From: cyrilsmith- at -cix.compulink.co.uk (Mr C Smith)
I think that Julio's attempted paraphrase of my viewpoint and the new questions he derives from it are very interesting and important. That is why I want to try to examine the fine print.
Mathematics has grown up over the centuries in relation to physics. Then some chaps a hundred years ago tried to apply a few of its results to economics. Economists carefully built up a vocabulary and syntax, in which economic quantities could be represented algebraically, so that a network of relationships between them can be written down.
But, like all economics, all this refers to the way of life in which the products of social labour are exchanged via money as the private property of individuals. One such commodity is labour power - the human capacity to produce. So, implied by of a set of quantitative statements about economic variables is the treatment of human capacities in the same way as physics treats masses, velocities, electrical charges, etc. Thus underneath the algebra is the statement of identity: people = things. That is why it is not just a matter of keeping in mind the nature of 'capitalism', (that word which Karl Marx never employed).
(I have just remembered some mathematical discussions I had years ago with a friend who was a demographer. When I showed him some stuff, he mumbled: 'So, if 'a' is age-related fertility of women, and 'b' is numbers of abortions per million live births, then ...' I interrupted him: 'Every time I show you some nice clean algebra, you go and bring sex into it!')
But that is just mathematics. When we make general statements about logic, we are thinking about thinking about thinking, so each proposition carries a huge baggage along with it: the entire body of ethics, huge chunks of history, the history of science and philosophy, and so on. No logical statement is innocent. Of course, it would be stupid to keep repeating all this stuff, every time we open our mouths! But sometimes, for example in these discussions, it is worth recalling the entire scheme.
Sorry if this makes conversation difficult, but please bear with me for a while.