Category Archives: Explanation

A McShane Sampler Relevant to Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics

Philip McShane had a strong background in mathematics and theoretical physics; thus he was able to understand the scientific significance of Bernard Lonergan’s macroeconomic field theory in an Einsteinian context.

First we display, in brief, key excerpts, many of which contain analogies from physics and chemistry, relevant to the science of Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics; then we show the same excerpts more fully within lengthier quotes. Continue reading

Theoretical Breakthroughs of Euclid, Newton, Hilbert, Einstein, and Lonergan

To help the reader gain an appreciation of Lonergan’s achievement of Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory we will, in each section, print leading excerpts, then highlight the key concepts of those excerpts. We will comment on the historically-significant advances in geometry of Euclid and Hilbert, in physics of Newton and Einstein, and in macroeconomics of Lonergan.

  • Euclid’s great achievement was his rigorous deduction of geometry.
  • Hilbert’s great achievement was his employment of implicit definition to reorder Euclid’s geometry.
  • Newton’s two great achievements were unifying the isolated insights of Galileo and Kepler into a unified system of mechanics and his invention of the calculus.
  • One of the great achievements of Einstein was the invention of the field theories of Special Relativity, General Relativity, and Gravitation.
  • One of Lonergan’s several great achievements was his systematization of macroeconomic phenomena in his Modern Macroeconomic Field Theory. He combined the technique of implicit definition introduced by Hilbert and the concept of a field theory developed by Faraday and Einstein; and he developed an explanatory macroeconomics, which is general, invariant, and relevant in any instance. (Continue reading)

The Relativistic Invariant: The Ideal Pure Cycle at the Root of the Aberrant Trade Cycle

The heart of the normative theoretical framework that can actually explain business and trade cycles is what (Lonergan) calls the ‘Pure Cycle’ (§10, §24, 114).  This cycle generalizes into clearly articulated relationships the ideal phases characteristic of major economic transformations as they depart from a stationary phase and move through phases first of surplus expansion and then of basic expansion, only to return to a new stationary phase. … (CWL 15, Editors’ Introduction, lxiii)  (Continue reading)

Explanation By Gross Domestic Functional Flows To Supplement Description By Gross Domestic Product

A distinction has been drawn between description and explanation.  Description deals with things as related to us.  Explanation deals with the same things as related among themselves.  The two are not totally independent, for they deal with the same things and, as we have seen, description supplies, as it were, the tweezers by which we hold things while explanations are being discovered or verified, applied or revised. … [CWL 3, 291/316]

The analysis of the overall dynamic functioning, which we call in nominal terms the economic process, must seek the explanation of the process.   It must seek the objective immanent intelligibility among the interdependent, dynamic “functionings” which altogether constitute the process.  The functionings are rates of so much or so many every so often, and, thus, they are velocities.  And the scientific analysis must be in terms of abstract, implicitly-defined, explanatory conjugates rather than in terms of the descriptive accountants’ unities of merely legal or proprietary entities called “firms.” (Continue reading)

Two economic mechanisms. Two components of concrete relations. Two simultaneous roles for human participants

Part I. Two economic mechanisms. Two components of concrete relations. Two simultaneous roles for human participants

It is the viewpoint of the present inquiry that, besides the pricing system, there exists another economic mechanism, that relative to this system man is not an internal factor but an external agent, and that the present economic problems are peculiarly baffling because man as external agent has not the systematic guidance he needs to operate successfully the machine he controls. [CWL 21, 109]

What the analysis reveals is a mechanism distinct though not separable from the price mechanism which spontaneously coordinates a vast and ever shifting manifold of otherwise independent choices from demand and of decisions from supply. It is distinct from the price mechanism, for it determines the channels within which the price mechanism works.  It is not separable from the price mechanism, for a channel is irrelevant when nothing flows through it. [CWL15, 17] [Continue reading).

A Note on Disagreeing with Einstein and the Determinists, on Avoiding a Vicious Circle, and on the Need for Precise Analytical Distinctions

Economic process – like other world processes – has an immanent intelligibility consisting of primary relativities which can be applied to the coincidental secondary determinations which occur throughout time in a non-systematic manifold. Economic process is constituted  by schemes of recurrence under the dominance of abstract principles and laws; nevertheless, the actual concrete workings of the economic schemes of recurrence are shot through and throughout time with indeterminancy.  So, it is a fact that prediction is impossible in the general case, since the concrete patterns of events occurring throughout time are a non-systematic aggregate. Thus, the point-to-line and higher correspondences are based upon the indeterminacy of the relation between current surplus products and the ultimate later basic products that eventually exit the dynamic process and enter into the standard of living.

An event in an economic scheme of recurrence has a diverging series of conditions. Continue reading

The System of Abstract Primary Relativities Applied to Secondary Determinations

There is required a shift of focus by academics from the concrete secondary determinations of prices and quantities in a non-systematic manifold to the immanent, abstract, primary relativities which may be applied to these secondary determinations to reach particular laws.

Paraphrasing [McShane, 1980, 127]: Taking into account past and (expected) future values does not constitute the creative key transition to Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics.  Continue reading

The IS-LM, AD-AS, and Phillips Curve Models

In this section, we are contrasting familiar textbook models of macrostatic equilibrium, with Lonergan’s explanatory theory of macrodynamic equilibrium.  We are contrasting a macrostatic toolkit with a purely relational field theory of macroeconomic dynamics. Lonergan discovered  a theory which is more fundamental than the traditional wisdom based upon human psychology and purported endogenous reactions to external forces.  His Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics is a set of relationships between n objects, a set of intelligible relations linking what is implicitly defined by the relations themselves, a set of relational forms wherein the form of any element is known through its relations to all other elements.  His field theory is a single explanatory unity; it is purely relational, completely general, and universally applicable to every configuration in any instance. (Continue reading)



The Emergence of Science

Lonergan, like Euclid, Newton, and Mendeleyev, moved through his field of inquiry to the level of system.

(Given the failure to implement the basic expansion,) the systematic requirement of a rate of losses will result in a series of contractions and liquidations. … [CWL 15, 155]

… a science emerges when thinking in a given field moves to the level of system. Prior to Euclid there were many geometrical theorems that had been established.  The most notable example is Pythagoras’ theorem on the hypotenuse of the right-angled triangle, which occurs at the end of  book 1 of Euclid’s Elements.  Euclid’s achievement was to bring together all these scattered theorems by setting up a unitary basis that would handle all of them and a great number of others as well. … Similarly, mechanics became a system with Newton.  Prior to Newton, Galileo’s law of the free fall and Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion were known.  But these were isolated laws.  Galileo’s prescription was that the system was to be a geometry’; so there was something functioning as a system.  But the system really emerged with Newton.  This is what gave Newton his tremendous influence upon the enlightenment.  He laid down a set of basic, definitions, and axioms, and proceeded to demonstrate and conclude from general principles and laws that had been established empirically by his predecessors.  Mechanics became a science in the full sense at that point where it became an organized system. … Again, a great deal of chemistry was known prior to Mendeleev. But his discovery of the periodic table selected a set of basic chemical elements and selected them in such a way that further additions could be made to the basic elements.  Since that time chemistry has been one single organized subject with a basic set of elements accounting for incredibly vast numbers of compounds.  In other words, there is a point in the history of any science when it comes of age, when it has a determinate systematic structure to which corresponds a determinate field. [CWL 14, Method, 1971, 241-42]

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Lonergan’s functional, analytic distinctions are prior to and more fundamental than changes in prices, interest rates, and employment

Lonergan is alone in using this difference in economic activities to specify the significant variables in his dynamic analysis… no one else considers the functional distinctions between different kinds of (production flows) prior to, and more fundamental than, … price levels and patterns, … interest and profits, and so forth….only Lonergan analyzes booms and slumps in terms of how their (explanatory) velocities, accelerations, and decelerations are or are not equilibrated in relation to the events, movements, and changes in two distinct monetary circuits of production and exchange as considered both in themselves (with circulatory, sequential dependence) and in relation to each other by means of crossover payments. [CWL 15, Editors’ Introduction, lxii]