution of each planet, not only do their phenomena follow from this but also the order and size of all the planets and spheres, and heaven itself is so linked together that in no portion of it can anything be shifted without disrupting the remaining parts and the universe as a whole.

“Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded. For it is not unknown that Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the earth’s shape, when he mocks those who declared that the earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such persons will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers.” 13

Copernicus probably had in mind Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310-230 BCE) and Archimedes (ca. 287-212 BCE) when he said that “. . . I undertook the task of rereading  the works of all the philosophers which I could obtain to learn whether anyone had ever proposed other motions of the universe’s spheres than those expounded by the teachers of astronomy.

“The first speculations about the possibility of the Sun being the center of the cosmos and the Earth being one of the planets going around it go back to the third century BCE. In his Sand-Reckoner, Archimedes (d. 212 BCE), discusses how to express very large numbers. As an example he chooses the question as to how many grains of sand there are in the cosmos. And in order to make the problem more difficult, he chooses not the geocentric cosmos generally accepted at the time, but the heliocentric cosmos proposed by Aristarchus of Samos (ca. 310-230 BCE), which would have to be many times larger because of the lack of observable stellar parallax. We know, therefore, that already in Hellenistic times thinkers were at least toying with this notion, and because of its mention in Archimedes’s book Aristarchus’ speculation was well-known in Europe beginning in the High Middle Ages but not seriously entertained until Copernicus.” 14

It is not clear whether Copernicus knew about the voyage of Magellan around the world that started in 1519, even though this voyage corroborated the Copernican hypothesis that the earth is round and rotates on its axis. It is highly unlikely that Magellan knew of Copernicus. Magellan was motivated by commercial reasons, not by speculations about astronomy.

Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) organized a voyage to search for a sea route from Europe to the Spice Islands (the Malukus or Moluccas), a group of islands within the Indonesian archipelago. Europeans prized highly the spices of these islands including nutmeg, cloves and mace which previously had been imported to Europe over land. Magellan sailed in 1519, seeking to find an ocean passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Magellan and his voyagers had to travel all the way to the southern tip of South America before they discovered a passage to the Pacific Ocean, now known as the Straits of Magellan.

Based on the knowledge available to Magellan, he thought the Spice Islands were about 1,000 miles to the west of South America. However, once Magellan’s expedition made it through to the Pacific Ocean side of South America, they still faced a 12,600 mile crossing of the Pacific Ocean, a distance that had to be traversed in wooden sail boats. 15

Magellan’s voyage of circumnavigation of the globe was a pivotal event in the intellectual life of Europe because it provided proof that the earth was round and that it rotated on its axis. Magellan died in a battle in the Philippine Islands part way through his voyage. When his lone remaining ship arrived at the Cape Verde Islands, a scholar on the journey, the Venetian Antonio Pigafetta, who had kept a meticulous journal, observed in his journal that on July 9, 1522 the ship arrived in the Cape Verde Islands, a Portuguese colony off the west coast of northern Africa. But the people they met there said that it was July10, 1522, not July 9.

It took geographers and other European men of science several months to figure out what this discrepancy in dates meant, “until they came up with what, they unanimously agreed, was the only possible solution. . . The earth was rolling eastward, completing a full cycle every day. Magellan and his men had been sailing westward, against that rotation; having traversed a full circle, the circumnavigators had gained exactly twenty-four hours. . . The earth was not only round; it was moving. In fact, it was revolving on its own axis.” 16 However, geocentrism was not yet fully discredited. That would take over 150 years, until the publication of Isaac Newton’s “system of the world,” (Volume II of Newton’s Principia Mathematica (1687).

Galambos’ praise of Aristotle as a great man, while correct, does not provide sufficient credit to the achievements of Aristotle (384-322 BCE).

Galambos rightly credits Aristotle with explaining logic. However, John Deming, a student of Galambos and a keen intellect in his own right, observes that Aristotle is far more important 17 and influential than Galambos intimated in his V-50 lectures. Aristotle was the first economist. He focused on understanding nature based on empirical, real world, observation without reliance on myths or supposed moods of Gods as the explanation of natural phenomena, e.g., there is a storm because the God of Thunder is angry.

Aristotle was the first empiricist. In many ways, much that is good and wonderful in European culture derives in one way or another from Aristotle. For example, he originated an equivalent to Galambos’ first postulate of volition—that all men live to pursue happiness. And Carl Menger (1840-1921), the great Austrian economist who developed the subjective theory of value, credits Aristotle as the source of the tradition that influenced his own work. The subjective theory of value is an integral part of Galambos’ conception of a science of volition, that is to say a science-based explanation of human conduct. The subjective theory of value is implicit in Galambos’ first postulate of volition, i.e., that each individual decides for himself, in his own subjective determination, what constitutes his personal happiness.

 

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Notes:

  1. For a brief appreciation of Aristotle’s achievements see the comment at the end of this chapter.
  2. Hoyle, Fred, Astronomy (1962), page 128.
  3. Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics (3rd rev. ed. 1966), p. 2.
  4. Quoted in Isaacson, Walter, Einstein: His Life and Universe (2007), page 7, text accompanying note 6.
  5. For a brief video of Professor Feynman stating the foregoing in one of a series of seven lectures given at Cornell University in 1964, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b240PGCMwV0   Feynman’s Cornell lectures were printed in book form under the title The Character of Physical Law (1965).
  6. Quoted in Deutsch, David, The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations that Transform the World (2011), page 22. Richard Feynman (1918-1988) was a Nobel Laureate in physics and long-time Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology.
  7. Quoted from Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity, page 23.
  8. The three motions described by Copernicus are explained succinctly in an article on a website of Rice University entitled The Galileo Project–The Copernican System,  http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/theories/copernican_system.html
  9. It was more than 200 years after Copernicus that scientists began to say the sun was not fixed in space, as described in the next note.
  10. Copernicus stated that the sun was fixed and immovable. Understanding that the sun is not fixed in space and immovable did not did not come for more than 200 years after Copernicus. It was around the mid-18th century that “. . . J.H. Lambert [1728-1777] conjectured that all the stars of the [Milky Way] galaxy [of which our sun is a part] might be moving around a common center, much as the planets all move around a common center in the solar system. This idea has proved to be correct. The stars do indeed move around a common center, namely the central bulge of our galaxy.” Quoted from Hoyle, Fred, Astronomy (1962), p. 257 in chapter 10 entitled “The Structure of Our Galaxy.”  According to Wikipedia, William Herschel (1738-1822) “from studying the proper motion of stars . . . was the first to realize that the solar system is moving through space, and he determined the approximate direction of that movement.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Herschel  Of this, Hoyle says “One of Herschel’s greatest achievements was that in reaching out farther into space he demonstrated that Newton’s Law of Gravitation operates outside the solar system.” Hoyle, Astronomy, at p. 173.
  11. Quoted from Bronowski’s book, The Ascent of Man (1973), at page 211.
  12. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was branded a heretic by the Roman Catholic Inquisition, imprisoned and pressured to recant his espousal of the views of Copernicus, and after Bruno continued to refuse to recant, he was burned alive at the stake in Rome. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) suffered an identical accusation of heresy, was threatened with torture until he recanted by saying the ideas of Copernicus were wrong, then, at nearly age 70, he was sentenced to house arrest for the rest of his life and forbidden to publish anything about Copernicus’ ideas or even to discuss them. The accusation of heresy against Galileo and his trial and sentencing are discussed in vivid detail in Bronowski, J., The Ascent of Man (1973), chapter six entitled “The Starry Messenger,” pages 205-218. Bronowski’s book was also a popular television series of the same name, narrated by Bronowski, which since 2006 has been available for purchase in digital video format.
  13. The quotations of Copernicus appear at http://www.humanistictexts.org/copernicus.htm#Circular%20Motion%20Of%20The%20Earth
  14. Quoted from “The Galileo Project” http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/theories/copernican_system.html a project supported by the Office of the Vice President of Computing of Rice University of Houston, Texas.
  15. See Manchester, William, A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance—Portrait of an Age (1992), pages 263-264.
  16. Quoted from Manchester, William, A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance—Portrait of an Age (1992), page 290.
  17. Importance as defined by Galambos is measured by the effect on property, including intellectual property

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