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11 ANTI-ANTI-RHETORIC The Alternative to Modernism Is Not Irrationalism It will I hope be plausible by now that the "objectivity" of economics is exaggerated and, what is more important, overrated. The studies of rhetoric show, as Polanyi put it (1966, p. 62), that economic knowledge depends little on "a scientific rationalism that would permit us to believe only explicit statements based on tangible data and derived from these by a formal inference, open to repeated testing." A rhetoric of economics exposes what most economists know anyway about the richness and complexity of economic argument but will not state openly and will not examine explicitly. The invitation to rhetoric is not, I emphasize, an invitation to "replace careful analysis with rhetoric," or to abandon mathematics in favor of name-calling or flowery language. The good rhetorician loves care, precision , explicitness, and economy in argument as much as the next person . Since she has thought more carefully and explicitly than most people have about the place of such virtues in a larger system of scholarly values, she may even love them more. A rhetorical approach to economic texts is machine-building, not machine-breaking. It is not an invitation to irrationality in argument. Quite the contrary. It is an invitation to leave the irrationality of an artificially narrowed range of argument and to move to the rationality of arguing like human beings. It brings out into the open the arguing that economists do anyway-in the dark, for they must do it somewhere, and the various official rhetorics leave them benighted. The charge of irrationalism comes easily to the lips of methodological authoritarians. Their notion is that reasoning outside the constricted epistemology of modernism is no reasoning at all. Mark Blaug, for instance , charges that Paul Feyerabend's book Against Method "amounts to replacing the philosophy of science by the philosophy of flower power" (1980, p. 44). Feyerabend's flamboyance commonly attracts such remarks . Yet Stephen Toulmin and Michael Polanyi are nothing if not sweetly reasonable; Blaug lumps them with Feyerabend and attacks the Feyerabend-flavored whole. On a higher level of philosophical sophisti168 169 Anti-Anti-Rhetoric cation, Imre Lakatos's Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes repeatedly tars Polanyi, Kuhn, and Feyerabend with "irrationalism"

Additional Information

ISBN
9780299158132
Related ISBN
9780299158149
MARC Record
OCLC
608692467
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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