I’d agree that Western philosophers (analytic and continental ones) have been ineffective in influencing society, after scientific methods largely replaced speculation and dogma in intellectual fields. But the implicit criticism of philosophy presupposes the progressive view that the majority of people deserve to be enlightened or are psychologically capable of withstanding an influx of knowledge. If we take Leo Strauss’s more pessimistic view, philosophy is fit only for the minority of cynical, intellectual elites. The majority of people prefer happiness to enlightenment.

Science by itself doesn’t supply the full picture of secular knowledge, since science doesn’t address normative questions. It takes existentialism, cosmicism, artistic vision or religious faith to consider the philosophical implications of scientific methods and models. So whereas you say philosophy has been the dog that doesn’t bark, the alternative interpretation would be that the dog’s been barking, but most people don’t want to hear it. We’d rather be ignorant, complacent consumers than philosophically-disturbed cynics or intellectual elites.

I’m trying to pin down our main disagreement on economics. I’m not necessarily arguing that free market views are false. The question I raised in the article is whether this math-heavy, plutocracy-friendly economics is scientific or cult-like. Certain basic economic generalizations may indeed hold, but that’s not the same as saying free-market theory best explains that fulfillment of expectations. You could explain economic transactions in theological terms (appealing to original sin, angelic influence, divine revelation, etc), and indeed the theological take on economics wouldn’t be easy to disconfirm, because the religious narratives are imprecise and easy to modify to avoid refutation (as in a self-reinforcing delusion).

I’m saying that, likewise, free-market rhetoric is pseudoscientific to the point of being cultish and theological (or fraudulent). The economist’s secular creed amounts to the following: If everyone were to behave with perfect rationally, then the market would regulate itself. You could just as easily say that if everyone were to behave with perfect faith in God, then we’d create the kingdom of God on earth.

These are mighty big ifs, especially since cognitive science has shown that we’re not fundamentally rational.

Granted, psychology is in the middle of a replication crisis, but for basic evolutionary reasons, we should expect that we’re far from inherently rational; we use heuristics as often as algorithms, and the historical rise of scientific objectivity is largely accidental and exapted, its results being mostly counterintuitive. We’re social creatures who often put the greater good of collectives ahead of our private good, and we're frequently misled by fallacious marketing that exploits our emotional weaknesses.

The facts require that we exchange the free marketeer’s modus ponens for a modus tollens: markets don’t in fact regulate themselves (or achieve a worthy social equilibrium), which indicates we’re not perfectly rational.

Politics is broader than economics, in that the political structure of a society is free to be based, say, on explicitly religious considerations, as in the case of theocracy, whereas free-market economics is supposed to be modeled on science. As I understand it, game theory assumes that people are rational decision-makers, where this kind of agent “has clear preferences, models uncertainty via expected values of variables or functions of variables, and always chooses to perform the action with the optimal expected outcome _for itself_ from among all feasible actions” (as Wikipedia puts it).

That’s close enough to the economist’s fantasy of rational, individualistic humans. Sure, you can reconstruct cooperation and the formation of government, based on this assumption of egoistic rationality, as in the case of social contract theory. But you could just as well reconstruct them based on blatant theology, saying God blessed the Founders of the US, and so forth. The facts can be spun in multiple ways, but the actual science falsifies or at least conflicts with both models. We’re not fundamentally rational, nor does God likely exist. So both scientistic economics and theology are unscientific and religious.

The question here is whether we cooperate based on reason or on instinct, faith, fallacies, illusions, gullibility, or on other nonrational grounds. The fact that you can tell a hyperrational narrative about why we cooperate doesn’t mean the narrative is scientific. Are game theory’s rationalist assumptions scientifically tested? To the extent they have been in cognitive science, they’ve been disconfirmed or shown to be counterfactual and fictive.

So we do cooperate and form governments and civil societies, but that doesn’t mean we do so for self-centered reasons based on utilitarian calculations. To affirm that we form them on a rational basis, despite the falsification from cognitive science and the sordid history of economic deregulation, indicates that the free-market economist has either a cultist mentality or has helped perpetrate a fraud to sustain the palpable irrationality (unsustainability) of plutocracy and consumerism.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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