Monday, June 29, 2009

The Means-End Dichotomy: Some Clarifications

I replied to nirgraham's comment on Rejecting the Means-End Dichotomy.

You start out with what seems to be a straw man.

Let me explain that you also strawmanned me.

praxeology does not ontologically assert the existance of things called 'means' and 'ends' that are actually in you. like a heart 'is in you', nor are they intended to reflect the functioning of the human mind overall.

Praxeology ontologically asserts the means/ends dichotomy because it uses a "proof by performative contradiction." Ontology is implicit in the "proof by performative contradiction." (See below).

rather they are necessary, (though not sufficient), for the possibility of economically/politicaly/(and some might say morally) analysable 'human action'/

That was what I am arguing by the term "intrumental abstraction" or "non-precisive abstraction." I said that the means/end dichotomy helps us to understand Robinson Crusoe economics and the producer/consumer goods distinction.

So praxeology asserts the means-end dichotomy as both ontologically necessary and necessary for an understanding of economics. I was only arguing against the former, not the latter. However, you assumed that I was arguing against the latter. So you strawmanned me.

does praxeology want to or need to 'reflect the /whole/ mind'?, no! it needs to reflect on the mind that 'acts', it is focused on actions. we talk about the memory in so far as it provides datum for deciding on means, we talk about empathy in that it might be datum for means etc.

I neither argued that praxeology reflects the whole mind, nor argued that cognitive psychology reflects the whole mind. It is an impossiblility for any theory to map the whole mind, because it is impossible to fuse the map with the territory. Just because I asserted that the means-end dichotomy is less precise than the desire-instinct-habit trichotomy, this does not claim that the former is false nor the latter is true. The former is just less precise.

And I did not argue that the more precision, the better. Too much precision results in unnecessary complexity, making it difficult to analyze the essentials.

what about the means-end dichotomy? As said, we can consider it as an instrumental abstraction. Therefore, we cannot

its logically necessary given our purpose, so we can...

That is a strawman.

Let us look at my whole quote:

What about the means-end dichotomy? As said, we can consider it as an instrumental abstraction. Therefore, we cannot just assume "means" and "ends" and then apply it into any economic or ethical system without justifying it by precision arguments to understanding it."

I meant that Robinson Crusoe economics could justify the means-end dichotomy, but the means-end dichotomy cannot justify Robinson Crusoe economics.

I am arguing that Robinson Crusoe economics does not need too much precision, so it could justify the means-end dichotomy. However, more complex subjects such as ethics cannot justify the means-end dichotomy, because ethics requires extreme precision. The extreme precision that ethics requires must be counterbalanced by more precisive psychology rather than unprecise means and ends.

This is the main idea that I am arguing against:

Can we derive the means-end dichotomy from human psychology? (...), we cannot.

no, we derive it from the logical impossibilty of 'human action' occurring without means... and the logical impossibility of 'action' occuring without any goal (without any preference demonstration). (if you like, we are discounting any observable behaviour that is not purpuseful as being beyond our interest, it is not a human action, but mere datum that any actioner would take into consideration, but that is all).

nirgraham argued that a performative contradiction can "prove" the means-end dichotomy. However, I oppose the "proof by proformative contradiction" argument. Even though I disagree with the "proof by performative contradiction", I still accept that argument as logically consistent. However, I question the logical soundness of the "proof by performative contradiction."

All "proofs by performative contradiction" ontologically presumes the existence of its premises. Therefore, the conclusions of the argument depend on the soundness of its premises. However, the premises cannot be perfectly sound because you cannot fuse the map with the territory. Therefore, the conclusion of the argument also cannot be perfectly sound.

I may critique the "proof by performative contradiction" in greater detail in another post.

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