Category Archives: Methodology

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 Wise Person Puts Questions In Their Right Order

In any analysis there is a right order of questions; and to violate this order is to invite misunderstanding, myth, and disaster.  To indicate the wisdom in Lonergan’s analysis, we present excerpts, mainly from his CWL 12,  which mandate clearly, for himself and for us, that one’s method and one’s heuristic necessitate putting questions in their right order.  The precepts apply whether one is doing physics, economics, philosophy or theology. Continue reading

Zephyrs and Pandemics

Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics acknowledges and affirms a non-systematic manifold of secondary determinations (such as prices and quantities), a Canon of Statistical Residues, and the impossibility of prediction in the general case.  However, FMD affirms the existence of both human intelligence and the abstract, primary, immanent intelligibility of the objective, dynamic economic process.  It is this abstract, primary, immanent intelligibility by which the process must always be understood so as to be properly managed.

Knocking a pendulum slightly out of its existing oscillation does not necessitate a search for a new theory of the pendulum in order to correct the mishap.  The abstract theory of the pendulum in Newtonian mechanics still applies; the abstract intelligibility of the pendular motion is always relevant, in any instance, in any configuration of initial angle and initial velocity.  The theory still applies, though the motion may be on a new basis determined by new initial conditions or boundary values. Continue reading

Elements of The Analysis

Our aim is to prescind from human psychology that, in the first place, we may define the objective situation with which man has to deal, and, in the second place, define the psychological attitude that has to be adopted if man is to deal successfully with economic problems.  Thus something of a Copernican revolution is attempted: instead of taking man as he is or as he may be thought to be and from that deducing what economic phenomena are going to be, we take the exchange process in its greatest generality and attempt to deduce the human adaptations necessary for survival. [CWL 21,42- 43]

Taking into account past and (expected) future values does not constitute the creative key transition to dynamics.Those familiar with elementary statics and dynamics will appreciate the shift in thinking involved in passing from equilibrium analysis…to an analysis where attention is focused on second-order differential equations, on d2θ/dt2, d2x/dt2, d2y/dt2, on a range of related forces, central, friction, whatever….. What is significant is the Leibnitz-Newtonian shift of context. [McShane 1980, 127]

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.  …  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]

again, as to the notion of cause, Newton conceived of his forces as efficient causes, and the modern mechanics drops the notion of force; it gets along perfectly well without it.  It thinks in terms of a field theory, the set of relationships between n objects.  The field theory is a set of intelligible relations linking what is implicitly defined by the relations themselves; it is a set of relational formsThe form of any element is known through its relations to all other elements.  What is a mass?  A mass is anything that satisfies the fundamental equations that regard masses.  Consequently, when you add a new fundamental equation about mass, as Einstein did when he equated mass with energy, you get a new idea of mass.  Field theory is a matter of the immanent intelligibility of the object. [CWL 10, 154]


Two Summaries in Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics

.I.   Summary of the Analysis:  Heuristic, Observations, and Discoveries

.II.  Summary of the Argument (verbatim from CWL 15, 5-6)

.III. Supplement to the Summaries

(Continue Reading)

A Superior and Far Less Expensive Macroeconomics Textbook

A very expensive macroeconomics textbook, having 700-1000 pages, would contain a lot of interesting history, a lot of fuzzy psychology, unscientific analysis, and uncertain conclusions.  A reader would not gain a clear theory and complete explanation of the dynamics of the real economic process.  However, is there not a superior 228-page, far less expensive  textbook right in our hands?  How about this?  Reword the subtitle of CWL 15 from An Essay in Circulation Analysis to A Textbook of Circulation Analysis, and let the professor instruct the serious student to read the book three times, then report back to discuss the following:

  • the canons of empirical method
  • a scientific, dynamic  heuristic
  • the technique of implicit definition; explanatory terms defined by the functional relations in which they stand with one another
  • velocitous functional unities of scientific and explanatory significance replacing the BEA’s descriptive, commonsense, accountants’ unities
  • the structure of the lagged, rectilinear productive process
  • money as a dummy invented by man
  • the perspective of a hierarchical series of monetary circuits
  • how a monetary circulation meets the rectilinear production-and-vending process
  • the primary relativities and concomitance in the Diagram of Rates of Flow
  • dynamic equilibrium replacing static Walrasian general equilibrium
  • the velocity of money in terms of magnitudes and frequencies
  • prices are not a given and not requiring explanation; rather prices are in need of explanation
  • interpretation of prices, quantities, interest rates in the light of significant explanatory variables
  • the pure cycle and its constituent phases in the expansion of the objective economic process
  • the abstract primary relativities and concrete secondary determinations in the expansion of the economic process
  • the statistical residue and why prediction is impossible in the general case; predicting weather vs. predicting planetary motion
  • the significance of investment’s monetary correlate
  • the ineptitude of manipulating interest rates
  • the explanation of government and foreign-trade imbalances by the dynamics of superposed circuits
  • the distinction between efficient cause and formal cause
  • distinguishing between self-healing and the effect of interventions
  • the intelligibility and explanatory power of the basic price-spread ratio
  • Figures 14-1, 24-7, and 27-1 in CWL 15

The student would learn much that is radically different, explanatory, and very useful; and he/she would gain a perspective or framework by which to evaluate and criticize the flawed premises and tenets of conventional textbooks and traditional theories.


Why Economists Don’t Flock to Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics

Economists don’t have the methodological and conceptual toolkit needed for appreciation of FMD’s scientific and historical significance.

  • They don’t know what they don’t know.
    • They’re not methodologists and don’t know what constitutes good theory.
    • They never read CWL 3, pages 3-172 and 490-97 and, thus, they never studied the canons of empirical method, especially the Canon of Parsimony and the Canon of Complete Explanation; they have no idea of the deficiencies of their method.
  • Thus, they lack a purely scientific and explanatory heuristic.
    • They do not adequately distinguish description vs. explanation.
    • They do not know the type of answer they’re seeking, i.e. their known unknown.
    • They do not put questions in the right order to discover basic terms of scientific significance.
    • They are mired in muddy premises and disorienting assumptions.
    • They are unable to employ a scientific, dynamic heuristic adequate for analysis of a current, purely dynamic process.
    • They don’t understand what constitutes the normative system’s requirement for  concomitance, continuity, and equilibrium of flows.
  • They lack a background in theoretical physics. They don’t understand the principles and abstract laws of hydrodynamics, electric circuits, or field theory.  Nor do they understand adequately the idea of continuity and the conditions of equilibrium in macroeconomic dynamics.  They are unaware of analogies from physics applicable on the basis of isomorphism to the phenomena of Functional Macroeconomic Dynamics. (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

Fundamental Disorientations at the Federal Reserve Bank and the National Bureau of Economic Research

We have arranged this Topic into four parts:

  • Part I: The Disorientations of Macroeconomists
  • Part II: Principles and Precepts of Analysis
  • Part III: A New Textbook, Lonergan’s Macroeconomic Dynamics: A Textbook in Circulation Analysis
  • Part IV Comments on The Federal Reserve’s Current Framework For Monetary Policy: A Review and Assessment, by Janice C. Eberly, James H. Stock, and Jonathan H Wright.

Part I: The Disorientations of Macroeconomists

One cannot help but admire and be grateful to the Federal Reserve Bank for its Flow of Funds matrices and the National Bureau of Economic Research for its GDP tables.  Great information, well done!  However, the Fed, the NBER, and the proponents of the DSGE methodology suffer from fundamental disorientations. The NBER’s descriptive, commonsense, national-income accounting must integrate the Fed’s data on credit and to be recast to provide an explanatory systematization of interdependent flows of products and money.  Devotees must reorient themselves.  (Continue reading)