The Journal staff found this excerpt from Charles K. Wilber’s Ethics In Economic Theory (Post Autistic Economics Review #20, 3 June 2003):
“The defense of value-neutrality still stands, but the pillars have been shaken. Blaug conceded that both ‘factual’ and ‘moral’ arguments rest ‘at bottom’ on certain definite techniques of persuasion, which in turn depend for their effectiveness on shared values of one kind or another. And, of course, McCloskey's writings on the "rhetoric of economicsâ€ have taken this argument into the heart of economics â€“ The American Economic Review â€“ where mainstream economists have studiously ignored it.”
“Sujectis” on Parcere.com wrote:
I had the distinct pleasure of taking a class from Professor McCloskey at the University of Iowa (Western Civilization, I believe), one of those 200+ student undergrad lecture affairs … [continues]
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Excerpted from Art Carden in “A New Addition to the Bookshelf” in Division of Labor, 25 January 2010 (original link).
My copy of Literature and the Economics of Liberty: Spontaneous Order in Culture just arrived … . I’m really looking forward to it; as I’ve come under the influence of Deirdre McCloskey in the last seven or eight years I’ve come to realize that there are a lot of unrealized gains from trade to be enjoyed through multi-disciplinary conversation.
So says a Finn on his blog at http://finglish.livejournal.com, 26 January 2010.
The quote was excerpted from:
Luckily there was also time [while a student] to read more interesting stuff. Deirdre McCloskey’s Knowledge and Persuasion in Economics is probably the most important academic book I ever read – here is an economist who discusses Aristotle, statistics, French sociology of science, Austrian philosophy of science, and quotes from Jane Austen …
Read entry at its original location.
Josh McCabe, responding to Nick Krafft’s Transition to Capitalism and Overdetermination, January 4, 2010. See full entry.
Excerpts from Aretae, January 15, 2010 (author unknown):
Kling’s triangle … is back in focus due to my reading of Hayek and McCloskey.
One of the most fascinating arguments in the first tenth of Deirdre McCloskey’s new book is her line that Europe conquered the world for 1 reason…. it’s the Romer/Friedman/Moldbug argument, but it’s good.
…I find in Hayek a strange blend of different positions that is almost unheard of today, except in odd folks like McCloskey, Cowen, Kling, Wilkinson, and myself.
Read entire entry: The Political Triangle Again
Nick Krafft quoting Daniel Little in Open Economics (Notre Dame), September 29, 2009.
Source site and title: "Social Economicsâ€ as an Alternative
From Cengage, Issue 18, Spring 2000
William A. McEachern, Editor
Deirdre McCloskey’s Crossing: A Memoir offers an unflinching personal account of her transformation from Donald to Deirdre (University of Chicago Press, $21.45 including shipping from Amazon.com). The book is written in the third person, which allows her to refer to Donald as a “he” before the transformation and to Deirdre as a “her” after.
I was interested in the impact of the gender change on her teaching, but there was little in the book about that, perhaps because it didn’t seem to matter much. To the extent it was discussed, students appeared to have no problem with the transformation, most of which occurred while McCloskey was on leave from the University of Iowa. Back in class for the first time in Iowa, she “explained her situation for the first fifteen minutes, and then dropped it. The students had almost all heard of the gender crossing professor. It did not appear that any students dropped the course out of discomfort” (pp. 219-220). Although there wasn’t much in the book about teaching per se, weaved throughout the narrative is an interesting discussion of how McCloskey went about the business of being an academic – busy, creative, and eclectic. More revealing on the teaching score was the diary she wrote this past December for Slate, the online magazine. Here’s an excerpt from 12/1/99:
The seminar after lunch [at the University of Illinois, Chicago] is thronged with faculty and graduate students. I need to show that I’m still an economist and economic historian, but I’ve not had time to prepare the lecture. Oy. I substitute classroom energy for pre-class preparation, my usual trick. This time it works, and I deliver a display of diagrams and math and quick reasoning that says, “I am an economist”… I am struck as I always am by how productive of new ideas this strange academic chatter can be. A “lecture” sounds to outsiders like a transfer of data from one mind to another. No. When done well it is a conversation, an unrehearsed intellectual adventure. Lord, I love it, I say to myself as the audience claps with evident appreciation. There’s the praise.
Ethical Robots?, an essay by Mark D. White on Economics and Ethics references McCloskey’s metaphor.
Thanks to Orly Lobel at Prawfsblawg for pointing out this New York Times Magazine piece [3 January 2010] on new ideas. The one he points out in particular involves “ethical robots” (scroll down in the piece a few items), which will be programmed with basic ethical tenets and will perform more reliably (according to this programming) on the battlefield than humans would.
The idea that robots can be programmed for ethical behavior is based on the false impression that morality boils down to rules, a view that Deirdre McCloskey lampoons so well with her 3×5 index card metaphor. (The fact that the writer of the article mentions Kant’s categorical imperative, often mistakenly interpreted as generating easily applicable rules, serves to reinforce this.) Anyone was has read Isaac Asimov’s R. Daneel Olivaw novels knows that even a handful of “simple” rules (such as his Three Laws of Robotics) creates endless conflicts and conundrums that require judgment to resolve – and even Asimov’s robots, with their advanced positronic brains, struggled with judgment.
The article does say that ethical robots would work “in limited situations,” which suggests that the researchers have some idea of the minefield (pun intended) that they’re getting into. But my concern is that people will read this piece, appreciating (as I do) what the researchers are trying to do to improve battlefield conditions (though I remain skeptical about the real-world prospects), and this will reinforce the “morality-as-rules” idea of ethics, and that the only reason people fail to follow these “rules” is weaknes of will, not that ethical dilemmas are complicated, contentious, and often irresolvable.
Even more curiously, the article claims that the robots ar programmed to “feel” guilt, in order “to condemn specific behavior and generate constructive change.” Certainly, guilt (as with emotions in general) are essential to reinforcing moral behavior in imperfect humans (as well as being an integral part of the human experience), but why would robots need them – are they going to be tempted to resist their programming? One would think the point of developing robots was to guarantee “ethical” rule-based behavior – so where does the guilt come in?
I wanted to send you a quick note of encouragement. This semester I am taking a history of economic thought class here at UNI. We recently were discussing Thorstein Veblen, while researching a paper on him I came across some of your work, specifically The Bourgeois Virtues. I started reading it this week and hope once Christmas break arrives I can dedicate more time to it. From what I have read thus far its amazing. I want you to know you are the ideal intellectual I aspire to be one day. Thank you so much for your courage both academically in challenging mainstream economics to better itself and personally in the struggles you have gone through, its an inspiration to this young economist and many others. God bless and take care!